Items That Are NOT Recyclable

There’s nothing we like better than adding to the list of items we collect for recycling. But there are some things we simply can’t recycle. Below is a list of items NOT recyclable through our program, but which commonly cause confusion.

After the list is more information on the following items, the ones we’re asked to add most frequently.

If you have an item you’ve been wondering about or have heard of a new opportunity to recycle an item we don’t currently take, please contact us.

The following are NOT recyclable through Emmet County Recycling:

No, not recyclable
2-stroke oil
#3 Plastics (Vinyl or Polyvinyl Chloride)
#4 Foam Packing Materials
#6 Foam Packing Materials (Styrofoam)

No, not recyclable
8-Track Tapes
8-Track Tape Covers

No, not recyclable
Absorbent Sheets, meat-tray
Adult Diapers, clean
Adult Diapers, used
Aerosol Cans
Audio Cassettes
Audio Cassette Cases
Automotive Floor Mats, rubber

No, not recyclable
Baby Diapers, clean
Baby Diapers, used
Bags, charcoal
Bags, Mylar
Bags, pet food
Bakery Bags, waxed
Bakery Trays, plastic over 12″
Baler Twine, plastic
Baler Twine, sisal
Balloon Inflation Tanks (helium) – accepted for disposal at Household Chemical Drop-off Events
Banding, plastic
Banding, polyester
Bathtub, fiberglass
Binder Twine, plastic
Binder Twine, sisal
Biodegradable Plastics
Bird Seed Bags, paper
Birthday Cards IF they have metallic inks, foil or glitter
Blue Insulation
Blueprint Paper (including the new digital kind)
Boots, winter or ski
Boxes, dishwasher detergent
Buckets, plastic
Bumpers, vehicle

No, not recyclable
Cake-Mix Bags
Can Labels
Candle Cups
Candy Wrappers
Canisters, balloon inflation helium – accepted for disposal at Household Chemical Drop-off Events
Canisters, helium – accepted for disposal at Household Chemical Drop-off Events
Car Floor Mats, rubber
Carbon Paper
Cardboard, waxed
Cards, greeting/birthday/holiday IF they have metallic inks, foil, or glitter
Cartridges, VCR/VHS
Cassettes, audio
Cassette Tapes
Cassette Tape Cases
Cassettes, VCR/VHS
Catering Trays, plastic over 12″
Cat Food Bags, paper
Cat Food Bags, woven plastic

No, not recyclable
Cement Shingles (fiber cement)
Cement Siding (fiber cement)
Ceramic Space Heater
Chair Mats (office)
Charcoal Bags
Cheese-ball jars, giant
Christmas Cards, if they have metallic inks, foil or glitter
Cling Wrap
Coat Hanger
Coats, insulated
Cocoa Packets
Coffee Makers
Comb Binding, plastic
Compostable Plastics
Cookie Bags
Corn-based Plastics
CPAP Machine Tubing
Credit Card Receipts
Curtains, shower
Cylinders, gas

No, not recyclable
Deli Trays, plastic over 12-inch diameter
Depends, clean
Depends, used
Diapers, clean
Diapers, used
Dip and Dressing Mix Packets
Dishwasher Detergent Boxes
Dishwasher (plastic tub)
Dog Diapers, clean
Dog Diapers, used
Dog Food Bags, paper
Dog Food Bags, woven plastic
Drinking glasses
Door Mats, rubber

No, not recyclable
Egg Cartons, styrofoam
Eight-track Tapes
Eight-track Tape Covers
Electric Griddles/Skillets
Envelope, Tyvek
Envelopes, instant food (cocoa, oatmeal, soup, etc.)
Envelopes, padded
Envelopes, Spice/Flavor
Eyeglasses (However, most eyewear dealers collect them for the Lions Club’s reuse program)

No, not recyclable
Fabric Scraps
Feed Sacks, paper
Feed Sacks, woven plastic
Fencing, snow
Fencing, vinyl
Fiberglass Insulation
File Folders, colored
Film, photographic
Film, Polaroid instant
Filters, oil
Fish tanks
Floor Mats, rubber
Foam Blocks, #4 LDPE
Foam Blocks, Styrofoam
Foam Packing Materials, #4 LDPE
Foam Packing Materials, non-Styrofoam
Foam Packing Materials, Styrofoam
Foam Rubber
Folders, two-pocket
Food Service Trays over 12″
Food Sealer
Forks, compostable plastic
Forks, plastic
Furniture, Plastic

No, not recyclable
Garden Hoses
Gas Canisters, helium – accepted for disposal at Household Chemical Drop-off Events
Gas Cylinders
Gas Tanks (vehicle, propane, etc.)
Gas Tanks, helium – accepted for disposal at Household Chemical Drop-off Events
Gift Wrap
Glass Dishes
Glass Pans
Glass Pots
Glass, table top
Glass, window
Glasses, drinking
Glasses, sun (However, most eyewear dealers collect them for the Lions Club’s reuse program.)
Greeting Cards, if they have metallic inks, foil or glitter. Others are recyclable.
Gum Wrappers
Gutters, vinyl

No, not recyclable
Halogen Light Bulbs
Hanger, plastic
Hangers, plastic
Hangers, wood
Hanger, wood
Hanging Folders, filing (the ones with the thin metal brackets)
Helium Tanks – accepted for disposal at Household Chemical Drop-off Events
High-heel Shoes (over 2 inches)
House Siding, fiber cement
Horse Feed Bags, paper
Horse Feed Bags, woven plastic
Hoses, garden
Hoses, rubber
Hot Glue Guns
Hypodermic Needles

No, not recyclable
Incandescent Light Bulbs
Inflatable Plastic Swimming Pools
Ink Jet Photo Printing Paper
Instant Food Packets (cocoa, oatmeal, soup, dip, etc.)
Insulin pens
IV Tubing

No, not recyclable
Jello Packets
Juice Pouches

No, not recyclable
Keurig K-cups, unless you remove the coffee and the filter
Kiddie Pools, inflatable plastic
Knives, Plastic

No, not recyclable
Labels, From Cans
Labels, from tin or aluminum cans
Light Bulbs, incandescent or halogen
Livestock Feed Bags, paper
Livestock Feed Bags, woven plastic

No, not recyclable
Magic Markers
Match box
Meat-tray absorbent sheets
Medical Tubing
Motor Oil Bottles
Movies VHS
Movies, video cassette
Mylar Bags

No, not recyclable
Napkins, paper
Needles, hypodermic
Newspaper, wet
Newspaper, yellowed
Non-Styrofoam Packing Materials

No, not recyclable
Oatmeal Packets
Office Paper, bold and neon colors (pastels and other pale colors are okay)
Oil Filters

No, not recyclable
Packets, Dips and Dressing Mix
Packets, instant food (cocoa, oatmeal, soup, etc.)
Packets, jello
Packets, spice/flavor
Packing Materials, foam #4 LDPE
Packing Materials, Styrofoam
Paint Cans, with more than a film of paint inside
Paint Cans, plastic
Paper, blueprint (including the new digital kind)
Paper, carbon (but “carbonless” receipts and forms can be recycled with other office paper)
Paper Napkins
Paper, rosin
Paper Towels
Paper, wrapping if it has metallic inks, foil or glitter
Peanuts, Styrofoam
Pens, ballpoint, felt-tip, etc.
Pens, insulin
Pesticide jugs
Pet Food Bags
Photographic paper
Photographic Prints
Pictures, photographic
Pink Insulation

No, not recyclable
Pipe, PVC
Pizza Box Lid Supports
Plastic Bakery/Deli Trays over 12″
Plastic Bottles, hazardous chemicals
Plastic Bottles, motor oil
Plastic Bottles/Jugs, pesticide
Plastic Buckets
Plastic Forks
Plastic Forks, compostable
Plastic Furniture
Plastic Knives
Plastic Knives, compostable
Plastic Pouches
Plastic Shower Curtains
Plastic Spoons
Plastic Spoons, compostable
Plastic Strapping
Plastic Toys
Polaroid Instant Camera, film refills
Polyester Strapping
Pools, inflatable plastic
Popcorn Poppers
Portfolios, two-pocket
Potato Chip Bags
Pouches, juice
Pretzel Bags
Pringle’s Can Cardboard Tube
Prints, photographic
Produce Boxes
Propane Tanks (Amerigas recycles propane tanks, including 1-pound and 20-pound sizes.  2016)
PVC-free Shower Curtains
PVC Pipe

No, not recyclable
Rain gutters, vinyl
Report Covers
Rosin Paper
Rubber Floor Mats
Rubber Hoses
Rubber Tracks, i.e. from an excavator

No, not recyclable
Sharpies (markers and pens)
Sharps (needles, lancets, etc.)
Shoes, high heel (over 2 inches)
Shoes, water
Shower Curtains
Shingles, fiber cement
Siding, fiber cement
Siding, vinyl
Skates, ice, roller or in-line
Ski Boots
Slide carousels
Snow Fencing
Soup Packets, instant
Spice/Flavor Packets
Spiral Binding, plastic
Spoons, compostable plastic
Spoons, plastic
Strapping, plastic
Strapping, polyester
Styrofoam-like #4 Packing Materials
Sunglasses (however, most eyewear dealers collect them for the Lions Club’s reuse program)
Swimming Pools, inflatable plastic

No, not recyclable
Table Tops, glass
Tanks, balloon inflation helium – accepted for disposal at Household Chemical Drop-off Events
Tanks, fish
Tanks, helium – accepted for disposal at Household Chemical Drop-off Events
Tapes, audio
Tapes, VHS/VCR
Tires, airplane
Tires, earth mover
Tires, off-road
Tires, over 10-ply
Tires, skid steer
Tissues, facial
Tissue Paper
Toys, plastic
Tracks, rubber, I.e. excavator, snowmobile,
Transformer oil
Twine, plastic
Twine, sisal
Two-stroke oil

No, not recyclable
Vacuum Cleaners
VCR Cassettes
VCR Tapes
VCR Tape Cases
Vehicle Floor Mats, rubber
VHS Cassettes
VHS Tapes
VHS Tape Cases
Video Cassettes
Vinyl Gutters
Vinyl Shower Curtains
Vinyl Siding

No, not recyclable
Water Shoes
Waxed Bakery Bags
Waxed Boxes
Window Glass
Wrappers, candy
Wrappers, gum
Wrapping Paper with metallic inks, foils or glitter

Yellow Insulation


Why Can’t We Recycle Styrofoam

The question most frequently asked about the recycling program is, “Do you take Styrofoam?” The simple answer is, “No.” But we sympathize with those who wish we did!
Why doesn’t Emmet County Recycling take Styrofoam items?
First of all picture an empty semi-trailer. Way down at the far end of the trailer there are three bales of recyclable material, each about the size of a twin bed. Let’s say they’re bales of cardboard so they weigh right around a ton per bale. The rest of the trailer is empty. If we closed that trailer up and drove it 225 miles downstate to recycle just that little bit of cardboard you’d think we were terrible managers, wouldn’t you? Why the waste of fuel alone…!

That is, in effect, what we would be doing if we recycled Styrofoam. The things that make Styrofoam items good at keeping food hot and fragile items safe make it inefficient to recycle: it’s roughly 95% air and it’s springy. Even if we compressed it (which on a large scale is very tricky and time-consuming) we could only get about three tons to fit on a semi-trailer. In contrast, when we ship other recyclables a typical truckload weighs over 20 tons!

But, you might ask, what about landfill space? Well, while Styrofoam items can take up more than their share of a trash bag, they make up less than 1% (by volume) of the garbage going into landfills. The really high volume items are paper products like newspapers, cardboard, and junk mail. And, Styrofoam is inert under landfill conditions, so it doesn’t contribute to pollution when landfilled. (We should note, however, that it is not inert when burned. Burning garbage of any kind-but especially plastics-produces smoke laden with high levels of dangerous chemicals. Household burning of plastic garbage in Michigan is illegal.)

Taking the Measure of a Recyclable
As we look at different items in the waste stream and consider which to add to the recyclables we collect, we have to keep in mind many factors. For example, we try to take into account the impact on the environment of making new items from this material, asking whether there are great reductions in energy inputs and pollution produced when recycled stock is used. And what about markets? Are there factories which can use it? Will the sale of the material help cover the costs to collect, store, sort, pack, and transport it?

Also, as discussed above, we have to ask if the material can be collected, sorted, prepared for shipping, and transported in a manner that makes good use of facilities, labor, and fuel. There’s the impact the material has when landfilled, too: Does it use huge amounts of landfill space? Is it poisonous and likely to get loose in the environment, like the mercury in fluorescent bulbs?

Styrofoam just doesn’t measure up on any of these counts.

What now?
While it doesn’t make sense for Emmet County to recycle Styrofoam items, it can still be frustrating to throw them away. If you don’t like Styrofoam, we recommend asking your favorite grocery stores, restaurants and mail-order sites/catalogs to consider using alternatives.

Also, if you travel downstate regularly, there are a few places you can drop off Styrofoam. Contact the Dart Container Corporation for a list of locations and contact information.

Finally, our thanks to everyone who has called about recycling Styrofoam items. We appreciate your commitment to recycling. We will continue to look into any new Styrofoam recycling opportunities that arise!



Why Can’t We Recycle Construction Paper?

Due to the intensity of the dyes used and the rough quality of the paper, construction paper isn’t recyclable. We also can’t recycle boldly colored office paper, again due to the dyes used.