Keeping your Single Stream Recycling Clean


  1. Recycle clean bottles, cans, paper, and cardboard
  2. Keep food and liquid out of your recycling
  3. No loose plastic bags and no bagged recyclables

Single Stream Recycling refers to a system in which all paper fibers, plastics, metals, and other containers are mixed in a collection bin, instead of being sorted by the generator into separate commodities ( newspaper, paperboard, corrugated fiberboard, plastic, glass, etc.) Which is known as source separated recycling.

The goal of the single stream system is to simplify recycling. This encourages residential compliance and avoids multiple vehicle collections as compared to source separated recycling or duel stream recycling systems.

Even though we have the convenience of putting all our recyclables into one bin, there are forms of “contamination” that we need to be aware of as responsible recyclers. Contamination is the non-recyclable materials or garbage that can sometimes be mistaken as recycling. Anything of the sort can spoil the whole recycling stream and make it unusable!

With all good intentions, residents will deposit unwanted materials into the recycling bin that do not necessarily adhere to the list of acceptable materials. This is with the hope that it can be recycled on the other side. We refer to this as “wish cycling” and the practice contaminates precious recyclables by mixing in unacceptable items. Contamination can also come from not properly rinsing out food and beverage containers. Anything other than the specified paper, cardboard, plastic, glass, and bi-metal household containers will reduce the value of the material and ends up increasing the amount of material that will eventually have to disposed of in a landfill.

Contamination increases the cost of processing recyclables and requires double handling, demanding the contaminated materials to be transported to a disposal site. It also increases maintenance and labor costs at the sorting facility.

Residential Single Stream recycling is meant to capture and process raw materials from our household waste products. This means items inside the home from consumables like cans, bottles, and similar containers. Items such as car parts and other scrap materials that may be recyclable but are not a consumable item are not appropriate for the sorting equipment designed to take household consumables. Outside the home, scrap that may be recyclable needs to be handled through other recycling programs.

Remember, Single Stream Recycling is a collection system of recyclables that appeals to the convenience of the user where all items are placed in one bin. This recycling stream diverts waste from the landfill to be reused and repurposed. However, not all items placed in the bin can be recyclable. Keeping your single stream clean means using the bin for predetermined recyclable materials. This can go along with giving a quick rinse to food cans and glass bottles while avoiding contamination to paper or cardboard with food, grease, or other liquids. The top contaminants are listed below.

Should NEVER go into your recycling bin:

  • Diapers
  • Styrofoam
  • Plastic bags
  • Restaurant oil
  • Pizza boxes
  • Wood, lumber, pallets
  • Yard waste
  • Construction debris
  • Batteries
  • Road kill
  • Toys
  • Mirrors
  • Window glass
  • Syringes/needles
  • Paper towels/tissue paper
  • Ceramics
  • Hazardous waste
  • Liquids

Please check with your waste and recycle hauler as to what items that can specifically take. Contact The Waste Authority with questions on how to get rid of questionable items.

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