What Is...?What Is...?

What is recycling?

Each of us generates an average of five pounds of waste per day. This may not sound like much, but when multiplied over a period of a year, the amount of waste each person creates is staggering. You can calculate how much waste your family generates annually with a simple formula (5 lbs/person/day x 365 days/year x number of people in your household). One easy way to manage this material is by recycling. Recycling is the process of collecting, sorting, cleaning, treating, restoring, and then converting materials that would otherwise become solid waste, into raw material for new, reused, or restored products. For instance, we can collect our old newspapers and remake them into new newspaper!

How does recycling work?

There are three steps:


The recycling loop begins with collection. Collecting recyclables varies from community to community, but there are five primary methods: curbside pre-sorted collection, curbside unsorted collection, drop-off centers, buy-back centers, and deposit/refund programs. When you separate the recyclables, it is called pre-sorted; when your collector sorts them out from the trash, it is called unsorted. There is even a difference between sorting into separate categories (multi-stream) versus commingling into one (single stream). Contact your hauler for specific recycling guidelines for your area.


Regardless of how recyclables are collected, the next leg of their journey is usually the same. Recyclables are delivered to a materials recovery facility to be processed and prepared into marketable commodities for manufacturing. Recyclables are bought and sold just like any other commodity, and prices for the materials change and fluctuate with market conditions. Once cleaned and separated, recyclables are ready to undergo the second part of the recycling loop. More and more of today's products are being manufactured with total or partial recycled content. Common household items that contain recycled materials include newspapers, paper towels, aluminum, plastic, glass, steel cans, cardboard, carpeting, and much more. Recycled materials are also used in innovative applications such as recovered plastic in carpeting, park benches, and pedestrian bridges.


Purchasing recycled products completes the recycling loop. By "buying recycled," governmental agencies, as well as businesses and individual consumers, all play an important role in making the recycling process a success. As consumers demand more environmentally-sound products, manufacturers will continue to meet that demand by producing high-quality recycled products. You're not really recycling until you make the commitment to buy recycled products, too!


Recycling is perhaps the best thing you can do to reduce green house gases which contribute to global climatic change. Recycling also reduces the emissions of many air and water pollutants, saves energy, supplies valuable raw materials to industry, creates jobs, stimulates the development of greener technologies, generates less solid waste, reduces litter, conserves natural resources for future generations, and reduces the need for new landfills.

What happens to...?

Have you thought about what happens to the items picked up from your recycle cart? Many items can be transformed into brand new products! When you recycle you help preserve our environment by keeping materials out of our landfills and reducing the amount of raw materials needed to create new products. Best of all, these items can be recycled, again and again for endless uses.

TOP 5 Household Items That Can Be Recycled Into New Products
Paper transformed to arrow Egg cartons, dry wall sheets, roofing material
Cardboard boxes transformed to arrow Microwave food containers, cereal boxes, paper bags
Plastics  and  transformed to arrow Carpet, clothing, playground equipment, cell phones
Glass containers transformed to arrow New glass containers, jewelry, tile, fiberglass insulation
Aluminum and metal containers transformed to arrow Bicycle parts, appliances, steel beams

What is a recycle symbol?

Many plastic containers manufactured today are stamped with symbols as an aid to recycling. These stamps identify the type of resin or resin mix in the plastic container. Only two types, PET and HDPE, are commonly collected for recycling.

Plastic #1
Polyethylene Terephthalate. Includes beverage bottles (like 2-liter pop bottles), frozen food boil-in-the-bag pouches and microwave food trays. PET makes up about 7% of the plastics' stream.
Plastic #2
High Density Polyethylene. Includes milk jugs, trash bags, detergent bottles, bleach bottles and aspirin bottles. HDPE makes up about 31% of plastics' stream.
Plastic #3
Polyvinyl Chlorine. Includes cooking oil bottles and packaging around meat. PVC makes up about 5% of plastics' stream.
Plastic #4
Low Density Polyethylene. Includes grocery store produce bags, bread bags, food wrap and mustard squeeze bottles. LDPE makes up about 33% of plastics' stream.
Plastic #5
Polypropylene. Includes yogurt containers, shampoo bottles, straws, syrup bottles and margarine tubs. PP makes up about 9% of plastics' stream.
Plastic #6
Polystyrene. Plastic foam (better known by trade name Styrofoam™). Includes hot beverage cups, fast food clamshell containers, egg cartons and meat trays. PS makes up about 11% of plastics' stream.
Plastic #7
Includes other plastic resins or a combination of resins 1-6 all within the same product. These plastics make up about 4% of plastics' stream.

How do I recycle electronic waste?

Electronic waste (e-waste) includes computers, televisions, stereos, VCRs, and copiers. E-waste should not be disposed of with regular garbage. Donate working electronic equipment or recycle unwanted electronic waste at any of the County’s free Household Hazardous Waste/Electronic Waste collection events.

What is Household Hazardous Waste?

HHW refers to Household Hazardous Waste. HHW is any product labeled as toxic, poisonous, corrosive, flammable, combustible or is an irritant that must be disposed of. A typical home can contain a vast array of household hazardous products used for cleaning, painting, beautifying, lubricating and disinfecting the house, yard, workshop and garage. Click here to download a listing of product types considered to be HHW when disposed.