Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
The Black Hawk County Solid Waste Management Commission has compiled a list of questions that our educators field on a regular basis. If you have questions about a topic or an item not listed in our FAQs, please contact our Waste Trac Education Team at at 319-266-8722 or via e-mail.
My recycling/trash didn’t get picked up today. Who should I call?
I need to rent a dumpster for my home? Who should I call?
I need to rent a dumpster for my business? Who should I call?
Why do I need to have my items tarped when I bring them to the landfill?
How do I schedule a program or landfill tour for my group?
I am trying to use less hazardous chemicals in my home. Do you have any suggestions about alternative cleaners?
How can I help my business reduce the amount of waste generated?
Is it easy to compost at home?
Is there a service that will pick up food waste from my business? Can we donate edible food that we do not need?
I am planning an event and would like to have recycling available to collect bottles and cans. What should I do?
What do I do with….?
Aluminum cans (deposit beverage containers)
Contact the Black Hawk County Sherriff’s Office or your local police department.
Antifreeze and automotive fluids
Appliances (including microwaves, air conditioners, dehumidifiers, water heaters, refrigerators, etc.)
Asbestos containing materials (such as flooring, ceiling, and roofing tiles)
Donate them to the Cedar Valley Bicycle Collective.
- Before you donate your books, check out the recipient’s book donation policies.
- Check with your local library or nearby school library about donating to their collection or ask if they collect books for resale during a semi-annual book sale.
- Many local charities and thrift stores accept donated books.
- Add to a local Little Free Library.
- Donate through mail in donation programs such as many different prison book programs or international donation programs.
- Get crafty with a wide variety of projects using old books on Pinterest.
Check with your city about their book recycling policy. Options may depend on the book cover type.
Many allow paperback books. Some require them to be modified first:
- If the paperback is very thick, the recycler may require you to tear/cut the book (down the spine) in half or in thirds until they are similar in thickness to a magazine. Books that are too thick may jam up the recycling equipment.
- The thicker paper covers should be removed and can be recycled with cardboard.
Hardback books may not be accepted at all, or the recycler may require you to remove the covers and stiff bindings:
- Tear/cut out all of the pages and recycle the loose pages with magazines/newspapers.
- The dust cover can also be recycled with magazines/newspapers.
- The hardback covers and all bindings should be thrown away.
Bubble Wrap and air pillow packaging
Building materials (including usable flooring, cabinets, fixtures, toilets, faucets, light fixtures, doors, windows, etc.)
New carpet remnants may be accepted at some local charities, such as Habitat for Humanity Restore, but always call ahead.
Used items: Due to sanitary concerns, many charities may not accept used carpet/rugs. Contact your city about their bulk item policy or take those items directly to the Cedar Falls Transfer Station or the Black Hawk County Sanitary Landfill.
Car seats are tricky because they are a combination of many different types of components (including plastic, metal, fabric, and foam):
Determine if the seat is safe for reuse before giving away. Many donation centers will not accept them due to safety/recall concerns. Always contact the organization regarding their policies before attempting to donate items.
Since April 2016, Target Stores have offered special recycling events to collect car seats, bases, and booster seats.
In 2019, Walmart started partnering with TerraCycle to offer a special recycling event to collect car seats.
Baby Earth offers a mail-in recycling program for car seats and other baby gear. All you need to do is pay the shipping costs and send it to them.
Otherwise, dismantle the car seat to make it unusable by someone else before throwing away/recycling the parts:
- Use scissors to cut off the fabric, foam padding, and harness straps from the seat.
- Use a Phillips-head screwdriver to remove as much metal as possible. Some cannot be removed easily.
- Remove the car seat cover and any padding underneath it.
- Discard the fabric, foam padding, straps, and mixed metal/plastic pieces and small plastic pieces.
- Mark the plastic as expired or unsafe.
- Look over the plastic components to see if they are recyclable (marked with the recycling symbol and number):
- If so, double check with your city to see if they will accept the bulky plastic body. If so, then recycle those recyclable plastic parts and all metal pieces.
- If your city doesn’t accept these items, then they will need to be thrown away with the fabric, foam, and mixed metal/plastic pieces.
Unwanted strings of holiday lights are accepted during Commission-sponsored drop-off events.
Take them to a local scrap metal recycler.
Recycle them through a mail-in program, such as HolidayLEDs or Christmas Light Source.
Some home improvement stores also offer string light recycling during the holiday season.
Real trees: Contact your city about their tree pick up policy or use them to help nature.
Artificial trees: They are not recyclable. Throw them in with your regular trash collection or contact your city regarding bulk item pick up.
Earth911.org offers more tips regarding Christmas trees.
Thrift stores and consignment shops can take a large variety of items. Check their policies to find out what they will accept. Many locations are listed in the yellow pages of the phone book under “Thrift Stores” and also under “Consignment Service”.
Donate to reuse and recycling programs, such as
- Nike’s Reuse-a-Shoe and Nike Grind programs (shoes)
- Patagonia – Worn Wear (Patagonia brand clothing/gear repair and care guides and reuse/recycling options)
- Phoenix Fibers (denim)
- Soles4Souls (shoes)
- Zappos for Good (clothes and shoes)
Single use pods for coffee, tea, cocoa, and cider are not recyclable, UNLESS the cups are marked with the recycling symbol (a recycling triangle with a number 1 through 7 listed inside) AND your city accepts them in their recycling program.
- If accepted, Keurig offers this information and suggests these steps prior to recycling.
- If not, throw away in your regular garbage.
Single use pods for coffee, tea, cocoa, and cider are not recyclable, UNLESS the cups are marked with the recycling symbol (a recycling triangle with a number 1 through 7 listed inside). Keurig offers this information and suggests these steps prior to recycling.
Small quantity generators – Check whether your city accepts them through their city recycling program.
Large quantity generators – Check whether your recycling hauler accepts them or start a Terracycle Brigade (mail-in recycling program).
Computers, copy machines, ink cartridges, and computer accessories from businesses
Computers, ink cartridges, printers, and computer accessories from homes
Concrete, bricks, cinder blocks, rubble, and sand
Look for community shred day events sponsored by Veridian Credit Union (Ansborough Avenue location) and Community Bank and Trust (Commercial Street Location).
Contact a data destruction company, such as On-site Information Destruction.
Cooking oil (vegetable oil) and grease from businesses
Cooking oil (vegetable oil) and grease from homes
Through these mail-in programs, you can send old crayons (any brand) to Crazy Crayons and markers (any brand and type) to Crayola ColorCycle.
Get creative a use them in a project from Pinterest.
- Although thrift stores and consignment shops can take a large variety of items, always call ahead to check their policies and if they will accept your item. Many locations are listed in the yellow pages of the phone book under “Thrift Stores” and also under “Consignment Service”.
- Visit Earth911.com to learn about the CD Recycling Center of America and several other mail-in programs.
- Throw away in your regular garbage.
Electric and battery operated items from businesses
Electric and battery operated items from homes (including lamps, treadmills, curling irons, toasters, humidifiers, electric space heaters, and more)
Lions Club International and local chapters offer reuse opportunities for your old eyeglasses. Donate unneeded prescription and reading glasses, sunglasses and plastic and metal frames (especially children’s) by mail or in a local Lion’s Club collection box.
Contact the Waterloo Hazmat Center, a local fire protection company (listed in the yellow pages of the phone book under “Fire Extinguishers”) or a local scrap metal recycling business (listed in the yellow pages of the phone book under “Scrap Metal – Process & Recycle”) about their policies.
Many American Legions accept American, POW, and Iowan flags to ensure they are properly retired.
- The Boy Scouts of America – Winnebago Council also accepts flags to be retired in conjunction with the American Legion.
- The American Legion has tips on cleaning, repairing, and retiring your flag.
- The Veterans of Foreign Wars also provide details about proper flag etiquette and retiring your flag.
Fluorescent bulbs (tube and compact styles) and ballasts from businesses
Fluorescent bulbs (tube and compact styles) and ballasts from homes
Contact your city about their flood debris policies.
Take items directly to the Black Hawk County Sanitary Landfill or the Cedar Falls Transfer Station.
Contact your city about their bulk item policy or take those items directly to the Cedar Falls Transfer Station or the Black Hawk County Sanitary Landfill.
Thrift stores and consignment shops can take a large variety of home items. Contact them about their policies to find out what they can and cannot take. Many locations are listed in the yellow pages of the phone book under “Thrift Stores” and also under “Consignment Service”.
Habitat for Humanity ReStore accepts a wide variety of building materials and home items from individuals, retailers and contractors. ReStore then sells those materials back to the general public at deeply discounted prices in their store or through their Ebay Store. The proceeds from this store are used to fund Habitat for Humanity projects in the Cedar Valley.
Post unwanted items on freecycle, local Facebook “For Sale” groups, or sites like craigslist.
Glass (brown, green, blue, and clear)
Residents are allowed to throw smaller amounts of solidified grease into their regular garbage.
Greeting cards (new and used holiday and other occasion cards)
- St. Jude’s Ranch for Children accepts old cards through their mail in program. They upcycle your old cards into new greeting cards, which are then sold to help support their programs and services.
- Feeling crafty yourself? Pinterest offers a never ending variety of projects to do with old cards.
- Follow these steps to recycle your old cards.
Grills (gas and charcoal)
- Recycle the grill with other scrap metal.
- Contact your city about their bulk item policy.
- Propane tanks need to be recycled separately.
Hazardous materials and chemicals from businesses
Hazardous materials and chemicals from households (including a wide variety of toxic materials from your home, garden, garage, and workshop)
Personal care items are designed to come into contact with your skin and are not considered hazardous.
- The best option is to use the product as directed or give it away. Unopened products (that are not expired) can be donated to women’s shelters, the Food Bank, or some thrift stores.
- Some makeup manufacturers take back old makeup. Before you discard your expired or unwanted cosmetics and creams, check with the manufacturer.
- Most solid products (soap, deodorant, lipsticks, towelettes, etc.) can be placed in the trash.
- If the product mixes with water, it’s water-soluble. Most expired liquid, gel, and powder based (water-soluble) products can be disposed of down the drain with running water – just like when you use them. If you are connected to a city sewer system, flush small amounts down the drain with lots of water – the toilet works best.
- Products cannot be thrown away in liquid form. You can pour the expired liquids out into newspaper lined cardboard box and then mix them with an absorbent material (like kitty litter, floor dry, saw dust, etc). When they are no longer a liquid, you can just throw the whole mixture away.
- Rinse the containers and check if the plastic bottles are labeled for recycling. If the containers are not recyclable, you can throw them away. You can also reuse your empty cosmetic jars and cases for storage around the house or get crafty and transform them into something useful for your home!
- For aerosol products (sunscreen, body spray, etc.), spray them (until empty) into a cardboard box or onto newspapers. Throw away the empty spray can and the box/newspapers when dried.
There may be a few items that are labeled flammable (such as nail polish remover), that are considered hazardous and should be brought to a spring or fall drop-off event.
Weight is not a good indication of when the tank is low or empty because the difference between the weight of a full helium tank and an empty one is only a few grams.
- If you know the tank is empty:
- Contact your retailer to see if the tank can be returned to them.
- Contact a local scrap metal recycling business listed in the yellow pages of the phone book under “Scrap Metal – Process & Recycle” about their policies.
- If you know there is still gas left in the tank:
Contact the Code Enforcement or Sanitation department for your city or contact the Iowa Department of Natural Resources Field Services and Compliance Bureau.
Opt out of receiving unwanted solicitations (such as junk mail, prescreened offers, catalogs, and phone books).
Check with your city to see your kerosene heater would be accepted through their bulk item program.
Haul it to a local scrap metal recycler. Look for scrap metal recycling companies listed in the yellow pages of the phone book under “Scrap Metal – Process & Recycle”. Many companies may even pay you for your metal.
Before recycling the heater, you will need to deal with any kerosene remaining in the unit:
- Drain any old remaining kerosene out of the heater and into a spill-proof container (with a lid that seals tight).
- Check with your local automotive repair or service station about recycling it with other gas.
- Bring the old fuel to a Commission sponsored drop-off event.
- Gas powered: Drain all oil and gas before disposal.
- If it has a battery, recycle it with other lead acid batteries.
- Recycle the equipment with other scrap metal.
- Contact your city about their bulk item policy.
Lead acid (automotive) batteries
Many charities no longer accept mattresses or toppers due to sanitary concerns. Contact the agency regarding their policies prior to donating.
Call your city about their bulk item policy or take those items directly to the Cedar Falls Transfer Station or the Black Hawk County Sanitary Landfill.
Most medical supply companies will accept the tank back. Check the label.
Easter Seals accepts donations of good quality durable medical equipment to support their program.
Medical sharps disposal from businesses
Medication & medical sharps from homes
Medicine bottles (empty) and lids
Thermostat Recycling Corporation maintains a “search by zip code” database to find your nearest location.
Motor oil, oil filters, and automotive fluids
Plastic bottles (deposit beverage containers)
Plastic containers from motor oil, antifreeze, and other chemicals (empty)
Plastic (grocery) shopping bags
Check with your city about their recycling policy.
The Black Hawk County Sanitary Landfill will NOT accept sod. Check with your city about their yard waste policy. Most do NOT allow sod and dirt in their yard waste carts or yard waste drop-off sites.
Contact a local lawn care service or contractor (listed in the yellow pages of the phone book under “Excavating Contractors”, “Landscape Contractors”, or “Lawn and Grounds”.)
Bagged landscaping fabric (fabric only, no dirt, rocks, or sod attached) is accepted at the Black Hawk County Sanitary Landfill for a weight-based fee. Check with your city regarding putting the landscaping fabric in your regular garbage.
Special wastes from my business (sludges, contaminated soils, asbestos containing items, etc.)
The Iowa Department of Natural Resources advises people to contact the manufacturer for mail back instructions. Many manufacturers also list their address on back of the unit. RecycleNation has more information about smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors.
Televisions and other electronics from businesses
Televisions, DVD/VCR players, radios, and other personal electronics from homes
Visit Earth911.com to search for mail-in programs
Toilets, sinks, cabinets and other items home remodel projects
Vinyl siding is not accepted in city recycling programs and contaminates the recycling bin. Vinyl siding placed in a local recycling roll-off is considered illegal dumping and may be prosecuted by the city. This contamination ruins the entire load (since the material is not marketable), therefore these materials will go to the landfill instead. Currently, the closest vinyl recycling programs are in Illinois or Minnesota.
Vinyl siding can be disposed at the Black Hawk County Sanitary Landfill for a weight based fee or taken to the Cedar Falls Transfer Station.
If you are purchasing a new water softener, ask the retailer if they will recycle your old one when they have the new unit delivered.
Water softeners are made of plastic and fiberglass and do not contain hazardous materials. They may be disposed of in the trash. Contact your city about their bulk item policy or haul the water softener to the Cedar Falls Transfer Station or the Black Hawk County Sanitary Landfill.
Have an item that you don’t see on this FAQs list?
Chances are that Earth911.com has an article with suggestions for that type of item. There is also an easy “search by zip code” feature to find nearby locations that may accept your material.