The NO list
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 Email Us.
The following are NOT recyclable through Emmet County Recycling.
#3 Plastics (Vinyl or Polyvinyl Chloride)
#4 Foam Packing Materials
#6 Foam Packing Materials (Styrofoam)
8-Track Tape Covers
Aborbent Sheets, meat-tray
Audio Cassette Cases
Automotive Floor Mats, rubber
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
Binder Twine, plastic
Binder Twine, sisal
Bird Seed Bags, paper
Birthday Cards IF they have metallic inks, foil or glitter
Blueprint Paper (including the new digital kind)
Boots, winter or ski
Boxes, dishwasher detergent
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
Cards, greeting/birthday/holiday IF they have metallic inks, foil, or glitter
Cassette Tape Cases
Catering Trays, plastic over 12"
Cat Food Bags, paper
Cat Food Bags, woven plastic
Cereal Box Liners
Chair Mats (office)
Christmas Cards, if they have metallic inks, foil or glitter
Credit Card Receipts
Deli Trays, plastic over 12 inch diameter
Dip and Dressing Mix Packets
Dishwasher Detergent Boxes
Dog Food Bags, paper
Dog Food Bags, woven plastic
Door Mats, rubber
Egg Cartons, styrofoam
Eight-track Tape Covers
Envelopes, instant food (cocoa, oatmeal, soup, etc.)
Eyeglasses (However, most eyewear dealers collect them for the Lions Club's reuse program.)
Feed Sacks, paper
Feed Sacks, woven plastic
File Folders, colored
Floor Mats, rubber
Foam Blocks, #4 LDPE
Foam Blocks, Styrofoam
Foam Packing Materials, #4 LDPE
Foam Packing Materials, non-Styrofoam
Foam Packing Materials, Styrofoam
Food Service Trays over 12"
Gas Canisters, helium--accepted for disposal at Household Chemical Drop-off Events
Gas Tanks (vehicle, propane, etc.)
Gas Tanks, helium--accepted for disposal at Household Chemical Drop-off Events
Glass, table top
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.
Halogen Light Bulbs
Helium Tanks--accepted for disposal at Household Chemical Drop-off Events
High-heel Shoes (over 2 inches)
Horse Feed Bags, paper
Horse Feed Bags, woven plastic
Incandescent Light Bulbs
Ink Jet Photo Printing Paper
Instant Food Packets (cocoa, oatmeal, soup, dip, etc.)
Labels, From Cans
Labels, from tin or aluminum cans
Light Bulbs, incandescent or halogen
Livestock Feed Bags, paper
Livestock Feed Bags, woven plastic
Meat-tray absorbent sheets
Motor Oil Bottles
Movies, video cassette
Non-Styrofoam Packing Materials
Office Paper, bold and neon colors (pastels and other pale colors are okay)
Packets, Dips and Dressing Mix
Packets, instant food (cocoa, oatmeal, soup, etc.)
Packing Materials, foam #4 LDPE
Packing Materials, Styrofoam
Paper, blueprint (including the new digital kind)
Paper, carbon (but "carbonless" receipts and forms can be recycled with other office paper)
Paper, wrapping if it has metallic inks, foil or glitter
Pens, ballpoint, felt-tip, etc.
Pet Food Bags
Pizza Box Lid Supports
Plastic Bakery/Deli Trays over 12"
Plastic Bottles, hazardous chemicals
Plastic Bottles, motor oil
Plastic Bottles/Jugs, pesticide
Plastic Shower Curtains
Potato Chip Bags
PVC-free Shower Curtains
Rubber Floor Mats
Sharps (needles, lancets, etc.)
Shoes, high heel (over 2 inches)
Skates, ice, roller or in-line
Soup Packets, instant
Styrofoam-like #4 Packing Materials
Sunglasses (However, most eyewear dealers collect them for the Lions Club's reuse program.)
Table Tops, glass
Tanks, balloon inflation helium--accepted for disposal at Household Chemical Drop-off Events
Tanks, helium--accepted for disposal at Household Chemical Drop-off Events
Tires, earth mover
Tires, over 10-ply
Tires, skid steer
VCR Tape Cases
Vehicle Floor Mats, rubber
VHS Tape Cases
Vinyl Shower Curtains
Waxed Bakery Bags
Wrapping Paper with metallic inks, foils or glitter
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: once you're used to recycling something it just doesn't feel right to throw it away. For many years northern Michigan Spartan stores accepted Styrofoam. They quit in 1998 because there was too much garbage and food residue in the plastic.
Why hasn't the county program picked up the slack?
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 just under 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 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 cardboard a typical truckload weighs over 20 tons!
But, you might ask, what about landfill space? Well, while Styrofoam can take up more than its share of a trash bag, it makes 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 land filled. (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.)
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 land filled, 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.
While it doesn't make sense for Emmet County to recycle Styrofoam, it can still be frustrating to throw it away. If you don't like Styrofoam, we recommend asking your favorite grocery stores, restaurants, and mail-order catalogs to consider using alternatives.
Also, if you travel down state regularly, there are a few places you can drop off Styrofoam. Contact the Dart Container Corporation (dartcontainer.com) for a list of locations and contact information.
Finally, our thanks to everyone who has called about recycling Styrofoam. 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.