Curbside Recycling

Preparation and collection of accepted and non-accepted items

Jump To:

Plastics Glass Metal Cardboard Paper General Curbside Preparation

A successful recycling campaign requires a successful relationship between the City, its residents and the processors who receive, sort, bale and market the material. 

Properly prepared recyclables must be placed in the blue recycling cart and put at the curb, not in the street, by 7 a.m. on your designated collection day.

It's imperative that only materials listed below be placed in recycling carts. You can also check the lid of your blue cart for easy reference. When in doubt, toss it out!



  • Bottles
  • Clamshells (clear boxes marked "1" or "PETE") 
  • Tubs (commonly used to hold margarine, yogurt and sour cream)

Rinse all items, and screw caps back on bottles. 

Not Accepted 

In addition to the following items, our recycling program currently does not accept plastic lids, pumps and items that previously contained a hazardous material. Items that contained chemicals, such as a pesticide, pool chemical, automotive fluid, or anything with the poison symbol on it, should be placed in the trash.

Bags - Most grocery stores have collection boxes. Bags jam our equipment!

Pizza Boxes

Lids - Lids (not to be confused with caps) are the flat covers used on containers such as margarine tubs, sour cream, cream cheese or whipped toppings. Since they are flat they are often mixed with paper at the sorting facility by machinery.

Motor Oil Bottles - Residual oil can make a mess of the entire batch when it is washed.

Polystyrene (Styrofoam or #6 plastic) - This takes many forms, including meat trays, coolers, cups, blocks and coffee-cup lids. Please avoid putting any plastics marked "6" or "PS" in your recycling cart.

Does your business generate a lot of foam polystyrene? The NC Department of Environmental Quality has a Recycling Business Assistance Center that has helped companies succeed in collecting foam for recycling.

  • Want to try recycling foam cups? Dart Corporation's Recycla-Pak Program sells boxes that can be used to store and ship used cups.

Frozen Food/Deli Trays, Plates - These trays and other thin, flat plastic objects are not currently recyclable in our program because they cause a sorting problem at the facility. Because they are flat they get sorted out by machines along with other thin and flat materials (paper!) and end up contaminating the paper bales. Please continue to put these items in the trash.

Rotisserie Chicken Boxes - These containers often have a clear lid and a black bottom. They are made from mixed plastics that are not easily sorted or sold.  Please discard in the trash.

Cups (thin) - The ones made of thin brittle plastic shatter easily and are hard to capture at the sorting facility. Please avoid purchasing these cups when possible. "Souvenir cups" made of durable and flexible plastic (like margarine tubs) are recyclable.

Compostable Plastics  - The broad #7 category was designed as a catch-all for "other" plastics. Unfortunately compostable plastics made from bio-based polymers, like cornstarch, are also included in this category and labeled with a #7. Look for the words "PLA," "compostable" or "biodegradable". Please look carefully for that coding and if you see it, DO NOT put it in the recycling container. They are designed to be composted, not recycled!



Bottles and Jars that held food or beverages. Discard any plastic lids or caps before recycling bottles and jars. Metal lids may be placed in the recycling cart. Broken food and beverage containers are acceptable.

Not Accepted 

Non-Food Glass Containers (mirrors, window panes, dishes, and light bulbs). Some manufacturers put chemical stabilizers in the glass containers they make for non-food products. These chemical stabilizers would cause problems in the recycling process.



  • Aluminum foil and food trays
  • Metal cans
  • Remove all food residue. If you are not willing to clean the foil first, please discard it. Place the lids of steel food cans inside the can for safety.

Not accepted 

  • Metal oil cans or metal containers for non-food products
  • Wake County Convenience Centers and Multi-Material Drop Off Centers have scrap metal boxes for recycling other metal items.
  • Aerosol cans
  • Non-food cans
  • Hangers

Ask your dry cleaner if they will accept the hangers back for reuse. These are also accepted for recycling in the "scrap metal bin" at Wake County Convenience Centers.



Corrugated cardboard (shipping-type boxes) 

Prepare the cardboard for recycling as follows:

  • flatten completely.
  • remove all packing material, including any glued-on foam liners.
  • reduce to pieces no larger than 3' x 3' in size.
    The reason for this limitation is that is the size of the opening on some recycling trucks and for residents now using carts, so that the cardboard does not become stuck in the cart.

Note: Cardboard that is not prepared according to these guidelines will not be collected.

All flattened cardboard must fit inside the cart. Only materials inside the cart will be collected as carts are serviced by a fully automated system and the driver does not get out of the truck. If you have a lot of cardboard, and do not want to reduce it to 3' x 3' pieces, you can remove packing materials, flatten it and take it to one of the City's drop off recycling centers.

Not Accepted 

Heavily waxed boxes 



  • Paper (junk mail, envelopes (including window envelopes), copy and fax paper, printed or blank)
  • Paper clips should be removed from paper, but staples are okay
  • Aseptic boxes (juice boxes, also used for wine, milk and soup)
  • Please remove any straw and flatten it before placing in the recycling container.
  • Gable top cartons (milk, juice, and laundry detergent cartons)
  • Should be rinsed lightly and have their caps removed and discarded
  • Newspapers and all inserts, magazines, catalogs, and paperback books
  • Should be removed from plastic bags or sleeves. Recycle the plastic bags at your local grocery store.
  • Paperboard boxes and tubes (paperboard and chipboard include cereal, pasta, toothpaste and beer boxes. Tubes are used for paper towels, toilet paper and wrapping paper)

Remove any linings (like cereal boxes) or attached paper (tubes), and flatten the boxes 

Not Accepted 

  • Cups, napkins, plates and ice cream cartons
  • Pizza Boxes
  • Spiral paper cans (commonly used for nuts, refrigerated dough and potato chips)
  • Hardback books 
  • Egg cartons (lowest grade of paperboard) 
  • Boxes with wax coatings 
  • Checkbooks, carbon paper, and/or paper with adhesive backing

General Curbside Preparation

You can help collection crews by preparing the recyclable materials before putting them in your recycling container. General guidelines include:

  • Place materials in cart loosely, never in plastic bags.
  • Lightly rinse jars, bottles and tubs.
  • Close lids on recycle carts to avoid littering.



Lead Department:
Solid Waste Services
Service Categories: