Recycling Contamination

What is Recycling Contamination? 


With requirements changing in the world market, it’s important more now than ever, to ensure our recycling is as clean as possible. This not only means making sure materials are empty, clean and dry, but also that only the right materials are going in the cart. A contaminant is anything that isn’t recyclable and therefore should not be in the recycling cart.

The chart below from Republic Services shows a list of some common contaminants found in the recycle cart, with information about why they shouldn’t go in and how to properly dispose of these items. Republic Services will continue working with customers to convey the changes in recycling. Remember that the cleanliness and quality of recycling is of the upmost importance, so when in doubt, throw it out.


Contaminant Why Where Can It Go?
Paper milk/juice cartons, paper broth containers, paper coffee cups  These have tiny plastic fibers embedded in them, which are difficult to separate from the paper fiber for recycling These items should go in the trash. Try to reassess purchasing habits and find products with less packaging or more recyclable material 
Nursery Pots There currently are no markets for this plastic. Trash, or reuse for other plants or creative activities 
Clamshells No market currently exists for this low-grade plastic. End of life phase.  Place in trash cart. Avoid purchasing when possible.
Plastic Bags Plastic bags mixed with other recyclables can jam the sorting equipment at the sorting facility Many local grocery stores have collection bins for plastic bags too. 
Garden hoses Hoses can wrap around machinery at the sorting facility, which could cause damage Place in the trash if it can’t be repaired for reuse
Chain & Other Scrap Metal These items can get caught in machinery and cause harm to workers Bring to the scrap metal bin at the transfer station or to a scrap metal buyer
Clothing Clothing wraps around machinery and can cause friction fires Donate; repair; repurpose as rags; or place in trash
Garbage Garbage is not recyclable and only contaminates the good material being placed in the recycle cart Placed garbage in the trash cart or bring to landfill. Call the office if you need a bigger cart
Styrofoam Breaks into tiny pieces when compacted in the recycle truck, no local recycling facility, uneconomical to transport. Place in trash. Avoid purchasing items in excessive packaging when possible.
Plastic cups, plates and silverware  No market currently exists for this low-grade plastic. End of life phase. Place in trash cart. Swap out for durables when possible.




Contamination Fee


Republic Services adds contamination fees when finding material that does not belong in either your recycling or mixed organics cart. Their drivers monitor each load that is picked up, and if they find household trash, plastic bags, or other material that doesn't belong, Republic Services will send a reminder postcard outlining the contamination and offering assistance. If the contamination continues, the contamination fee is applied for every reoccurrence.

If you have any questions about the contamation fee, please contact Republic Services at 541-754-0444.