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Your Position: Home - Furniture - Frequent Questions on Recycling

Frequent Questions on Recycling

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  • Earth911
  • RecycleNation

Disclaimer: These sites are listed for informational purposes only. US EPA does not endorse any of these entities nor their services. Contact Us to suggest any additional links.

EPA receives various questions on recycling. Below are answers to some of the most common questions, broken down into five categories.

On this page:

Recycling 101

What is recycling?

Recycling is the process of collecting and processing materials that would otherwise be thrown away as trash and turning them into new products. Recycling can benefit your community, the economy and the environment.

Is recycling truly beneficial for the environment?

EPA data show that recycling conserves energy and natural resources. For example:

  • Recycling one ton of office paper can save the energy equivalent of consuming 322 gallons of gasoline.
  • Recycling just one ton of aluminum cans conserves more than 152 million Btu, the equivalent of 1,024 gallons of gasoline or 21 barrels of oil consumed.
  • Plastic bottles are the most recycled plastic product in the United States as of 2018, according to our most recent report. Recycling just 10 plastic bottles saves enough energy to power a laptop for more than 25 hours.

How does recycling save energy?

When we make new products out of virgin materials, we expend energy to extract and process those materials. This includes burning fossil fuels. However, if we manufacture products using recycled materials, we reduce the need for virgin materials and save the energy required to extract and process them.

To estimate how much energy you can save by recycling certain products, EPA has developed a tool called the individual Waste Reduction Model (iWARM). This tool calculates how much energy you save by recycling aluminum cans, glass or plastic bottles, magazines or plastic grocery bags, and shows you how long those savings could power different electrical appliances.

Is recycling the best management option? What other options are there?

The most effective way to reduce waste, and the most environmentally preferred strategy, is to not create it in the first place. Source reduction, along with material reuse, are the most functional ways to save natural resources, protect the environment and save money. Making a new product requires a lot of materials and energy, from extracting raw materials to fabricating the product to transporting it to the place of purchase. Check out EPA tips for reducing and reusing, and donation.  

How do I know what my local recycling options are?

Please contact your local county or municipality to determine your local recycling options. Additionally, please check out the Earth911 website for more information.

Why is it important to only put items that can be recycled in the recycling bin?

Putting items in the recycling bin that can’t be recycled can contaminate the recycling stream. After these unrecyclable items arrive at recycling centers, they can cause costly damage to the equipment. Additionally, after arriving at recycling centers, they must be sorted out and then sent to landfills, which raises costs for the facility. That is why it is important to check with your local recycling provider to ensure that they will accept certain items before placing them into a bin. Some items may also be accepted at retail locations or other at local recycling centers.

Furthermore, some recycling providers require different types of materials to be collected in separate bins (multi-stream recycling), whereas other providers may accept different types of materials that are put together in the same bin (single-stream recycling).

Why are some items that look recyclable not accepted at my recycling facility?

Your local recycling facility might not accept all recyclable items. This is especially true with plastics. While plastic bottles are the most commonly recycled plastic products, other plastics may or may not be accepted in your area, so first check what your local recycling provider accepts. It is important to understand that the existence of a plastic resin code on the product does not guarantee that the product is recyclable in your area. Additionally, glass may not be accepted in some areas, so please confirm with your local provider.

What should I never put in my recycling bin(s)?

  • Garden hoses
  • Sewing needles
  • Bowling balls
  • Food or food-soiled paper
  • Propane tanks or cylinders
  • Aerosol cans that aren’t empty
  • Many communities have collection programs for household hazardous waste to reduce the potential harm posed by these chemicals. In the Earth 911 database, search for “household hazardous waste collection” near your zip code. Additionally, contact your local environmental, health or solid waste agency to learn about permanent or periodic household hazardous waste collections near you.  
  • Syringes, broken glass, and broken light bulbs should not go in the recycling nor in the regular garbage stream. Please consult your local waste authority for information on ways to correctly discard these items in your area without risking injury to collection workers.

What are the most common items that I can put into my curbside recycling bin?

  1. Cardboard
  2. Paper
  3. Food boxes
  4. Mail
  5. Beverage cans
  6. Food cans
  7. Glass bottles
  8. Jars (glass and plastic)
  9. Jugs
  10. Plastic bottles and caps

Generally, these are the most commonly recycled items. Please confirm with your local recycling provider first before putting these items in your curbside recycling bin, however, since what is accepted depends on your area.

What are recyclable items that I can’t put in my curbside recycling bin?

Generally, plastic bags and wraps, electronics, and textiles cannot go in a curbside recycling bin. Please check with your local recycling provider first, though, to be certain since it depends on your local area. Do not put items in your recycling bin unless you know they are accepted. Non-recyclable items can contaminate a whole load of recyclables, causing them to all be thrown out.

What is composting? Is it truly beneficial for the environment? How do I do it?

Compost is organic material that can be added to soil to help plants grow. It enriches soil, helping retain moisture and suppress plant diseases and pests. Compost also reduces the need for chemical fertilizers, and it encourages the production of beneficial bacteria and fungi that break down organic matter to create humus, a rich nutrient-filled material.

To compost at home, you’ll need browns (dead leaves, branches and/or twigs), greens (grass clippings, vegetable waste, fruit scraps and/or coffee grounds), and water, along with a dry, shady spot for your pile or bin.

View EPA’s Composting At Home page for more information.

Plastic Bags, Wrap (film) and Sacks

Are paper or plastic shopping bags better for the environment? How about reusable bags versus disposal bags?

EPA does not have information on the environmental benefits of paper versus plastic bags. The Agency encourages consumers to:

  • Reduce the number of bags they use,
  • Reduce the number of bags they throw away after one use,
  • Reuse bags, and
  • Recycle bags when they can no longer be used.

Consumers also can reduce waste by using reusable shopping bags.

Can I recycle plastic bags and wrap/film? If so, how and where?

First, be sure to cut off the zippers (if necessary).

Many grocery and department stores will accept plastic bags and wrap/film. Please ask your local grocery and department store, or visit the Earth911 to find a location nearest you that recycles plastic bags and plastic wrap/film.

Food and Drink Containers

Can I recycle?...

Styrofoam: While most recyclers don’t accept Styrofoam, check with your local recycling provider first to be certain.

Egg cartons: It depends on the material of the carton. Please check with your local recycling provider first to be certain.

Are plastic or glass bottles better for the environment? What about aluminum, tin and steel cans?

EPA uses a life cycle perspective when comparing the environmental impact of different materials and products. The Waste Reduction Model is a tool that can help an individual, business or municipality compare the environmental impact of 54 materials and six management practices. We don’t promote a single material or management practice; alternatively, we encourage users to compare scenarios themselves.

Can I recycle materials with food residue or does the material have to be perfectly clean?

While we provide general guidance below, please check with your local recycling provider first for area-specific guidance.

Generally: Plastic, metal and glass materials must be empty and rinsed clean of food debris before being recycled. Paper materials must be empty, clean and dry before being recycled. Wet paper/food-soiled paper products may be compostable.

Other Garbage

What should I do with dirty diapers?

While we provide general guidance below, please check with your local solid waste agency/recycling provider first.

Generally, you should flush the excrement down the toilet and then place the diaper in the trash. Also, consider using reusable cloth diapers instead of disposable diapers.

What should I do with old clothes and old shoes?

Gently-worn clothes and shoes can be donated to many charities. For damaged clothes and shoes, please double check with your local charity to see if it will accept them. Additionally, some retail stores recycle clothing or shoes. Check your local ones to see if they accept these items for recycling.

What’s the best way to recycle (whole) glass?

Check with your local program first when recycling (whole) glass. Most curbside community recycling programs accept different glass colors and types mixed together.

How can I recycle items such as my electronics, bottle caps and books? 

Electronics: Manufacturers and retailers offer several options to donate or recycle electronics, including cell phones, computers and televisions. Please also check with your local recycling facility for best ways to recycle electronics, and visit our Electronics Donation and Recycling page for more information.

Bottle Caps: Please check with your local recycling provider first, but you should be able to recycle bottle caps if they are attached to the bottle. Please also verify whether you can recycle loose bottle caps.

Books: Check local places that take donations (schools, places of faith, charities, non-profits) to see if they will accept books, and contact your local recycling provider for ways you can recycle books in your area.

How can I dispose of gift wrap (wrapping paper) or gift bags?  

If you use gift wrap, look to find a type that can be recycled or that is made from recycled content. Consumers can also reduce waste by using decorative boxes that do not require wrapping and that can be recycled.

A lot of gift wrap isn’t recyclable because of the coating on the paper, which is often shiny and laminated. However, check with your local recycling provider first to be certain and for the best ways to dispose of wrapping paper.

The Agency encourages consumers to reuse gift bags and tissue paper, and not discard them after a single use.

Household Hazardous Waste

What are household hazardous wastes? How can I recycle them?

EPA considers some leftover household products that can catch fire, react or explode under certain circumstances, or that are corrosive or toxic, as household hazardous wastes. Although it depends on your local solid waste agency/recycling facility, some examples include pesticides, herbicides, insecticides, paints, solvents, oil filters, light bulbs, batteries, aerosol cans that aren’t empty, ammunition, ammonia, antifreeze and nail polish.

Please see our Household Hazardous Waste web page for more information on household hazardous wastes and tips for how to reduce it in your home.

What should I do with paint? Barometers and thermometers? Burnt-out light bulbs?

Paint: Check local places that take donations (schools, places of faith, charities, non-profits) to see if they will accept paint donations, and contact your local recycling or household hazardous waste facility for ways you can recycle paint in your area.

Barometers and thermometers: Please avoid discarding them in the trash. Check with your local recycling or household hazardous waste facility, or visit Earth911 for more information on ways to properly dispose them, as some thermometers are considered household hazardous waste.

Burnt-out light bulbs: Check with your local recycling facility for recycling options for burnt-out light bulbs, or take them to a retail store in your area that offers light bulb recycling.

Some questions about rubbish and recycling collections

How often will bins be collected?

​One green (general) waste bin will be collected every three weeks. The blue (recycling) bin or recycling bag(s) will continue to be collected every two weeks and other local arrangements for recycling will remain the same.

I don’t want a recycling bin / recycling bags; do I have to have one?       

No you don’t have to take a recycling  bin, however if you choose not to have one your green mixed waste bin will still only be emptied once every three weeks.

Why can’t I put glass in my blue recycling bin / recycling bags?

​Glass will contaminate other recyclates if it breaks and is a significant health and safety hazard for workers at recycling plants where hand sorting takes place. Glass bottles and jars can be recycled at all recycling centres and points.

What about flatted properties that have no room for recycling bins?    

Those areas that are currently kept on a weekly uplift due to insufficient space will remain so

Does Tarbert come under Kintyre area like Campbeltown?        

Tarbert will be serviced by Lochgilphead, Campbeltown only covers as far as Kennacraig

Should I mark my green bin with a house number or name of my house?

Yes, customers should mark their bin so that it can be identified as belonging to their household as only one green bin will be uplifted unless they have had a successful assessment for an additional bin.

What if I live on an unadopted road?

We will collect bins from unadopted roads providing that the road is safe for the bin lorry. The driver will decide on the day whether the road is safe.

If your road is found not to be safe then we will arrange with you a suitable collection point, most likely at the end of your road where it joins the public highway.

Some questions about additional bins

What is the timescale for an assessment for an additional green bin?

Contact will be made with the customer within 10 working days from the receipt of the request.

Which households will have two green bins collected?

Arrangements can be made for certain households to have a second general waste green bin - where there are five or more people, where someone has a medical condition that generates waste, or where families have children using nappies and all recycling options have been considered.

Can I request an additional recycling bin or additional bags for recycling?

Yes a second recycling bin is available on request for those areas that use them, please use this online form to apply for a blue bin, please use this online form to apply for a grey glass bin (Helensburgh and Lomond, Mull and Iona, and Tiree only), and please use this online form to order a food waste bin, or caddy (Helensburgh and Lomond area only).

I previously opted to have a smaller green domestic mixed waste bin or blue recycling bin. Can I get a larger one?

Yes – contact us and we will get you a larger standard sized 240Ltr green or blue bin swapped for your existing smaller bin.

I don’t have a recycling bin, what should I do?

If you still do not have a bin please contact us and we will deliver one out to you.

Will large families be issued with additional bins?

If there are 5 or more residents in a property they qualify for a second bin and can request one using our online form 

How do customers access the provision for the uplift of second green bins for large families and medical waste? Will it just mean 2 bins picked up at the same time or will one be uplifted one week and the second a week later?

Uplifted at same time bin will be identified as second bin with a red lid

Are assessments for medical waste being given priority over large families and households with children using nappies

There is no priority, all assessments will be going forward as they are received and dealt with.

Some questions about your new bin calendars

How will I know when each of my bins will be emptied?

Collection dates for your address are available online, with a downloadable collection calendar that has a colour key to distinguish between general waste collection, recycling collection and days when both collections coincide.

What about the calendars, how will they show the overlaps with recycling and domestic?

A colour key will distinguish between general waste collection, recycling collection and days when both collections coincide

Some questions about how extra rubbish can be dealt with

I don’t have enough room in my green bin what can I do?

​Excess general mixed waste can be taken to your local recycling centre. In certain circumstances the householder can purchase a second green bin for mixed household waste. This is subject to assessment by the council and you have to demonstrate a genuine need for the additional bin.

You can also request a visit from one of our wardens who can provide advice on how to get the most out of the new collection service. Over 60% of the average bin contents can be recycled using the blue bins and local recycling centres and points.

Contact us by by using our online form or calling the enquiries line on 01546 605514.

I’ve missed my green bin collection day and my bin is full what can I do?

​Unfortunately if you miss your collection day we cannot come back out and empty your bin for you.

If you know in advance that you are going to be away on your bin collection day try to make arrangements with a family member or neighbour to get your bin out.

Excess general mixed waste can be taken to your local recycling centre.

I have side waste that will not fit in the green general waste bin or blue recycling bin, will you pick it up?

​No, side waste or recycling will not be picked up from beside or on the top of your bin. Excess general mixed waste can be taken to your local recycling centre. If you have additional recycling that won’t fit in your blue bin this can be taken to your local recycling centre or point.

Will excess bags be lifted?


What happens if excess bags are not uplifted and rats or seagulls burst the bags?

​Any environmental health complaints will be addressed as per council policy.

I have missed my 3 week collection as I have been on holiday, what can I do?

​​Unfortunately if you miss your collection day we cannot come back out and empty your bin for you.

If you know in advance that you are going to be away on your bin collection day try to make arrangements with a family member or neighbour to get your bin out.

Excess general mixed waste can be taken to your local recycling centre.

Some questions about food waste collections

Are there plans to introduce food recycling in areas other than Helensburgh?

​Not at present. It is Scottish Government requirement to collect food waste in Helensburgh due to the population size.

Buying and preparing only what you need can help cut down the amount of food thrown away - every household in Scotland could save £460 each year by throwing out less. See for information on how you can cut down food waste.

Home composting can also save space in your green bin – see /content/home-composting-advice

Why are we not being provided with food recycling like Helensburgh & Lomond?         

​Under the Waste (Scotland) Regulations all of Argyll and Bute apart from Helensburgh and Lomond area is classed as rural – this exempts these areas from the legal requirement to be provided with separate food waste collections.

This coupled with the additional costs of providing a food waste collection service in a rural area - means that this service is not being rolled out to any other areas at the moment.

Some questions about possible problems

Is keeping my general mixed waste in my green bin for three weeks likely to cause a problem?

​There should be no issues with waste being in the bin for three weeks if you:

  • Wrap up or bag any potentially smelly waste before placing it in your bin.
  • Make sure your bins lid is kept closed

Three weekly collections of general mixed waste are carried out in other Scottish local authorities without issue.

What will happen with people of live in flatted properties and they use any bin for recycling and refuse and then recycling bins not uplifted due to full of domestic waste?

​Environment wardens will visit premises

What about noise from early morning and late night collections?

​Most of the lorries have electric lifts which are very quiet; however any noise complaints will be addressed as per council policy.

What can I do about any smell coming from bins?

​Customer should bag any waste and keep bins clean. Any environmental health complaints will be addressed as per council policy.

Will environmental health be dealing with any vermin issues caused by accumulated rubbish?

​Any environmental health complaints will be addressed as per council policy.

There are constant service disruptions as it is due to vehicle breakdowns, are new vehicles being purchased?

​A programme is in place for replacement vehicles

What time do we class a bin as being missed? Currently it is 4pm.

It will still be 4pm for most areas, except for Cowal and Lomond where the bin men will work till 10pm. A missed bin in these areas will be the next day.

Some questions about recycling

What can I recycle?

​A list of what can be recycled in each area is available on the Council website.

To find out what kerbside recycling is available in your area, please go to our Bin Collection page, where you can find out what is collected and on what day for your area.

Where else can I recycle?

​Waste can also be taken to any of the Council’s civic amenity sites

​Garden waste should be composted wherever possible. For advice please see - /content/home-composting-advice

Why is my green general waste bin only being emptied every three weeks?

The range of materials accepted in the blue recycling bin will mean that households generate less general mixed waste to go in the green general waste bin. This reduction in general mixed waste will allow Argyll and Bute Council to empty the green bin every three weeks, alternating with the blue bin which will be emptied every two weeks.

​We must all work together to meet the Scottish Government’s targets for increasing the amount we recycle and reducing the amount of waste that goes to landfill.

Due to reduced funding we have to make choices about what we do and in how we work – so that we can continue to support our communities where most needed, to continue to invest in a prosperous future for Argyll and Bute and continue to deliver a wide range of services and be a key employer.

Recycling delivers various benefits, from on-going savings to better care of the planet on which we all depend.

We are therefore providing a service that maintains recycling collections. Recycling saves space in bins and saves money for services.

Recycling saves money for Council services that communities have told us are important to them - for every tonne of waste that goes to landfill the Council has to pay over £80 tax.

Reducing waste can also save you money - figures show that every household in Scotland could save £460 a year by throwing away less food.

By recycling more there will be less in your green bin. While we have seen an increase in recycling we still tend to find some of what goes in their green bins could be recycled in your blue bin.

Why was this new service introduced?

​To increase the amount of materials that can be recycled from household and commercial collections, to reduce costs, increase recycling rates and to decrease the amount of waste being sent to landfill.

There are a number of reasons for doing this including:

  • Much of the waste we produce is a resource that can be recycled or composted
  • The Scottish Government has set a recycling target of 70% by 2025
  • Landfilling waste is becoming more expensive, with large landfill tax levies imposed by the Government.
  • To help reduce CO2 and methane emissions.
  • To reduce collection costs
  • To assist in compliance with Waste (Scotland) Regulations

Frequent Questions on Recycling

Bin Collections - Questions and answers





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