What Can I Recycle Curbside?
Each year, Saint Louis County Department of Public Health determines what materials residential waste haulers are required to collect for recycling in order to be licensed. The table below is a complete list of residential items that can and cannot be recycled at the curb.
Note: Some items listed below, such as plastic bags and scrap metal, cannot be recycled at the curb, but are recyclable at various drop-off locations around the county. For more about drop-off recycling, visit the Residential Recycling Drop-off Locations page.
Additional curbside recycling requirements
- Keep containers that contained household chemicals out of the recycle cart.
- Do not recycle medical waste such as syringes or needles.
- Do not put any type of plastic bag into your recycle cart. Most grocery stores have drop-off bins at the front of the store for recycling plastic grocery bags and many other retail stores are also offering recycling for their shopping bags.
- Plastic windows on envelopes, rubber bands and staples are okay.
- You may leave labels and tape on cardboard boxes when recycling them.
- It is okay to recycle metal cans with labels or bands.
- Leave the lids on containers. When you remove the lids, they usually end up mixed with other small residuals that are discarded as trash, after being processed at the materials recovery facility.
- All containers are to be emptied before recycling them.
- Check our Recycling Frequently Asked Questions to learn more about curbside recycling in Saint Louis County.
County recycling cart information
Saint Louis County has provided 64-gallon recycling carts to unincorporated county and has provided grants to municipalities wishing to purchase carts.
Though carts and single stream collection (everything placed in one container) are common, your hauler may use another collection method. This is acceptable as long as the hauler collects all the acceptable materials required by their hauling license. As a resident, you are required to recycle with a container that meets the requirements of the waste hauler.
As a reminder, weekly recycling pickup is a standard part of a minimum level of trash service and all licensed haulers operating in Saint Louis County are required by law to provide you with weekly recycling pickup if you are in a one- or two-family household.
Please contact your hauler or municipality if you have questions about curbside recycling service requirements including the type of container you should use for recycling and recycling schedules.
In 2008, the Saint Louis County Department of Health delivered black recycling carts to all one- and two-family residences in unincorporated Saint Louis County. The cart program was a one-time event to help encourage recycling. The program has concluded and no further cart deliveries, removals or exchanges are being conducted. Funding for the recycling carts came from voter approved 5% landfill surcharge fees.
- The cart is assigned to your address. You are responsible to make sure it is used properly and not damaged by misuse.
- If you move, please leave the cart for use by the next occupant.
The County Trash District contract requires the authorized hauler to provide a recycling cart to any household they service in the district at no charge. Please call your hauler if you need a recycling cart or to replace a damaged cart. If your existing cart is damaged, please ask the hauler to remove the old cart for recycling. Please be aware that if you use recycling cart for trash or yard waste, the hauler may refuse to collect the cart contents. If your subdivision opted out of the Trash District Program, and you need a recycling cart replacement, please call your hauler to determine your options.
If you are not sure if you are in an unincorporated county trash district, the following link, What trash district do I live in?will take you to the St. Louis County Department of Revenue page. By typing in your address and then clicking on the locator ID you will see the property data and trash district information.
Minimum Level of Service
If you live in a one- or two-family residence, recycling is part of your trash service. All licensed haulers operating in Saint Louis County are required by law to provide you with weekly recycling pickup, weekly trash collection and twice a year bulky collection for one base price. If your hauler is not providing any of these services, or charging extra for recycling collection, please report this issue to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 314-615-4130.
What Happens to my Recyclables?
After collection at the curb, recyclables are taking to a material recovery facility or MRF (pronounced MURF). With single stream recycling residents have the convenience of scrambling all their recyclables together in one container. At the MRF, the job is to unscramble the materials for sale to end markets. Each MRF operates a little differently, but in general a system of conveyor belts, screens, electromagnets and blasts of air separate paper from plastics, glass and other materials. There is some hand sorting primarily to pull off contaminants such as plastic bags, hoses and other non-recyclables. These items can cause serious damage to the sorting equipment!
Once sorted, the materials are baled into large cubes of like materials and shipped for processing into new products. In a global economy, some of the materials are sold and shipped overseas in addition to U.S industries and paper mills that depend on curbside recycling to provide raw materials for their products. In Missouri those industries make drain pipe, plastic lumber, picture frames, plastic skirting for manufactured homes, greeting cards, insulation, and pet litter, not to mention glass bottles for our breweries!