Many common home items are not accepted through a regular recycling program, BUT can easily be recycled locally through special programs. The Black Hawk County Solid Waste Management Commission promotes the proper management of other recyclable items to reduce the amount of these materials entering the Black Hawk County Sanitary Landfill.
Avoid “Wishful Recycling”
According to the Iowa Recycling Association, terms such as “wishful recycling”, “wish-cycling”, and “hopeful recycling” are starting to become all too familiar in the recycling world. These phrases refer to the behavior in which people put something in their recycling bin, wishing or hoping that it can be recycled, but not knowing if it actually can be. This can lead to employee injury, broken machines, lost productivity, or requiring entire loads of recyclables to be sent to the landfill instead.
Plastic can be tricky. Always look to see if the item is marked with a number (1 through 7) inside of a recycling triangle or not. If that symbol is missing, the item is NOT recyclable and needs to go in the garbage. If the recycling symbol is present, the number represents the type of plastic it is made of, but does not guarantee its recyclability through your local recycling program. Check with your city or county’s recycling program guidelines.
Plastic Shopping Bags
Shopping bags are typically made from a #2 or #4 plastic film and aren’t usually accepted in curbside or drop-off programs. These lightweight plastic bags can easily blow away and become litter. Many city recycling programs do not accept them, because bags get tangled (and damage) the machinery at the recycling processing facility.
- Skip the plastic bags altogether and bring your own reusable bags with you to the store!
- Use them as a liner in small garbage cans
- Use as filler in potted plants
- Take them along on your next walk and use for picking up litter or pet waste
Styrofoam Containers, Packing Materials, and Packing Peanuts
Most municipal recycling programs do not accept Styrofoam because this very lightweight type of plastic is very expensive to transport and process for recycling.
- Reuse Styrofoam Packing Peanuts
- Reuse them in the next package you ship or donate them to a local shipping store to reuse the material.
- The City of Cedar Falls was awarded funding through a grant from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources Solid Waste Alternatives Program (SWAP) to purchase a foam densifying machine that shreds and heats the material to densify it. The hot, runny material is formed into heavy, solid blocks which makes this product marketable to recyclers. The machine can densify three main types of foam: polystyrene (plastic #6), polyethylene (plastics #2 and #4), and polypropylene (plastic #5). Styrofoam is only accepted at 3 sites: the Main Recycling Site (at E. 15th and State St), the Panther Parkway site, and the Greenhill Village site. Styrofoam must be clean and free of all food residue. Tape must be removed. Packing peanuts must be bagged.
Colored Glass (Brown, Green, Blue, and Clear)
Most municipal recycling programs only accept clear glass because it is the most marketable type of glass. The City of Cedar Falls was awarded funding through a grant from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources Solid Waste Alternatives Program (SWAP) to modify their facility to accept colored glass at the recycling center. They work with Ripple Glass to recycle all types of colored and clear glass and will accept bottles, jars, and plate glass. They do NOT accept mirrors, reinforced, porcelain, or auto glass. Ripple Glass sorts and crushes the glass and sells it to fiberglass insulation and beer bottle manufacturers located near Kansas City.
We all get them every year, but how many do we really need around the house?
- Recycle your old ones
- The City of Waterloo accepts phone books in their curbside recycling program and in the newspaper bins at the recycling drop-off recycling stations.
- The City of Cedar Falls accepts phone books seasonally (June-August) in a special collection bin at their main recycling center.
- Or rip them up! The covers can be recycled with cardboard and the inside pages can be torn out and recycled with newspapers. Just throw the thick binding away.
- Opt-out of receiving phone books in the future. You can also opt-out of receiving unwanted catalogs and junk mail.
Bottles and Cans
Iowa is one of only 11 U.S. states and territories that have a “Bottle Bill” Deposit Law to reduce roadside litter. People pay a 5-cent container deposit when they purchase carbonated and alcoholic beverages. They receive their 5-cent refund when they return empty containers back to the store where they purchased them or to a redemption center.
According to the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, “All dealers, including convenience stores, are required to accept at least 120 containers per person per 24-hour period.” A store can only be lawfully exempt from redeeming cans and bottles if it has posted an Iowa DNR “approved” redemption center’s certificate, which includes the redemption center’s location and the hours it is open. The Iowa DNR also maintains a list of “approved” Redemption Centers (Sorted by County) on their site.
Planning a wedding, family gathering or community event? The Black Hawk County Solid Waste Management Commission has a portable recycling equipment loan program to make it easy for you to collect plastic bottles, deposit containers, and office paper during your event!
Vegetable Oil and Cooking Grease
Cooking oil (without food residue) is accepted at the Cedar Falls Transfer Station. The City of Cedar Falls has a special program for collecting vegetable oil from fryers which is then recycled through Midwest Renewable Biofuels and converted into biodiesel.
Cooking grease is NOT accepted by Cedar Falls. Grease can be reused or thrown away.
Have an item that you just can’t figure out what to do with?
The Iowa Department of Natural Resources also maintains an online recycling directory called the Iowa Green List.