We are often stuck with plastics that we can't put into the recycling bin for curbside pickup. We feel guilty just throwing plastic in the trash, but we don't want it lying around the house either.

Which plastics cannot be recycled?

The recycling plastic codes #1 through #7 indicate the type of plastic the item contains, but just having the symbol doesn't make it recyclable. And if the symbol doesn't have a code in the middle at all, it can mean the product has been manufactured from recycled materials, but the new product may not be strong enough to recycle again.

Curbside pickup vs. drop-off

Many recycling centers accept more plastics than you think; they just don’t pick it up. A quick call to the recycling facility, or a quick check of their website can tell you what goes into the curbside bins and which needs to be dropped off.  Dropping plastics at the recycling facility does take a little extra effort, but adding it to the weekend errands once a month isn't too bad.

For large cleanup jobs like home remodeling and big moves that leave plastic behind, junk removal companies will do the pickup, sorting and recycling for you, though they do charge a fee.

Around town

Some local recycling centers cannot accept plastic bags and bottle caps because they get stuck in the equipment, but many supermarkets will take them for recycling. Big box stores, supermarkets, office supply chains, hardware stores, and local businesses often to act as drop-off centers for plastics and other materials that municipalities may not accept. Keep an eye out for these collection centers as you do your regular shopping, so you know where to go when you need one.

Donate and reuse

If you are overwhelmed with plastic shopping bags, drop them off at the local animal shelter. The shelters typically accept them and put them to good use when walking the dogs.

New electronics often come with bubble wrap and the daily mail can overload a home with excess packing peanuts. Many packaging & shipping stores will accept and reuse these items if they are clean.

Old piping, flooring, siding and other PVC plastics that are in good condition after a home remodel can be donated to non-profits that build homes for the disadvantaged.

And schools may accept certain plastics such as bottle tops and container lids for arts and craft projects.


Broken PVC pipes and Styrofoam that has touched food cannot be recycled. Plastic clamshells, plastic plates, cups and cutlery are accepted by some recycling centers, but not others. Since there is often no reuse for these items, throwing them in the regular trash may be your only option.

Earth911 maintains a directory that can help find a home for the plastic (or other material) you need to recycle. Of course, the best way to avoid dealing with plastic waste is to find ways to reduce plastic in the first place.