Answers to Your Recycling Questions

If the approach of Earth Day has recycling on your mind, you may be pondering some common questions. What exactly can be recycled? What do I do with items that can’t be recycled? Do I need to take any steps before recycling an item?

Here are a few answers from the Garden’s EarthWays Center that may help you out.

What can I recycle at home?

Paper, plastic bottles and containers, glass bottles and containers, metal cans, food and beverage cartons and cardboard. Remember to break down boxes! Cardboard must be flattened. You can also recycle clean aluminum foil.

Is there anything I need to do before recycling an item?

Not much! Simply empty plastic and glass containers. No need to rinse except to keep your recycling bin neat between collection days. You can recycle pizza boxes as long as they don’t have grease or food residue spots bigger than your hand.

What can I NOT recycle?

Plastic bags — these are the biggest issue for recycling companies as they get caught in machinery and can cause it to stop working. You also can’t recycle Styrofoam, sharp objects, like needles, or food waste.

So, what can I do with plastic bags?

Many grocery stores and retailers provide plastic bag recycling drop-off collection boxes. You can see where your closest plastic bag recycling drop off is here. The locations usually allow you to recycle other clean and dry plastic films as well, like Ziploc bags, shrink wrap, dry cleaner bags and bubble wrap.

How about food waste, what should I do with that?

If you’re looking for an alternative to throwing away food waste, you can try composting!

What about leftover chemical products and containers?

Leftovers of products used for cleaning, gardening, or auto maintenance can go to a Household Hazardous Waste collection facility, which are operated by the St. Louis County Department of Public Health. Residents of St. Louis County, St. Louis City and Jefferson County can use the facilities. You can make an online reservation for a drop off, and learn more information here.

Can I recycle electronics?

Yes, and you should! Many communities have electronic recycling service providers, and recycling drives for E-Waste are becoming more common. But try to make sure the program has federal certification. The Garden recycles our E-Waste through Midwest Recycling Center.

Still have questions?

The Missouri Botanical Garden hosts a Green Resource Answer Service through the EarthWays Canter. You can call (314) 577-0246 with questions or email

Catherine Martin
Public Information Specialist

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