Our blue can recycle program is a revolutionary step to keeping Phoenix beautiful, but it's only as good as its people. We are constantly throwing items into our blue trash can that cause more harm than good.
We all have that big blue can sitting on our property, we look at it often, and hopefully, think about how we are helping to reduce waste. But I bet you didn’t know that a lot of what you put in there actually makes things worse. Although it may seem like recycling items is common sense, most likely, you are putting in all the wrong things.
According to AZ Central, Phoenix’s waste-diversion rate is only about 20%. In comparison to other large US city we are on the bottom rung. The average American city rates around 34%, even Los Angeles has a better rate than us at 76%.
One thing we can do to help improve our rate and reach our city-wide goal of 40%, is to recycle the right things. Don’t get lazy and toss that one pizza box in there. It’s not worth it down the line.
The basics of what you should recycle are plastic bottles (caps on or off, it doesn’t matter), empty soda or food cans, newspaper, junk mail, white paper, plastic jugs and jars, glass bottles and jars, and cardboards.
The list of things that can go the blue bin is actually just this short. If it is not on the list above don’t put it in there.
As a quick side note: when it comes to large items, like appliances, we specialize in rounding these up and hauling them off recycling facilities.
The blue can recycling program isn't perfect. There's a lot of grey area and confusion when it comes to what can't be recycled. Because of this people throw out non-approved items into their blue can which winds up contaminating the entire load. So it's not that Phoenix is any more or less lazy than other major cities in the U.S., it's just a matter of educating people as to what needs to be recycled.
So let's take a look at what can't be recycled.
First, no fast food cups, or any other box, bag, or container that has a plastic or waxy liner, this includes things like dog food bags. The liner is made of a different type of plastic and cannot be separated from the container, thus making the entire container non-recyclable. If you really want to help out the environment, try taking your own refillable cup next time you hit Starbucks.
Second, food residue. Food residue of any kind. We know it seems like paper plates should be in the recycle bin, but no, not if they have food on them. The residue from food contaminates the recyclable materials. It is especially bad to recycle pizza boxes. Seems legit to place all that cardboard in the bin, but grease from the pizza will jam up the processing machines, and cause a lot more problems than just adding that box to the landfill. Remember, no paper plates, napkins, or even plastic utensils.
Additional blue can no-nos
We all know by now, no plastic grocery bags in the blue bin. They get tangled up in the machines and they cost a lot of money to fix. Also, no bubble wrap or other plastic packing material, including styrofoam. In addition, recycling plants will charge more if the load is contaminated with un-recyclables, and guess who that extra charge will filter down to? Yup, you and me.
One thing most of us don’t think about is cosmetics. We don’t know a lot about that here, but we do know it doesn’t belong in the blue bin.
Sadly even colored paper should be tossed. Lightly colored, or pale colored paper is alright, but brightly colored paper must be separated out before it can be recycled. Think of it like doing a load of white laundry and sticking in a bright red sock on accident. All of your clothes will have you looking like a giant marshmallow peep (Thanks Rachel). The staining effect is true of paper as well as clothes.
Finally, one last big kicker, no wire hangers. They, too, get stuck in the machines.
Keep Phoenix Beautiful
200 West Washington Street, 16th Floor
Phoenix, AZ 85003
Main Phone: 602-262-4820
Public Works Customer Care
Picking up and recycling the following items:
√ All Plastic Bottles
√ Glass Bottles/Jars
√ Cardboard/FoodBoxes - no boxes that have absorbed food
√ Aluminum/ Metal cans - no cans full of aerosol or product
√ All Plastic Jugs
√ Wet Strength Chipboard/Paperboard - includes 6-pack holders, frozen food boxes etc.
√ All Plastic Containers
√ Hard Plastics - including buckets
√ Shredded Paper - only if it is placed in clear plastic bags
✘ Books - including hardback, paperback or phonebooks
✘ Receipts - heat sensitive type
✘ Plastic bags - take them to your grocery store instead
✘ Oven Cleaners
✘ Aerosol cans which include product
✘ Light Bulbs
✘ Treated/Tempered Glass
✘ Glass Table Tops