The information provided on this page is informational only. The MRF Advisory Board does not endorse any third party entities linked from this page nor is there any implied endorsement of third party programs and/or practices.
Recycle only EMPTY aerosol cans that contained non-hazardous materials, such as health & beauty products (sun block, first aid spray, hair products, deodorant, & shaving cream); food products (cooking oil, whipped cream, frosting) and laundry products (starch, anti-static products & air fresheners). To prevent a fire hazard, cans must be completely empty (no air or noise from the nozzle when pressed). Do not puncture, pierce, flatten, or remove nozzles prior to recycling.
Aerosol cans that are empty and once contained hazardous materials are NOT recyclable. Place them in your household trash (empty insecticide, paint, lubricant, waterproofing, automotive, adhesive/craft & cleaning products). Aerosol cans with hazardous material in them should be brought to a household hazardous waste collection. For additional information, see: www.mass.gov/eea/agencies/massdep/recycle/hazardous/aerosol-products.html.
ALUMINUM FOIL, CANS & “DISPOSABLE” PANS
Rinse clean & recycle with bottles & cans. Acceptable items include aluminum pie pans and take-out containers, disposable roaster pans, and clean aluminum foil.
ALUMINUM SIDING (see “Scrap metal”)
AMMUNITION & EXPLOSIVES
Call your Police Department for proper disposal instructions.
ANTIFREEZE (see “Automotive products”)
APPLIANCES (see “Scrap metal”)
ARTS, CRAFTS & HOBBY ITEMS
Some paints and related materials are hazardous and should be brought to a hazardous waste collection. Always check the label before tossing in the trash. Visit www.crazycrayons.com for info about crayon recycling. Recycle Prang markers by visiting www.dixonrecycle.com.
There are strict removal & disposal requirements for asbestos. Contact the Western Region of the Mass Department of Environmental Protection: Ben Fish: 413-755-2285; firstname.lastname@example.org. To find licensed asbestos contractors, go to www.mass.gov and type “asbestos license lists” into the search bar, then click “Asbestos Contractor List.”
ATHLETIC SHOES (see “Shoes”)
AUTOMOBILES (see “Vehicles”)
Automotive products contain many hazardous materials and must be handled with care. Don’t dump in the trash, on the ground or down the drain.
- Motor oil
Even a small amount of motor oil will contaminate water & soil. In MA, retailers are required by law to accept up to two gallons of used oil at no charge with an original sales receipt. Many auto supply stores, auto repair shops & gas stations will accept used oil even if you didn’t buy it from them. Many towns accept motor oil at transfer stations or hazardous waste collections. For more information, call your local DPW or the MassDEP Used Oil Hotline at 617-556-1022.
- Motor oil filters
Some auto supply stores or auto repair shops will recycle oil filters for free. Some towns accept motor oil filters at transfer stations. Oil filters may be thrown away or recycled as scrap metal only when the oil has been completely drained (while filter is still warm, puncture the dome top & drain into a collection container. See above for oil disposal).
- Empty motor oil bottles
Empty motor oil containers are not recyclable; drain well and then throw them away as trash.
Antifreeze is not only hazardous; its deceiving color & sweet taste may attract children, pets & wild animals. Empty antifreeze bottles should be thrown away (do not recycle). Consider having your vehicle’s radiator flushed at a service station to avoid the responsibility associated with proper storage & disposal. Antifreeze can be brought to a household hazardous waste collection.
- Brake fluid
Brake fluid is hazardous and must be brought to a household hazardous waste collection. Empty bottles of this material should be thrown away (do not recycle).
BABY FOOD POUCHES/FRUIT SNACK PACKETS
These multi-material pouches, which can contain applesauce, squeezable fruit, or baby food, are NOT recyclable in municipal recycling programs. Terracycle runs several different mail-in recycling programs for pouches and caps, see: www.terracycle.com/en-US/brigades. Whole Foods in Hadley accepts all types of baby food/fruit snack pouches and their caps. Please make sure all leftover food has been removed. Additionally, if you choose to rinse your pouches, please note that they must be completely dry prior to shipping.
BAGS (see “Plastics” and “Reusable Bags”)
BALLASTS (See “Mercury & mercury-containing products”)
Common “single-use” household batteries (alkaline, carbon zinc and zinc chloride in sizes A, AA, AAA, C & D, 9 volt, lantern size) manufactured after 1996 don’t contain mercury or other hazardous/recyclable materials & can be thrown away as trash. (Tape contacts on 9-volts and lantern batteries before disposal or storage.) Check labels carefully: some rechargeable and lithium batteries (which require special handling) can resemble alkaline batteries.
ALL other battery varieties contain hazardous materials and require special disposal. Many communities have convenient drop-off options; Search online with your zip code at www.earth911.com. In addition:
- Button batteries (found in watches, hearing aids, electronics and some toys):
are usually accepted free of charge by stores that sell them or watch/jewelry shops.
- Lead acid batteries (found in vehicles, boats, motorcycles, kids’ ride-on toys, lawn mowers) will be accepted by the retailer from whom you buy a new one (they are required to take one back at no charge). Scrap metal recyclers typically pay for lead acid batteries.
- Lithium batteries (found in many applications, primarily in cameras):
check all batteries carefully before disposal; look for “Lithium” on the label. They resemble alkaline batteries, but these should ideally be recycled properly: some municipalities accept them.
- Rechargeable batteries contain heavy metals and require special handling. These are found in cell phones, cordless phones, laptops, tablets, some digital cameras, camcorders, UPS battery back-ups, some toys, baby monitors, power tools, robotic vacuum cleaners, and emergency medical equipment. Also, rechargeable toothbrushes, razors, flashlights and hand-held vacuum cleaners, plus rechargeable batteries that can be recharged with a battery recharger. AT&T, Best Buy, Home Depot, Lowes, RadioShack, Sears, Staples, Target, & Verizon Wireless accept Nickel Cadmium (Ni-Cd), Nickel Metal Hydride (Ni-MH), Lithium Ion (Li-ion), Nickel-Zinc (Ni-Zn), small Sealed Lead Acid (Pb) batteries (up to 11 pounds). For more information and options for recycling rechargeable batteries, go to www.call2recycle.org.
BEER AND SODA PACKAGING
Although it looks like paper boxboard, beer and soda packaging contains plastic (to stay strong when wet) and is NOT recyclable.
Working bicycles in good condition can be offered to charities (search online via “bicycle donation”) or private organizations (e.g. www.pedalpeople.coop) that will use them, or may be gifted to individuals via free on-line posting services like Freecycle.org. For recycling options, see “scrap metal.”
See more info under “Vehicles.” Boats might be accepted in bulky waste collections at some municipal transfer stations: call first. All automotive type fluids must be drained.
Books in good condition may be sold at used bookstores, donated to public libraries or a book exchange, or dropped off at your local recycling/transfer station’s book exchange. Reader to Reader, an Amherst-based non-profit, provides library-quality books to U.S. schools and public libraries (www.readertoreader.org). Paperback books & phonebooks unsuitable for reuse CAN be recycled in municipal programs. However, the covers and spines from hardcover books are NOT recyclable; rip the pages out and recycle those; discard the spine and covers. Roundabout Books (Greenfield) accepts books in any condition; donations are sorted for local and mail-order sale and all types of unsalable books are recycled at a local paper mill (www.roundaboutbookstore.com; 413-773-0820).
BOTTLE CAPS & LIDS
Plastic caps & lids are recyclable only if fastened to a plastic bottle/jar/jug/tub. Loose tops should be placed in the trash; small items cause safety hazards and shutdowns at recycling facilities because they get caught in the sorting equipment. Metal lids are acceptable for recycling (loose or attached to the container).
- Clean cardboard, boxboard, paperboard boxes are recyclable (e.g., packaging from cereal, crackers, tissues, shoes, gifts, etc). Attached plastic windows may stay, but discard plastic liners. Flatten.
- The clean portions of pizza boxes can be recycled, but the greasy parts must be discarded or composted. Because whole pizza boxes are usually greasy to some degree, drop-off centers and curbside programs sometimes reject them. Turning them inside out or ripping out greasy sections are the best ways to ensure they won’t end up in a landfill. Soiled pizza boxes can be delivered to municipal compost programs at the transfer stations in Amherst, Greenfield (also open to non-residents), Leverett, New Salem, Northampton, Northfield, Orange, Wendell & Whately.
- Frozen food boxes, ice cream cartons, case boxes from soda or beer, and kitty litter boxes are not acceptable in recycling or composting. These boxes are made with “wet strength paper,” a special plastic-reinforced material that keeps them from falling apart when wet. These boxes do not break down in the paper recycling or composting process, and must go in the trash.
BUBBLE WRAP & INFLATED PLASTIC PACKAGING (AIR PILLOWS) (see “Plastics”)
BUILDING & REMODELING MATERIALS
Construction & demolition (“C&D”) waste includes asphalt, asphalt shingles, bricks, cement, cinder blocks, clapboard, concrete, doors, flooring, insulation, lumber, mortar, plaster, plywood, roofing, sheetrock, tiles, windows & wood. Fee-based disposal options are available at most recycling/transfer stations; call your community representative for more information. Vehicles with a capacity greater than 5 cubic yards are subject to strict disposal requirements for C&D wastes in MA. For more information: www.mass.gov/eea/agencies/massdep/recycle/reduce/managing-construction-demolition-wastes.html
Used building materials (in good condition) can be donated for re-use. The following organizations will accept some reusable items. Call prior to delivery to confirm that your materials will be accepted, or to arrange for free pickup. Deconstruction services may be offered. Items might be tax-deductible.
- EcoBuilding Bargains (formerly the “ReStore”), 83 Warwick St., Springfield, MA (413-788-6900; ecobuildingbargains.org)
- Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore in Westfield: 301 East Main St., Westfield, MA 01085 (413-642-8990; www.restorewestfield.com)
Wooden pallets can be reused or recycled as “clean wood waste.” Disposal options for large quantities include (but are not limited to) Martin’s Farm (Greenfield: 413-774-5631), Gold Circuit E-Cycling (Ludlow: 888-283-0007), Index Packaging (NH: 800-662-3626), 360 Recycling (Westfield: 413-562-0193).
Note: pressure-treated wood should only be disposed of in a modern landfill. Don’t put it in a backyard compost, brush or chipping pile; don’t burn it or send it to a waste incinerator for disposal.
Staples stores, Best Buy stores, and many electronic waste (e-waste) recycling programs accept digital cameras for free recycling. Canon has a mail-in recycling program: https://shop.usa.canon.com/shop/en/catalog/recycling.
Canning jars are not recyclable because of the thickness of the glass. Reuse, give to a friend who can use them, put in a tag sale or swap shop at a transfer station, or place in the trash.
Flor® offers a free mail-back recycling program for carpet squares (www.flor.com/recycle). Some nonprofit organizations accept relatively clean carpet for reuse. Call your community representative for local disposal information.
CARTONS & DRINK BOXES
“Paper” cartons (“Gable tops” for milk and orange juice, “aseptic packaging” for almond milk, soup, juice boxes) should be recycled with bottles & cans. Rinse/flatten containers. Discard straws; plastic caps & spouts may stay. Don’t include drink pouches (e.g., Capri Sun) with your bottles & cans; drink pouches can only be recycled through Terracycle (www.terracycle.com).
CARTRIDGES (see “Ink, printer and toner cartridges”)
Cell phones shouldn’t be thrown away due to their reuse value & hazardous/recyclable components. Numerous charitable & for-profit organizations accept cell phone donations. Search online using “cell phone donation” or check out www.recyclingforcharities.com, www.call2recycle.org or www.earth911.com. Stores that sell cell phones will also accept them for free recycling, and many cell phone manufacturers offer buy-back programs through the mail. Lowe’s, RadioShack and many municipal transfer stations also accept them for free recycling as part of the Call2Recycle program: www.call2recycle.org.
CHRISTMAS TREES (see “Yard waste”)
Terracycle’s “Cigarette Waste Brigade” (Terracycle.com ) accepts extinguished cigarettes, filters, loose tobacco pouches, outer plastic and inner foil packaging for recycling into plastic pallets and other products.
CLAMSHELLS & CLEAR MOLDED PLASTICS (see “Plastics”)
CLEANERS (see “Hazardous household waste”)
CLOTHING & TEXTILES
Local reuse & donation opportunities exist for all textiles & shoes. Deliver CLEAN & DRY textiles & clothing to donation centers & drop-off boxes for Goodwill Industries (www.goodwill.org) & the Salvation Army (www.use.salvationarmy.org). DO include items that are torn, stained, with missing buttons or broken zippers, as these organizations sell damaged textiles to recyclers to be made into insulation. Acceptable items include these CLEAN & DRY items: mismatched socks, shoes and gloves; all clothing and accessories including belts, ties, underwear & purses; and linens such as curtains, pillows, comforters, sheets, towels, and stuffed animals in any condition. Some animal shelters also accept old sheets, blankets, pillowcases, bedspreads, throw rugs & towels for reuse.
Bras can be donated to Salvation Army or Goodwill; any items that are not in good condition will be put into textile recycling. New & gently used bras can be mailed to The Bra Recyclers for distribution to women in transition around the world: www.brarecycling.com; 480-988-2283.
The “Save Your Scrubs” program (www.globallinks.org/donate/scrubs) collects gently-used scrubs to distribute to medical personnel in resource-poor communities overseas; mail to Global Links, Attn: Save Your Scrubs, 700 Trumbull Dr., Pittsburgh, PA 15205.
Many non-profit organizations target specific types of clothing to benefit those in need, such as professional clothing and wedding dresses (see https://westernmass.dressforsuccess.org, www.careergear.org and www.donatemyweddingdress.org).
Do not put hangers in your household recycling bin: hangers get caught in machinery at recycling facilities. Some charitable organizations accept hangers for reuse or resale. Metal hangers are accepted for reuse by some dry cleaners & are also accepted for recycling as scrap metal at most recycling/transfer stations. Unfortunately, plastic hangers are not recyclable (except at a “bulky rigid plastics” collection; see “Plastics: Bulky, rigid plastic objects”) & should be thrown away when they are no longer useable.
COMPACT FLUORESCENT LAMPS (see “Mercury & mercury-containing products”)
COMPUTERS & TV’s (see “Electronics”)
CONSTRUCTION & DEMOLITION WASTE (see “Building & remodeling materials”)
Never pour cooking oil down the drain. Liquids should be kept out of the trash. There are several local recycling options: Northeast Biodiesel, a new biodiesel plant in Greenfield, is expanding its pickup locations across the state: 413-772-8892; ReEnergizer of Westfield accepts vegetable oil by appointment & provides collection services for larger generators: www.localvegoil.com, 413-322-3324; Western Mass rendering provides dumpsters for large collections: www.westernmassrendering.com; 413-569-6265. Don’t drop-off oil at these sites without prior confirmation.
Corks should not be put in your recycling bin. Natural corks can be crumbled & added to a backyard compost bin, or put in municipal/commercial composting. ReCORK (www.recork.org) recycles natural wine & champagne corks (no plastic or metal corks); Whole Foods in Hadley and Ryan & Casey Liquors in Greenfield are ReCork collection sites. Yemm & Hart pays for large volumes of corks mailed to them, and accepts (but doesn’t pay for) plastic corks: www.yemmhart.com. Wine corks can be reused in many creative ways (search online for “cork art”).
Origins offers free recycling of make-up packaging, regardless of brand. Empty cosmetic tubes, bottles, lipstick covers, jars & caps can be brought to an Origins retail store or department store counter nationwide. Other mail-in recycling programs for empty cosmetics containers can be found at www.maccosmetics.com/giving_back/back_to_mac.tmpl and www.terracycle.com.
Clear plastic egg cartons may be recycled with bottles & cans. Paper & Styrofoam egg cartons are not recyclable, but are often reused by backyard chicken farmers. Paper cartons may be composted in municipal compost collections or in home compost bins, if ripped into small pieces.
State regulations prohibit disposal of screen-based electronics such as laptops, tablets, Kindles, flat screen TVs, monitors and CRTs (cathode ray tubes) in household trash, but many items with power cords can be recycled. Most local transfer stations offer electronics recycling programs, although disposal fees may apply. In addition: Staples’ recycling program accepts eligible items at no charge. Staples only accepts computer related electronic waste: no TVs. Staples also runs a reuse program. Best Buy accepts a wide range of electronic waste for free recycling, but charges $25 for TVs. For more information on these store programs, call your local store or visit www.staples.com or www.bestbuy.com & search for “recycling.” Computer manufacturers offer a variety of electronic recycling programs, including (but not limited to) Apple, Dell, Gateway, Hewlett-Packard, Panasonic, Sony & Toshiba. Visit their websites for details. Various charities and non-profits accept electronics donations, including local Salvation Army and Goodwill stores. Always call ahead to ask if they can accept your item.
ELECTRONIC MEDIA (CD’S, DVD’S)
Do not add electronic media to your household bottle and can mix. They easily shatter and the glass-like shards create hazards and other problems at the recycling facility. If selling or gifting used media is not an option (some communities accept certain types via book donation programs), GreenDisk.com offers a fee-based, mail-in recycling option, and Gold Circuit E-Cycling (Ludlow) charges a nominal per pound fee to recycle DVDs, disks and tapes: www.goldcircuitecycling.com.
To donate your eyeglass frames and prescription lenses for reuse, look for a Lion’s Club “Lions in Sight” collection box in your local Post Office or wherever eyeglasses are sold, or mail to: Lions in Sight, 1404 Lemon Street, Vallejo, CA 94590. New Eyes for the Needy (www.new-eyes.org) is another mail-in reuse option; they accept metal frames in any condition, unbroken plastic framed glasses & non-prescription sunglasses. If reuse is not appropriate, eyeglasses should be placed in household trash, as they are not recyclable.
FERTILIZERS & PESTICIDES (see “Household Hazardous Waste”)
Fire extinguishers are considered hazardous because their contents are under pressure. Units manufactured prior to 1984 may contain dangerous chemicals. For disposal and recycling:
- Businesses and property managers can contact their fire control service provider.
- Residents can call their local fire department for local disposal options.
- Some hazardous waste collections may accept older fire extinguishers: ask before bringing them to a collection.
- Some municipal transfer stations accept newer fire extinguishers for recycling along with propane tanks.
- MA Fire Technologies accepts all types of fire extinguishers for a fee (57 York Street, West Springfield; 800-244-6769, www.massfire.com). Call for more information.
Live fireworks are extremely dangerous, and must be disposed of with great caution; call your local Fire Department. Do not throw unused fireworks in the trash.
For the proper disposal of U.S. flags no longer in usable condition, contact the American Legion, the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), civic groups, senior centers or Scout troops.
FLUORESCENT BULBS (see “Mercury & mercury-containing products”)
FOOD SCRAPS (also see “Cooking Oil”)
Food scraps and leftovers are heavy to transport and contribute to climate change when they decompose in landfills; composting them makes better environmental sense. Local composting options include home composting, municipal transfer station programs (in Amherst, Greenfield, Leverett, New Salem, Northampton, Northfield, Orange, Wendell & Whately), and (where available) curbside pick-up by a waste hauler. Many municipalities offer special purchase programs for countertop collection pails and home compost bins; call your community representative for local information. For home composting instructions, visit Mass.gov and search for “home compost.”
Furniture in good condition can be sold or donated for reuse. Donating mattresses & box springs can be difficult, as most charities and some communities don’t accept them. When you purchase a new mattress, ask the retailer to take back and recycle the old one.
Contact local golf courses or driving ranges to see if they will accept them for reuse. Knetgolf.com buys quantities of 5,000 balls or more, visit: www.lostgolfballs.com/we-buy.
Cards are recyclable with paper if they do not contain foil or metallic inks. Remove electronics from singing greeting cards & recycle the button battery (see “Batteries”). St. Jude’s Ranch for Children runs a greeting card reuse program (stjudesranch.org).
The Starkey Hearing Foundation operates a hearing device reuse program. Visit www.starkeyhearingfoundation.org/Hearing-Aid-Recycling for details. If your hearing aid is not worth salvaging, remove & recycle the button battery (see “Batteries”), then place the device in the trash.
HOUSEHOLD HAZARDOUS WASTE
First, consider using up the product according to package directions, or giving it away to someone who will. Products with warnings & words like caustic, toxic, corrosive, poison, flammable, danger & “keep out of reach of children” on the label require special handling. Check your town’s web page for local household hazardous waste collections. New England Disposal Technologies (Westfield, MA) accepts many household hazardous wastes year-round for modest fees (nedt.org). For safe alternatives to hazardous household products, visit www.lesstoxicguide.ca or www.ecocycle.org/hazwaste/ecofriendly-cleaning.
INK, PRINTER & TONER CARTRIDGES
Local schools & non-profit organizations often collect cartridges for fundraising purposes, and Staples operates a cartridge reuse program. Other options may be found via a search on www.earth911, or find mail-in donation programs via an online search (“cartridge donations”).
JUNK MAIL & CATALOGS
Unwanted mail and catalogs are recyclable, but it makes more sense to reduce them at the source:
- DirectMail.com – free service to remove your name from commercial mailing lists (www.directmail.com/mail_preference);
- Catalog Choice – a free service that puts a stop to the delivery of unwanted catalogs (www.catalogchoice.org);
- OptOutPrescreen.com – a free service that ends pre-approved credit card and insurance offers (www.optoutprescreen.com);
- YellowPagesGoesGreen – a free service that takes your name off phonebook mailing lists (www.yellowpagesgoesgreen.org/stop-yellow-pages).
Old keys can be recycled via a scrap metal dumpster at a municipal transfer station or brought to a local scrap metal dealer.
LATEX PAINT (see “Paint & Paint-related Products”)
Incandescent light bulbs and Halogen light bulbs are not recyclable. Carefully wrap them in used paper or plastic before placing them in the trash. Fluorescent bulbs & compact fluorescent bulbs [“CFLs”] contain mercury vapor and require special disposal (see “mercury & mercury-containing products”). LED light bulbs do not have to be recycled, but contain valuable materials and can be recycled with CFLs.
Holiday light sets are NOT recyclable in municipal recycling programs because they get wrapped around sorting equipment. Some scrap metal dealers will accept them for recycling. Holiday LEDS has a mail-in recycling program and sends donors a coupon for 15% off any purchase (www.holidayleds.com/christmas-light-recycling-program.aspx).
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MARDI GRAS BEADS
Donate Mardi Gras beads and trinkets to the Arc of Greater New Orleans’ reuse program: 925 S Labarre Road, Metairie, LA 70001 (www.arcgno.org; 504-837-5105).
MATTRESSES & BOX SPRINGS (See “Furniture”)
MEDICATIONS & PHARMACEUTICALS
Disposal of unwanted medication must be done carefully for many reasons. Wastewater treatment plants & septic systems are not designed to remove pharmaceuticals from wastewater; drugs should NOT be poured down the drain or flushed down the toilet.
Many area police departments offer permanent drop-off boxes for free disposal of prescription and nonprescription drugs, vitamins, and veterinary medications: Agawam, Amherst, Ashfield, Athol, Belchertown, Bernardston, Buckland, Cummington, Deerfield, Easthampton, Erving, Goshen, Granby, Greenfield, Hadley, Hatfield, Hampden, Leverett, Longmeadow, Northampton, Orange, Pelham, South Hadley, Southampton, Sunderland, Ware, Westfield, Whately, and Williamsburg. If your town isn’t listed, call your town’s police department, but you do not need to be a resident to use the drop boxes in any of these towns.
Accepted items: prescription and non-prescription drugs, vitamins and veterinary meds. NO liquids, syringes, IV equipment or chemotherapy drugs. For more information visit northwesternda.org/drug-drop-boxes.
The annual National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day will take place on April 28, 2018 from 10:00 AM – 2:00 PM. This collection aims to provide a safe, convenient, and responsible means of disposing of prescription drugs, while also educating the general public about the potential for abuse of medications. Find a collection site near you by visiting www.deadiversion.usdoj.gov/drug_disposal/takeback, or by calling 1-800-882-9539.
If you are unable to deliver medications to a drop box or a take-back day, medications may be safely disposed of in the following manner: 1) Remove any personal info from labels that could be used to obtain refills; 2) Render medications unattractive to children, pets & thieves by dissolving pills or tablets in a small amount of water or alcohol (pour liquids into kitty litter or sand); 3) Place in two sealed plastic bags; and 4) Conceal the package in your trash. If you have large quantities of medications, consider disposing of them in smaller batches over time. Do not flush prescription drugs down the toilet or drain unless the label or accompanying patient information specifically instructs you to do so.
Due to their small size and a protective lining, empty pill bottles are not recyclable. Be creative with reuse! For example, some animal shelters collect empty pill bottles to send medicines home with adoptees.
MERCURY & MERCURY CONTAINING PRODUCTS
Mercury is highly toxic & requires special disposal. It is not hazardous when contained in a sealed device. Placing items in sealed plastic bags & handling them carefully to avoid breakage will reduce exposure. Never put mercury (or items containing mercury) in the trash or down a drain. Don’t vacuum even the smallest spill. Instructions for handling mercury exposure can be found at: www.mass.gov/eea/agencies/massdep/toxics/sources/cleaning-up-elemental-mercury-spills.html, or search the web for “broken CFL” or “mercury spill.”
- FLUORESCENT LIGHT BULBS
All fluorescent light bulbs (even the low mercury bulbs with green tips) contain mercury vapor. Recycling options vary based on the type of bulb:
Compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) fit in standard screw-type light sockets & are made of a glass tube. They come in a variety of shapes & styles, & can be encased by an outer glass bulb. Call your community representative for local disposal inforamtion. Free CFL recycling is offered at Home Depot, Lowes, Solar Store of Greenfield, and Whole Foods.
Larger fluorescent tubes don’t fit in standard screw-type sockets. These include long straight, circular or U-shaped tubes, tanning bed lamps, High Intensity Discharge (HIDs), & neon light tubing. Accepted at most municipal transfer stations and Hazardous Waste Collections. Straight lamps and others are accepted at Lowe’s: handle carefully and hand to an employee.
Many older household thermometers (fever, candy, meat, deep fry, oven, ambient temperature) contain liquid mercury-based indicators. A mercury thermometer can be identified by the presence of a silver bulb at the end of a glass tube. If the bulb is red, blue, purple or green, it is not a mercury thermometer and can go in the trash.
Updating to a programmable thermostat? Don’t throw away your old wall-mounted thermostats: they contain a significant amount of liquid mercury. Leave thermostats intact, place in a sealed plastic bag, and handle carefully to avoid breakage. In addition to municipal collection programs, mercury-type thermostats are accepted at no charge at many plumbing retail stores (search by zip code using “Plumbing Supplies”). For more locations, go to www.thermostat-recycle.org.
Most fluorescent light fixtures produced before July 1979 contained ballasts with small amounts of PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls), a highly toxic substance. PCB-free ballasts are marked “No PCBs.” PCB ballasts are typically collected at the same sites as larger fluorescent tube-type bulbs. Non-PCB ballasts are safe to go into trash, but are not accepted in scrap metal recycling bins. Call your community representative for local disposal information.
MICROWAVES (see “Scrap Metal”)
MOTH BALLS (see “Household hazardous waste”)
MOTOR OIL & FILTERS (see “Automotive products”)
Hungry for Music (www.hungryformusic.com) distributes quality musical instruments to underserved children in the US & abroad. Buy reused instruments locally by searching online or in the phone book.
NEEDLES & SHARPS
MA Sanitary Code states that it is illegal to dispose of sharps (hypodermic needles, syringes, lancets, & all other “sharps”) as trash. Never put a container full of sharps in your recycling bin. Collection programs are available in many towns; call your Health Department or see a listing of all the sharps programs in the state:
www.mass.gov/eohhs/docs/dph/environmental/sanitation/medical-waste/needles-syringes-disposal.pdf Several mail-in disposal programs are available; check out earth911.com or search online for “sharps mail-in programs.” Stericycle is an example of a company that picks up sharps for safe disposal from businesses that generate sharps: 866-783-7422.
PACKAGING MATERIALS (see “Plastics”)
Online purchasing has increased the amount of packaging in the waste stream considerably. Most of these materials are reusable; some are also recyclable:
- Cardboard boxes can be reused, and flattened boxes can be recycled with mixed paper.
- Foam peanuts: (see “Plastics”)
- Cornstarch peanuts may be composted in a backyard bin or reused. However, these are not accepted by commercial composting facilities or packing shipping stores. If you can’t reuse them, throw them away in your trash or dissolve them with a little warm water & put the starch in the trash.
- Styrofoam blocks and shapes: see “Plastics”
Packing paper is reusable as well as recyclable. Place any shredded paper in a paper bag & tightly close it before putting it in your recycling bin.
Plastic sealed air packaging is reusable. Once deflated, it can also be recycled with shopping bags (see “Plastics” for collection sites).
PAINT & PAINT RELATED PRODUCTS
If your unwanted paint was purchased recently & it’s in good condition, consider donating it for use instead of throwing it away. Many school/community theatre groups will accept quality paint products. You may also offer it for reuse through www.freecycle.org or similar reuse groups on Facebook. Petroleum (oil-based) paints, stains, thinners, & varnishes are considered hazardous materials, requiring proper disposal (see “Household Hazardous Waste,”) Latex paint & water-based stains can be thrown away when completely hardened. Speed up the process by adding latex paint hardener (available in hardware stores) or by stirring in clean kitty litter to the consistency of thick oatmeal & allowing the mix to harden. When the contents are no longer liquid, you can put the open paint can (without the lid) in your household trash.
Worn-out pantyhose, nylon knee-highs, and tights in any condition can be sent to Recycled Crafts. Recycled Crafts creates products like pet toys, rugs, placemats, and table runners from surplus nylon scraps, imperfect and postconsumer nylon stockings, tights, and pantyhose. Email email@example.com for donation information, or visit: https://savemyhosiery.yolasite.com.
PALLETS (see wood under “Building & Remodeling Materials”)
PELLET STOVE FUEL BAGS
Several communities hold periodic pellet bag collections. 13 municipal transfer stations in Franklin County offer free pellet stove fuel bag recycling year-round (www.franklincountywastedistrict.org; 413-772-2438). In Hampshire County, Huntington and Williamsburg collect pellet bags for a separate recycling program. Gold Circuit E-Cycling in Palmer accepts pellet bags for free recycling: www.goldcircuitecycling.com, 888-283-0007. Some retail store plastic bag recycling programs will accept pellet bags (call first). Pellet bags must be dry and completely EMPTY. Flatten and stack empty bags, roll up the stack and place the roll in an empty pellet bag.
The clean portions of pizza boxes can be recycled, but the greasy parts must be discarded or composted. Because whole pizza boxes are usually greasy to some degree, drop-off centers and curbside programs sometimes reject them. Turning them inside out or ripping out greasy sections are the best ways to ensure they won’t end up in a landfill. Soiled pizza boxes can be delivered to municipal compost programs at the transfer stations in Amherst, Greenfield (also open to non-residents), Leverett, New Salem, Northampton, Northfield, Orange, Wendell & Whately.
Plastic recycling is demand-based; only plastics that can be made cost-effectively into new products are collected. Fortunately, technological advances & new markets continue to expand the types of plastics we can recycle in western MA. Please note: only one of the five types of recyclable plastic discussed below may be placed in a household recycling bin; all other categories must go to a special collection site or into the trash.
Containers from food and personal products (place in household recycling bin):
Wanted in household recycling: plastic bottles, jars, jugs, tubs and clear “clamshell” type containers less than 2.5 gallons which have been used for food or personal care products. Plastic caps & lids are also recyclable, but they must be attached to the container (not loose). When possible, flatten containers before affixing caps & lids (push milk jug caps inside container if they won’t stay on.)
Unwanted in household recycling: Styrofoam, black plastic, compostable items, and containers that held hazardous materials (such as automotive oil or degreasers). See “Keep These Plastics out of the Recycling Bin” box below for details.
Keep These Plastics Out of Your Recycling Bin!
Some plastic items cost too much to recycle, are unwanted by manufacturers or are recyclable only through separate recycling programs. Please do not add these to your household or municipal recycling mix:
Bags & wrap (Do NOT place in household recycling bin)
Never place plastic bags of any type in household, municipal, or commercial recycling!
Please do not put ANY kind of plastic bag in your household recycling bin; they create litter, clog machinery, and cause safety problems at the processing facility.
Wanted in retail and grocery store programs only: Clean and dry plastic bags & some types of clear plastic film (such as bubble & case wraps) are recyclable only through special bins inside grocery stores and other large retail stores (e.g. Target, Walmart, Lowe’s, Staples). In general, plastic bags and wraps are recyclable if they are: 1) clear or translucent; 2) moderately stretchy; and 3) labeled #2 or #4 plastic (if possible). An exception to this rule is household food or “cling” wrap (Saran® and Glad ® wrap), which contains PVC plastic and must be placed in the trash. See the plastic bag recycling table on this page or visit plasticfilmrecycling.org for additional details.
Unwanted in retail store programs or elsewhere: Bags & wrap that are soiled, greasy, containing food, wet, painted or embellished (glitter, paper labels), anything labeled “compostable,” non-stretchy food bags (pre-washed lettuce, frozen foods), and bags from heavy items such as soil, mulch and driveway salt.
Click and print the sign below and hang it near your plastic bag recycling collection:
Bulky, rigid plastic objects (Do NOT place in household recycling bin)
Wanted in special collections only: Large, durable, molded plastic items: 5-gallon pails, rigid plastic lawn chairs, plastic trash barrels and toters, recycling bins, laundry baskets, storage totes, and milk crates. These large plastics can’t be recycled in household recycling. Many items are reusable until broken or damaged. Ask your community representative about opportunities to recycle these materials in special collections near you.
Unwanted in special collections or elsewhere: Dirty, greasy, flexible, PVC, small items, and anything not on the “yes” list above. Please note: due to a change in this program, the list of “yes” items has been reduced. Some items that were previously accepted are no longer acceptable in these programs, such as toys of any type, large outdoor play structures, clothes hangers, plastic shelving, kiddie pools, and plastic plant pots and nursery trays.
Foam (Do NOT place in household recycling bin)
The recycling market for rigid foam material (aka Styrofoam® or expanded polystyrene) is expanding, but some types remain difficult to recycle. Rigid foam products may be divided into the general categories of shipping peanuts, large chunks, and food-related serve ware (cups, plates, trays):
Large, rigid foam chunks
Wanted in special collections only: large pieces of rigid white, clean and dry foam. Some communities (including Amherst, Cummington, Plainfield, South Hadley, Westhampton and Williamsburg) collect this material at municipal transfer stations or via special collection events and transport it to a special recycling facility. Gold Circuit E-Cycling in Palmer (888-283-0007 or goldcircuitecycling.com) accepts large chunk foam at no cost. Visit epspackaging.org to locate mail-in recycling programs.
Unwanted in special collections or elsewhere: Dirty, wet, greasy, black and colored foam, squishy (not rigid) foam, and foam wrap. Some foam recyclers do not want food service foam (like meat trays and coffee cups); contact your community representative for local requirements.
Foam shipping peanuts
Although difficult to recycle, foam peanuts are highly reusable. Bring clean & dry peanuts to a local retail shipping outlet (call first; search for a store near you at www.UPSstore.com), or give them to local businesses via Freecycle.org or a similar Facebook group. The Amherst Transfer Station operates a free shipping peanut exchange for permit holders.
Food service foam (cups, plates, trays)
Some foam recyclers accept food-related foam at their special collections, while others do not. Contact your community representative or the foam recycler directly for local requirements.
#5 polypropylene toothbrushes and razors (Do NOT place in household recycling bin)
While #5 (polypropylene) food & beverage containers CAN be recycled with bottles & cans, products such as toothbrushes & razors cannot. The “Gimme 5” polypropylene recycling program offers drop-off collection sites (such as Whole Foods in Hadley) for some of these items and a mail-in program; visit www.preserveproducts.com/recycling.
PRESSURE-TREATED LUMBER (see “Building & Remodeling Materials”)
The larger varieties of propane tanks can be refilled; many businesses that sell propane will accept tanks for reuse under specific conditions. Tanks are recyclable; close the valves on barbeque grill size tanks. Some recyclers also accept small camping type tanks. Local municipal propane tank recycling info is found elsewhere in this insert. Commercial options can be found online via www.earth911.com.
PYREX, CERAMIC AND PORCELAIN PRODUCTS
Do not recycle; dispose as trash. Try offering local arts centers or craftspeople colorful ceramic/porcelain items (even broken ones) via Freecycle.com, or local resale/reuse Facebook pages.
Many metal items (like bicycles or BBQ grills) can be repaired, sold or donated to extend their useful life. Because of the usefulness & value of metal, state regulations prohibit throwing aluminum, steel, iron, lead, stainless steel, copper, brass, or bronze scrap in the trash. Some metal items, such as batteries, propane tanks, ballasts, air conditioners and refrigerators, and automotive parts require special handling due to toxic or pressurized materials. Search online under “metal recycling” for the scrap yard nearest you and its requirements. Suitable scrap items should be mostly metal by weight; if possible, plastics should be removed. Call your community representative for local collection information.
Many charitable organizations collect clean, gently used shoes for reuse, such as soles4souls.org, rerunshoes.com, and oneworldrunning.com, as well as all the charities mentioned under “Clothing & Textiles.” Even worn and single shoes can be reclaimed into usable resources; see NikeGrind.com.
Shredded paper IS recyclable in municipal (paper) recycling. Never put plastic bags of any type in recycling: to contain shredded paper, use a paper bag or paper lawn and leaf bag and staple or tape the top shut.
SMOKE & CARBON MONOXIDE DETECTORS
Most household smoke detectors contain a radioactive element, Americium-241. While the amount of Am-241 is small enough to be considered harmless, its presence warrants special care. Some retailers take back the brands of smoke alarms/detectors they stock; ask the store you purchased your smoke detector from if they provide this service. Some manufacturer take-back programs exist. Search the web using the manufacturer’s name & “smoke detector recycling” for more info. Label the box “for disposal” and then ship by surface mail or UPS Ground (these shouldn’t be transported in an airplane). Smoke detectors from any manufacturer can be recycled through curieservices.com. Some communities allow smoke detectors to be thrown away in the bulky waste container at a recycling/transfer station.
Carbon monoxide detectors are not considered hazardous waste, and can be safely disposed of in the trash. Contact manufacturer directly for potential recycling opportunities.
Sporting equipment exchange/donation options are found locally via charitable organizations such as schools, Scout troops, or the Lion’s Club. Local Facebook resale/reuse pages have become very popular.
STYROFOAM (see “Plastics”)
TELEVISIONS (see “Electronics”)
Donate used tennis balls to a local animal shelter or elementary school. When attached to classroom chairs & desks, used tennis balls reduce noise as well as wear & tear on the floor. To recycle 200 tennis balls or more, go to www.rebounces.com/about-us/recycle-tennis-balls.
TEXTILES (see “Clothing & textiles”)
THERMOMETERS & THERMOSTATS (see “Mercury & mercury-containing products”)
TOOTHPASTE TUBES, TOOTHBRUSHES
Not recyclable in household/municipal recycling. Toothbrushes are too small to recycle, as they would get caught in conveyor belts at recycling facilities. Terracycle.com runs two mail-in recycling programs that accept toothbrushes, empty toothpaste tubes, floss containers, and their packaging. Preserve brand toothbrushes can also be brought to Whole Foods’ Gimme 5 recycling bin, or mailed in for recycling: www.preserveproducts.com.
For a downloadable guide to “Recycling in the Bathroom,” please see the Springfield Materials Recycling Facility’s website at springfieldmrf.org, click on “What’s Recyclable at the MRF,” and scroll down.
Contact your local trophy shop to see if they can reuse your old trophies. Total Awards & Promotions accepts old trophies, awards, and medals mailed to them for reuse: Awardsmall.com. Sports Medal Recycling, a Massachusetts-based organization, contributes the proceeds from recycling donated medals to fundraising for charity runs: sportsmedalrecycling.com.
Tyvek envelopes (large, white envelopes that won’t rip: often from express shipments) are made of high-density polyethylene plastic and can be recycled in plastic bag recycling programs at grocery and retail stores. Tyvek CANNOT be recycled with paper.
Glass vases are not recyclable. Donate to a local garden club, swap shop or local florist(s) for reuse. (Call first).
VEGETABLE OIL (see “Cooking oil”)
Old vehicles, even inoperable ones, are valued for spare parts and metal. Consider donating them to a charitable organization (may be tax deductible). Contact your favorite charity or search online for “auto (or vehicle/truck/motorcycle/boat) donation.” Alternatively, search the Internet under “Auto Wreckers & Salvage.”
WOOD (see “Building & remodeling materials”)
YARD WASTE (Leaves, Grass, Brush, Christmas Trees)
Throwing away leaf & yard waste as trash is prohibited by State regulations. Many towns collect Christmas trees for wood chips. Consider composting your organic materials in a backyard compost bin; many towns offer low-cost compost bins and pails. Contact your community representative for local information.
Yoga mats are not recyclable, but can be repurposed; search the web under “yoga mat reuse,” or try posting on Freecycle.com or local resale/reuse Facebook groups.
Please help us to improve this guide for the next edition! If you encounter errors or have suggestions for changes or additions, contact us at PioneerValleyRRR@gmail.com. Thank you!