Blue Cart Top Troublemakers

There are dozens of things that can be recycled in Chicago's blue cart, and some things that can't.  

Keeping these items out of the recycling bin makes the recycling process run more efficiently and helps ensure the safety of the recycling crews. 

1. Plastic Bags  

Plastic bags of any kind are not recyclable in the Blue Cart. Plastic bags wrap around the equipment at the sorting facilities causing shutdowns, they also keep the collection crews from determining if the contents are recyclable.  Plastic bags are troublemaker #1 for many recycling programs.

Watch this video and you'll never try to recycle another plastic bag. 

Video courtesy of DNA Info Chicago

Plastic bags are recyclable at local stores. Plastic bags, zip-lock bags, bubble wrap and the plastic wrap from toilet paper and paper towels can be recycled at most local grocery stores. Enter your zip code here to locate a store near you.

2.  Odd Shaped Plastics 

Plastic bottles, jugs, containers, and buckets (up to 5 gallons) are recyclable in the Blue Cart, odd shaped plastics are not. Common 'plastic scrap' forbidden from the Blue Cart includes lawn furniture, crates, laundry baskets, toys, VHS tapes and kiddy pools.

Donate: If there's any use left in them, please consider donating to a local charity or thrift shop. 

3. Polystyrene #6  (aka: PS foam or Styrofoam)

Foam polystyrene's crumbly nature and light as air properties make it difficult to transport and recycle with other recyclable items, so it's not accepted in the Blue Cart.  Good news though, a new collection center has opened that accepts foam polystyrene (except for packing peanuts) from residents for recycling! And it's open 24/7.

Reuse:  If you won't reuse packing peanuts, most shipping stores will. Give your local shipping store a call and inquire if they'll take them, or drop them off at the nearest UPS store. 

Recycle: All forms of foam PS #6, except for packing peanuts, can be dropped off at the Dart Collection Center for recycling; it's open 24/7. 

4. Clothing 

There are 99 ways to keep old clothes out of the landfill but the Blue Cart isn't one of them.   

These days clean, dry clothes and linens in any condition can find a home through various donation and recycling options. 

Thrift Stores: Thrift shops generally require that clothing be in "clean and gently warn" condition. Some stores offer donation receipts, others may offer store credits or cash for clothing that is still in vogue or of high quality. Per Yelp, these are the top rated drop-off spots in Chicago. 

Clothing Donation Bins: Clean clothes and linens that don't pass thrift store standards can be donated through the clothing collection bins found in supermarket parking lots and strip malls. The items collected in these unmanned bins are generally sent to under privileged countries, clothing that is too tattered for reuse is turned into rags.

Recycle: Give your stinky sneakers to Nike. Nike Reuse-a-Shoe grinds down worn out athletic shoes (any brand) and turns them into new places to play.

5. Stringy Things

Garden hoses,  Christmas tree lights, cables and shredded paper pose the same problems as plastic bags, they wrap around the sorting equipment causing shutdowns and can also pose hazards for the recycling crews.  

Where to Recycle Christmas Tree Lights: In November Home Depot hosts a Christmas Light Recycling Event that collects old Christmas tree lights for recycling.

Where to Recycle Shredded Paper: Shredded paper can be dropped off at local shredding events for recycling.  Check the Brief for upcoming events. 

Compost Shredded Paper: Non-glossy shredded paper can also be composted.

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