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BUSTED: Blue-Bin mishaps

We’ve all been there, standing at a recycling bin, wondering whether what we’re holding is recyclable or not. “Oh well,” you might have heard yourself saying. “I’ll toss it in and they’ll sort it out.”

We call this “wish-cycling,” and it’s a big no-no. It can result in facility shutdowns, contamination of true recyclables, and can even injure the folks whose job it is to sort your recyclables at our facility.

hand holding coffee paper cup

Here’s what can happen when you put the wrong stuff in your bin:

Facility shutdowns

When filmy plastic (like shopping bags, tarps, shrink-wrap, etc.) ends up in our recycling facility, it can tangle up in the fast-moving machinery and grind the whole works to a halt for hours. That’s one reason why filmy plastic is not recyclable. Most major grocery and hardware stores accept filmy plastic for recycling.

Check out which ones accept what you have and bring them along to return on your next shopping trip.


Yuck. We’ve seen soiled diapers, unwashed mayonnaise jars, goopy detergent bottles—these and other yucky items can be unsafe for our staff to handle and they can contaminate otherwise perfectly good recyclables—potentially rendering them unrecyclable.

Rinse out those recyclables—you can probably get another full load out of your detergent bottle if you turn it upside-down for a day to get the last drops. Even a little goopy detergent can spill out and ruin other recyclables, like paper and cardboard. And keep diapers and other nasty stuff out of the blue bin, too!

All of these contaminants create an unhealthy environment for workers, but they also cost your District extra money. It costs more to get them out of the recycling stream—and when they slip through into a bale of otherwise good recyclables, it devalues the rest of the items in it. Sometimes, buyers reject an entire load because of a few contamination items.

Visit our Recycling page for a list of what can go in your bin. And remember—when in doubt, throw it out.


Someone put a partially full bottle of bear repellent into their blue bin not too long ago. It sent several workers to the hospital (they’re all fine, fortunately), and it shut down the recycling facility for several hours. Lost time increases recycling costs but—more importantly—hazardous waste bottles, batteries, and propane canisters can pose a danger to our staff and DO NOT belong in your blue bin.

For residents, empty hazardous waste bottles (including products like engine oil, paint, cleaners, adhesives, tar, etc.) go in the trash. If they contain any leftovers, they must be brought to the CSWD Environmental Depot for disposal. For residents, there is no charge for most items. Businesses should call the Depot at (802) 865-4663 for disposal information.

A to Z List

Want to figure out what to do with a specific item? Search our A-to-Z list. It contains recycling & safe disposal options for hundreds of items, like motor oil, mattresses, tires, and more.