Recycling Curbside FAQs
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Recycling Frequently Asked Questions

Q 1:


Why can’t I recycle Styrofoam curbside?


It currently is not economical to pull polystyrene, or Styrofoam© from the single-stream sorting process. Processors that re-manufacture recycled Styrofoam are not located near Saint Louis County. Styrofoam is 95% air and cost-effective transportation requires compressing the air out to turn large volumes of material into one very dense “log” for shipping. Drop-off locations are available (click here) for clean Styrofoam to be collected through partnerships with businesses who own densification equipment. Progress is being made, especially in the commercial sector, but residential curbside recycling of Styrofoam is not economically viable at this time.

Q 2:

Why can’t I recycle plastic bags?


Some plastic bags are recyclable (such as grocery and box store bags), but not through the curbside program. Please return recyclable bags to the store. Placing plastic bags in curbside programs cause major problems for the sorting process! Recyclables are separated utilizing mainly automated systems, the plastic bags can end up wrapping around the equipment. When this happens the system has to be shut down and the bags cut out. Please check out for locations near you!

Q 3:

Does it really get recycled?


Yes, there are two processors in Saint Louis County and one in St. Louis City. The industry is highly automated with many technologies to sort out all of the materials you put into your cart. It is more cost-effective for a waste hauler to drop off recycling rather than send it as trash to the landfill. You can rest assured that the recyclables you collect are indeed being sent to a recycling facility, creating local jobs and diverting valuable resources.

With that being said, if you witness a waste hauler dump your recycling into the same truck at the same time with your trash, please contact Saint Louis County Solid Waste Program Enforcement at [email protected]. If verified, the hauler is in violation of the Waste Management Code.

Q 4:

Do I have to wash my recyclables? How clean do my recyclables have to be?


No, it’s not necessary to wash your recyclables in the dishwasher or by hand. To keep your recycling container clean it is helpful for materials to be relatively clean and dry. For residue such as ketchup or peanut butter, a spatula is simpler and easier to use than rinsing. Please dump out any leftover liquids.
Eco-Tip: Save fresh water and reuse dishwater at the end of dishwashing to rinse recyclables.

Q 5:

What happens to the stuff that can’t be recycled?


Material that is not recyclable is pulled out by hand or sorted out through automation. These are called “residual” and are sent to the landfill.

Q 6:

What about caps or lids?


Leave the caps or lids on both containers. If the cap or lid is placed in the recycling separate from the container, it is so small it is likely to be removed at the end of the process with all the other small residuals and discarded as trash.

Q 7:

Can I recycle pizza boxes with cheese stuck to the inside?


Go ahead and recycle pizza boxes unless they have excessive food residue inside.

Q 8:

Do you have to flatten boxes and plastic bottles?


Flattening is not required; however, the hauler may not collect boxes that are stacked next to the recycling cart. If you frequently run out of room for recycling, flattening plastic bottles and boxes is an easy way to increase storage capacity between collections.

Q 9:

Can I recycle disposable plates, cups, and utensils?


Plastic utensils cannot be recycled. Paper cups and plates that aren’t very soiled with food can be recycled.

Q 10:

Why can’t I recycle anything with a recycling symbol on it?


The manufacturer of a product decides whether to use the recycling symbol on a product but the use of the symbol is not regulated. Use of the recycling symbol can range from designating recycled content to “green-washing”, meaning its use is merely to help the product sell. See our accepted materials list to find out what is recyclable and what is not. If you still have questions, call 314-615-8958.

Q 11:

Can I still recycle at my local church/school?


Yes! In fact Saint Louis County encourages you to do so. The Saint Louis County Department of Health has worked with many schools and churches to set up these programs and it remains as supportive as ever of such efforts. Please take your paper and aluminum cans to these locations. With all that can be recycled single-stream, you still will have plenty to put in the recycling cart.

Q 12:

Why don’t businesses have to recycle?


Currently there is no ordinance that requires commercial entities to provide recycling service to this sector. However, commercial single-stream recycling is growing rapidly as businesses learn they can save money by reducing trash collection through the addition of recycling.

Q 13:

What is minimum level of service?


In December 2006, the Saint Louis County Waste Management Code (Waste Code) was changed to define basic trash service as including three components: 1) once‐per‐week trash collection; 2) once‐per‐week recycling collection; and 3) twice‐yearly bulky pickup. This definition is known technically as the “minimum level of service”, and all licensed haulers are now required to provide these three components to all 1- or 2-family dwellings in municipalities and unincorporated areas of Saint Louis County.

Q 14:

What is a bulky item?


Bulky items are large items like couches, chairs, household items, fixtures, wood etc. that will not fit in a residential waste container. Please contact your trash service provider for size and weight restrictions.
Major appliances (refrigerators, freezers, washers, dryers, microwave ovens, trash compactors, hot water heaters and other white goods) have been banned from landfill disposal since 1991 and as such they are not included in the bulky waste collection required by Minimum Level of Service. Your hauler may be able to collect these items for you, but it may require special arrangements and an additional cost. Please call your hauler for additional information.

Q 15:

What if I have a bulky item that needs to be picked up?


With Minimum Level of Service, you are entitled to two bulky item pick-ups per year. Please contact your trash service provider to schedule a bulky item removal.