Do all trash collection companies recycle?

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Your state mandates what must be recycled and how it needs to be done. Your municipality might have slight tweaks to the state list, but whether you take your trash to your local refuse/recycling center or hire a company to do it for you, the items that can be recycled are the same. Refuse haulers can be fined if they recycle improperly, so you should feel confident that the company you choose is recycling the right way.

One huge advantage to hiring a trash collection company is that more and more of them are offering “single stream” recycling. That means all recyclables can be put in one bin or can together without the sorting you would have to do yourself. (For instance, at some waste or transfer stations you might need to separate clear, green and brown glass, and then another three or four types of plastic and metal.) The idea is that you’ll be encouraged to separate out more recyclables—in some areas of the country, nearly 50 percent of household trash can now be recycled.

What’s important is knowing how your trash hauler operates so that you’re sure you’re throwing out your garbage correctly for the way the company collects and separates it. For instance, many trash collection companies request that your recyclables are loose in a bin, not neatly wedged into garbage bags. Some want cereal boxes flattened; others don’t.

10 Common Recyclables

  • Newspapers with inserts and flyers, magazines and catalogs
  • Phone books
  • Office paper and junk mail
  • Chipboard, cereal and cracker boxes (without plastic liners)
  • Corrugated cardboard
  • Paper bags
  • Glass bottles and jars in all colors and sizes
  • Metal food cans and lids (some accept foil, others don’t)
  • Plastic containers
  • Milk cartons, juice boxes and egg cartons

If you want to find out if your area is recycling all those items, your local community website is the place to start. For new initiatives, including those launched by citizens, a great online resource is the Campaign for Recycling. C4R is an organization dedicated to expanding recycling in the US, state by state. Right now, C4R is focused primarily on beverage containers, plastic bag bans and electronic waste or e-waste recycling policies. To get updates on your state's recycling, go to