Can It: Curbside Recycling 101

One of the best ways to begin your journey as an environmental steward is to not only reduce, reuse and recycle, but also to become familiar with which items are recyclable curbside in order to lessen contamination with non-recyclable items. While we applaud your efforts for recycling in the first place – something you are likely doing for the good of the environment, if you’re placing the wrong things in the bin – you are actually contaminating the recycling stream. Contamination can negatively impact the sorting process at the recycling center, potentially damage equipment, affect the ability of an item to be recycled into a new product and – if a number of bins are contaminated – could potentially ruin an entire truckload of recyclables. That means all of your good intentions could wind up in a landfill instead of the recycling center. Contaminants can include everything from food left on packaging to items that are simply not recyclable. To help you become an expert in curbside recycling, Gwinnett Clean & Beautiful has compiled this list of the Top Three Worst Contaminant Offenders, as well as a complete inventory of items that are acceptable for pickup curbside…

Top Three WORST Contaminant Offenders:

  1. Plastic Bags – while these ARE recyclable at a number of retail locations such as Publix, Walmart, Lowes, and Target – just to name a few, they are NOT appropriate for curbside pickup. Placing them in your recycling bin can cause delays during the sorting process. We recommend that you either use reusable shopping bags or get into the habit of bringing your empty bags back to the retail location and placing them in their dedicated bins.
  2. Broken Glass – Although glass is NOT accepted curbside, many Gwinnett residents continue to place it in their recycling bins. Broken glass not only poses a risk to recycling handlers, but it also contaminates the recycling stream. Click HERE for a list of locations that DO accept glass for recycling.
  3. Unwashed Food Containers – While that food container may clearly display the recycling symbol, any food that’s left inside could negate its ability to be recycled and may impact the integrity of other recyclable items with which it comes in contact. Please take an extra step and wash or wipe out the interior of all food containers – such as yogurt cups, peanut butter jars and condiment bottles – to make sure they are food-free before placing them in your recycling bin. Another idea is to reuse them as containers for fats, oils or grease after cooking.

A Complete List of Items that are Accepted for Curbside Recycling in Unincorporated Gwinnett County:

  • Aluminum – including aluminum beverage containers, baking tins and food containers
  • Cardboard – including cardboard boxes (broken down) and pizza boxes (clean, no grease)
  • Kraft Paper – including paper grocery bags and paper shopping/lunch bags
  • Mail – including discarded mail, envelopes and greeting cards
  • Mixed Paper – including calendars, construction paper, old school work and miscellaneous paper
  • Magazines and Catalogs
  • Other Paper – including computer paper, paperback books and phone directories
  • Newspapers and inserts
  • Paperboard – including beverage cartons, cereal or other food boxes, paper towel and toilet paper cores, shoe boxes and tissue boxes
  • Plastic – including, but not limited to…
  • #1: Soda and water bottles
  • #2: Milk jugs, juice bottles, butter and yogurt tubs
  • #3: Detergent and household cleaner containers, shampoo, and cooking oil bottles
  • #5: Syrup, ketchup, and medicine bottles, straws, and some yogurt containers
  • #6: Disposable plates and cups, aspirin bottles, CD cases
  • #7: Three and five-gallon water bottles, certain food containers
  • Steel – including food containers, empty aerosol cans and clean metallic lids

If you do not live within unincorporated Gwinnett, each city will have their own recycling regulations. Please contact your City Hall or visit their website to learn which items they accept for recycling. For recyclable items that are not recycled curbside, CLICK HERE to learn where you can recycle them locally and be on the lookout for recycling events in Gwinnett County through Gwinnett Clean & Beautiful, local municipalities and our awesome community partners!  CLASS DISMISSED!!