What is Recycling?

Recycling refers to the process of converting waste into reusable materials. Public Recycling programs collect or accept recyclable materials and divert them out of the waste stream to recovery facilities where they can be processed for reuse. Recycling programs typically involve some combination of curbside collection of recyclable materials from residential properties, dumpster collection of recyclable materials from commercial and multi-family properties, and the acceptance of recyclable materials at transfer stations or other designated facilities. Recycling programs are designed to both reduce the amount of waste that must be incinerated or stored in landfills, and to minimize the environmental impact of disposing hazardous materials, heavy metals, and other potential contaminants.

Curbside collection of Recyclables involves refuse collection vehicles collecting certain Recyclable materials from individual households along established routes. Most curbside collection programs accept paper, cardboard, glass, aluminum, and certain types of plastic. Many counties, local governments, and private collection companies offer Single Stream collection. Single Stream Recyclable collection uses a single container for all accepted Recyclable materials. The mixed materials are collected and hauled to a Recycling facility where they are separated by type before further processing. Other curbside collection programs may require that Recyclables be sorted by type of material at the curb. Curbside collection programs may include commercial properties and multi-family properties where Recyclable materials must be separated and placed in designated dumpsters. In addition to glass, paper, and other common Recyclable materials, some communities offer special collection programs for materials that cannot be placed in curbside Recycling bins, such as used motor oil, batteries, e-waste, and tires.

Most communities, including those that also provide curbside collection, make drop-off sites available for Recyclable materials at transfer stations, landfills, and other facilities. These sites provide marked containers designated for each type of Recyclable material.

Numerous states mandate Recycling due to declining disposal capacity and to minimize the impact of disposal on the environment. While often mandated at the state level, Recycling programs are managed or delivered at the county or local level of government. Many counties and local governments run their own Recycling collection programs and deliver the hauled materials to public or private processing facilities. Others may outsource the collection of Recyclables. Smaller communities may require households and commercial customers to contract with a private service provider.