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.
indicates items that are hazardous or require special handling.
As of July 1, 2020, aerosol cans of all types are not accepted in western Mass municipal recycling programs. Check with your local transfer station or recycle center to determine if EMPTY aerosols (press the trigger until no “hissing” sound can be heard) are accepted in scrap metal recycling. Aerosol cans with hazardous material in them should be brought to a household hazardous waste collection. For additional information, visit: www.mass.gov/guides/safely-manage-hazardous-household-products.
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 (ball it up).
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, solvents 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 information about crayon recycling. Terracycle offers several different mail-n programs for art supplies, markers, and pens: www.terracycle.com. Crayola ColorCycle, which accepts all brands of plastic markers, highlighters and dry erase markers, is paused for the duration of the pandemic (www.crayola.com/colorcycle).
There are strict removal & disposal requirements for asbestos. Contact the Western Region of the Mass Department of Environmental Protection: David Slowick; email@example.com, 413-755-2246. To find licensed asbestos contractors, go to www.mass.gov and type “Currently Licensed Asbestos Contractors” into the search bar.
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 improperly disposed 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. Check with your town for local disposal and HHW collection information. Or call the MassDEP Used Oil Hotline at 617-556-1022.
- Motor oil filters
Some auto supply stores (e.g. AutoZone) 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 thoroughly so there are no drips, put the cap back on, and throw away in the 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 from this material should be thrown away (do not recycle).
BABY FOOD POUCHES (see “Plastic Pouches”)
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BAGS (see “Plastics”)
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. (Put plastic tape on 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. Never put these batteries in recycle or trash bins. Many communities have convenient drop-off options; check your town’s website for local information; or 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. Many transfer stations accept them.
- 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 be recycled properly: some municipalities accept them.
- Rechargeable batteries contain heavy metals and should never be thrown in the trash or put in municipal or commercial recycling bins. 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 charger. Home Depot, Lowes, and Staples stores 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 an invisible layer of 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 via an online sharing group (e.g. Freecycle.org or a Buy Nothing Facebook group). For recycling options, see “scrap metal.”
See more info under “Vehicles.” Boats might be accepted in bulky waste collections at some municipal transfer stations, or if metal, at scrap metal dealers. Call first. All automotive-type fluids must be drained and properly disposed of.
Books in good condition may be sold at used bookstores, donated to little free libraries, public libraries, or a book exchange, or dropped off at your local recycling/transfer station’s swap shop (may be closed due to pandemic) or book donation box. Reader to Reader, an Amherst-based non-profit, provides library-quality books to U.S. schools and public libraries (www.readertoreader.org). Roundabout Books (Greenfield) accepts books in any condition; donations are sorted for local and mail-order sale and all types of unsalable books (including hardcovers) are recycled at a local paper mill. Also accepted: CDs, DVDs, and vinyl records in working condition (www.roundaboutbookstore.com; 413-773-0820).
Paperback books & phonebooks unsuitable for reuse CAN be recycled in municipal recycling programs. However, the covers and spines from hardcover books are NOT recyclable; rip the pages out and recycle those; place the spine and covers in the trash.
BOTTLE CAPS & LIDS
Plastic caps & lids are recyclable only if fastened to a plastic bottle/jar/jug/tub. Loose plastic 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, like those from glass jars, should be attached to the container. Metal lids from food cans should be pushed inside the can or recycled loose.
- Clean cardboard, boxboard, paperboard boxes are recyclable (e.g., boxes from cereal, crackers, tissues, shoes, gifts, etc). Attached plastic windows may stay, but discard plastic liners. Flatten.
- Pizza Boxes: A 2020 study by West Rock (a major US corrugated cardboard recycler) found that grease on pizza boxes does NOT cause problems for recycled paper manufacturers, as previously thought. If your community delivers recyclables to the Springfield MRF, it is now OK to put the ENTIRE pizza box into recycling…but it MUST be empty (no crusts, food, foil, plastic, or waxed paper). Check with your community for their latest guidelines. Link to the study: https://tinyurl.com/pizzaboxes2020
- 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 recycling 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/lists/managing-construction-demolition-cd-wastes.
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, 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.habitatspringfield.org/restore )
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), 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 pile, brush or chipping pile; don’t burn it or send it to a waste incinerator for disposal. Check your town’s website for bulky waste disposal options.
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 (e.g. mason jars) are not recyclable because of the thick, heat resistant 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.
CARTONS & DRINK BOXES
This category includes “gable top” cartons for milk and orange juice, Tetra-Pak and other “aseptic packaging” for almond milk, soup, and juice boxes). Cartons are acceptable in single stream recycling programs in western Mass. In dual stream recycling programs, “paper” cartons should be recycled with bottles, cans, and containers. Rinse cartons. Discard straws; plastic caps & spouts may remain on carton.
Ice cream cartons are not accepted in recycling. Don’t include foil drink pouches (e.g., Capri Sun, Honest Kids) in municipal recycling. See “Plastic Pouches” in this guide for recycling options.
CARTRIDGES (see “Ink, printer and toner cartridges”)
Cell phones shouldn’t be thrown away due to their reuse value & hazardous/recyclable components. Do not put cell phones in recycle bins.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. Many municipal transfer stations also accept them for special recycling, as do Home Depot, Lowes, and Staples stores; participants in 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 “Household Hazardous Waste”)
CLOTHING & TEXTILES
Local reuse & donation opportunities exist for all textiles & shoes. Deliver CLEAN & DRY textiles & clothing drop-off boxes serviced by organizations such as Salvation Army (easternusa.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, toss pillows, light 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; any items that are not in good condition will be baled and sold for 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.
Some 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, and www.donatemyweddingdress.org).
Do not put hangers in recycling bins: 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 and 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 trash, recycling, and municipal compost bins. Lifecycle Renewables accepts vegetable oil by appointment from individuals. It also provides containers and pays for the oil at food service providers: 888-461-9831, www.lifecyclerenewables.com. Lifecycle Renewables’ used cooking oil is transformed into replacements for fossil fuels. Western Mass Rendering provides dumpsters for large collections: www.westernmassrendering.com; 413-569-6265.
Corks should not be put in your recycling bins, carts, or dumpsters. 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); Ryan & Casey Liquors in Greenfield is a ReCork collection site. River Valley Co-op in Northampton has a Cork ReHarvest collection box (www.corkforest.org/cork-reharvest). Wine corks can be reused in many creative ways (search online for “cork art”).
Not recyclable in municipal recycling programs. 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.
If your community sends their recyclables to the Springfield MRF for processing, rinsed clear plastic cups may now be included in household recycling (no lids or straws). Other types of plastic cups are NOT acceptable for recycling: polystyrene (#6 plastic), colored keg cups, and opaque plastic cups.
If a clear cup is labeled “compostable,” it should NOT go in recycling. Compostable cups may go in municipal or commercial compost programs. These products are not designed to compost in home compost bins or piles.
Paper cups are not recyclable and must be placed in the trash. Some paper coffee cups are designed to be compostable in municipal or commercial compost programs; check for text that says “BPI certified” or “compostable.”
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 pieces.
State regulations prohibit disposal of screen-based electronics such as laptops, tablets, iPads, Kindles, flat screen TVs, monitors and CRTs (cathode ray tubes) in household trash. Most municipal transfer stations offer electronics recycling programs, although disposal fees may apply. Electronics that are mostly metal, such as computer towers and DVD players, can also go in scrap metal recycling at transfer stations and recycle centers.
Staples stores accept computer-related electronic waste for free recycling; call your local store for details. Staples does not accept TVs. Best Buy accepts a wide range of electronic waste for free recycling, and also offers a trade-in reuse program. Best Buy accepts TVs for a fee. For more information, call your local store or visit their website and search for “recycling.” Computer manufacturers sometimes offer electronics recycling or trade-in programs, visit their websites for details. Various charities and non-profits accept donations of working electronics, 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 recycling. CD cases easily shatter and the glass-like shards create hazards and other problems at the recycling facility. If selling or donating 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.
Due to the pandemic, Lion’s Club eyeglass collection boxes have been removed from Post Office lobbies. Eyeglass frames and prescription lenses can be mailed to: Lions Clubs International Headquarters, 300 W. 22nd Street, Oak Brook, IL 60523. In addition, eyeglasses may be dropped in a collection box at a participating Walmart Vision Center. 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.
- Some municipal transfer stations accept newer fire extinguishers for special recycling along with propane tanks; check with your town website or call your DPW for local information.
- Some municipal hazardous waste collections may accept older fire extinguishers: ask before bringing them to a collection.
- MA Fire Technologies accepts all types of fire extinguishers for a fee (49 Heywood Ave., West Springfield; 800-244-6769, www.massfire.com). Call for more information.
- New England Disposal Technologies (Westfield, MA) accepts fire extinguishers year-round for modest fees (nedt.org; 866-769-1621).
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 food waste makes better environmental sense. Local composting options include home composting, municipal transfer station programs (in Amherst, Bernardston, Conway, Deerfield, Greenfield, Leverett, New Salem, Northampton, Northfield, Orange, Wendell & Whately; and (where available) curbside pick-up by a private waste hauler. Find a hauler near you at: recyclingworksma.com. Many municipalities offer discounted purchase programs for countertop collection pails and home compost bins; check your town website or call your DPW for local information. For home composting instructions, visit Mass.gov and search for “home compost.”
FRUIT SNACK POUCHES (see “Plastic Pouches”)
Furniture in good condition can be sold or donated for reuse. Donating mattresses & box springs can be difficult, as most charities don’t accept them. When you purchase a new mattress, ask the retailer to take back and recycle the old one. Some transfer stations in western MA accept mattresses for recycling; fees apply.
Contact local golf courses or driving ranges to see if they will accept them for reuse.
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; note restrictions on certain brands: https://stjudesranch.org/recycled-card-program.
The National Hearing Aid Project accepts used hearing aids for refurbishment and distribution to those that need them: https://hearingaiddonations.org, 816-895-2410. If your hearing aid is not worth salvaging, remove the button battery and recycle it in a battery recycling program (see “Batteries”), then place the hearing aid 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 with your town website or call your DPW for local HHW collection information. New England Disposal Technologies (Westfield, MA) accepts many household hazardous wastes year-round for modest fees (nedt.org; 866-769-1621). 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 sometimes collect cartridges for fundraising purposes, and Staples accepts used cartridges for reuse or recycling (earn Staples rewards). Other options may be found via a search on 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 – provides a free service to remove your name from commercial mailing lists (www.directmail.com/mail_preference);
- Catalog Choice – is a free service to stop delivery of unwanted catalogs (www.catalogchoice.org);
- OptOutPrescreen.com – offers a free service to end pre-approved credit card & insurance offers (www.optoutprescreen.com);
- Yellow Pages Opt Out – provides a free service to take your name off phonebook mailing lists (www.yellowpagesoptout.com)
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”)
Light bulbs of all types should be kept out of recycling bins.
- Fluorescent bulbs and compact fluorescent bulbs [“CFLs”] contain mercury vapor and require special disposal (see “mercury & mercury-containing products”). Handle carefully to avoid breakage.
- LED light bulbs do not have to be recycled, but contain valuable materials and can be recycled with CFLs; check your town website or call your DPW for local information.
- Old fashioned incandescent light bulbs and Halogen light bulbs are not recyclable. Wrap incandescent light bulbs in used paper or plastic before placing them in the trash.
Holiday light strings are NOT accepted in municipal recycling programs because they get wrapped around sorting equipment. Some scrap metal dealers and scrap metal dumpsters at transfer stations will accept them for recycling. Broken light strings can be mailed to Christmas Light Source (http://bit.ly/2qkCIMu) or Holiday LEDs (http://bit.ly/2sJqSMJ) for a discount on a future order.
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MARDI GRAS BEADS
Mail Mardi Gras beads and trinkets to the Arc of Greater New Orleans’ reuse program: ArcGNO, 925 Labarre Road, Metairie, LA 70001 (www.arcgno.org; 504-324-1919).
MATTRESSES & BOX SPRINGS (See “Furniture”)
MEDICATIONS & PHARMACEUTICALS
Disposal of unwanted medication must be done carefully for several important reasons. Medications should NOT be poured down the drain or flushed down the toilet. Wastewater treatment plants & septic systems are not designed to remove pharmaceuticals from wastewater. Medications should not be thrown in the trash; see below.
Help stop prescription drug misuse and abuse. Bring your unwanted, expired, or unused medications to one of the sites below for safe disposal.
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, Chicopee, Cummington, Deerfield, Easthampton, East Longmeadow, Erving, Goshen, Granby, Greenfield, Hadley, Hampden, Hatfield, Holyoke, Leverett, Longmeadow, Ludlow, Monson, Montague, Northampton, Orange, Palmer, Pelham, South Hadley, Southampton, Southwick, Sunderland, Ware, West Springfield, Westfield, Whately, Wilbraham, and Williamsburg. 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 (see ”Needles & Sharps” below), IV equipment or chemotherapy drugs. For more information visit northwesternda.org/drug-drop-boxes.
Many national chain pharmacies have free drop boxes for prescription medications. Call your local store for availability or search a DEA listing of disposal sites at https://tinyurl.com/deadisp. For acceptable items, see signage on the drop boxes, call stores or visit pharmacy websites. Some stores that do not have drop boxes offer the DisposeRX program: https://disposerx.com
National Prescription Drug Take-Back Days are scheduled for every April and October. DEA’s next National Prescription Drug Take Back Day is April 24, 2021, from 10AM to 2PM. Find an upcoming collection by visiting www.deadiversion.usdoj.gov/drug_disposal/takeback.
If you are truly 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 rubbing alcohol (pour liquid medication into a container of 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 or bringing to a collection or drop box. 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, 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. Reduce exposure by placing items in sealed plastic bags & handling them carefully to avoid breakage. Never put mercury (or items containing mercury) in trash or recycling bins, on the ground or down a drain. Don’t vacuum even the smallest spill. Instructions for handling mercury exposure can be found at: www.mass.gov; enter “mercury” in the search bar, or search the web for “broken CFL” or “mercury spill.” Call the Mass DEP Mercury Hotline if you have questions about mercury or managing it safely: 866-9MERCURY (866-963-7287). Check your town website or call your DPW for local disposal information for the following items.
- FLUORESCENT LIGHT BULBS
All fluorescent light bulbs (even the low-mercury bulbs with green tips) contain mercury vapor. For assistance, businesses, residents and organizations can call the RecyclingWorks hotline at 1-888-254-5525 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. 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 and styles, and can be encased by an outer glass bulb. Handle carefully to avoid breakage. Accepted at most municipal transfer stations (hand to attendant) and some Hazardous Waste Collections. Free CFL recycling is offered at Home Depot and Lowe’s Stores.
Larger fluorescent tubes are the types that do not 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. Handle carefully to avoid breakage. Accepted at most municipal transfer stations and some Hazardous Waste Collections. Lowe’s Stores accept straight lamps and other shapes.
Many older household thermometers (fever, candy, meat, deep fry, oven, ambient temperature) can contain liquid mercury. A mercury thermometer can be identified by the presence of a silver bulb at the end of a glass tube. Accepted in special programs at many municipal transfer stations and some Hazardous Waste Collections. Handle carefully and seal in a plastic bag. If the thermometer liquid and bulb is red, blue, purple or green, it is not a mercury thermometer and it 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 in one piece, place in a sealed plastic bag, and handle carefully to avoid breakage. In addition to municipal collection programs, mercury thermostats are accepted for free recycling 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 1979 contained ballasts with 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 or bulky waste, but are not accepted in scrap metal recycling bins.
MICROWAVES (see “Scrap Metal”)
MOTH BALLS (see “Household hazardous waste”)
MOTOR OIL & FILTERS (see “Automotive products”)
Donate used musical instruments to Hungry for Music (www.hungryformusic.org), and they will distribute them to underserved children in the US & abroad. Buy reused instruments locally by searching online.
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, go to www.mass.gov and type “needle disposal” in the search bar. Sharps containers are available for purchase at pharmacies, and mail-in or pick up option is available. Several mail-in disposal programs are available; 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: www.stericycle.com or 866-783-7422.
PACKAGING MATERIALS (see “Plastics”)
Online purchasing has increased the amount of packaging in the waste stream. Most of these materials are reusable; some are also recyclable:
- Cardboard boxes can be reused, and flattened boxes can be recycled in municipal recycling programs.
- 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.
- Styrofoam blocks and shapes: see “Plastics
- Packing paper is reusable as well as recyclable.
- Plastic sealed air packaging and bubble wrap are reusable. Once deflated, they can be recycled with plastic bags (see “Plastics” for retail store recycling programs). Accepted for reuse by some pack & ship stores.
- Amazon’s plastic envelope mailers are recyclable with plastic bags (see “plastics” for retail store recycling programs). Remove or cut out paper labels.
PAINT & PAINT RELATED PRODUCTS
If your unwanted paint was purchased recently & it’s in good condition, consider donating it for reuse instead of throwing it away. Many school/community theatre groups will accept quality paint products. You may also offer useable paint via an online sharing group (e.g. Freecycle.org or a Buy Nothing Facebook group).
- Petroleum (oil-based) paints, stains, thinners, & varnishes are considered hazardous materials, requiring proper disposal.
- New England Disposal Technologies (Westfield, MA) accepts all types of paint year-round for modest fees (nedt.org; 866-769-1621).
- 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.
PALLETS (see wood under “Building & Remodeling Materials”)
Recycled Crafts recycles pantyhose, nylon knee-highs, and tights into pet toys, rugs, placemats, and table runners. They accept clean hosiery in any condition, even those with rips and snags. Email email@example.com for donation information, or visit: savemyhosiery.yolasite.com. Hosiery is also accepted in textile recycling programs, see “Clothing & Textiles.”
PELLET STOVE FUEL BAGS
Due to a lack of end markets, all local recycling programs for pellet bags have been stopped. Plastic bags should never go into municipal recycling programs. Some retail store plastic bag recycling programs will accept pellet bags (call first). Pellet bags must be dry and completely EMPTY. Turn inside out, flatten and stack empty bags, roll up the stack and place the roll in an empty pellet bag. Ask your pellet supplier about bulk delivery (which eliminates bags), recycling programs, or take back programs.
PET FOOD BAGS, BIRD SEED BAGS, ANIMAL FEED BAGS
Plastic bags that contained pet food, animal feed, or bird seed are not recyclable in municipal recycling or plastic bag recycling programs in retail stores. Unfortunately, neither are paper feed bags because they are lined with plastic to keep moisture out of the feed. However, Terracycle offers a few pet food bag recycling programs, some of which have local drop-off points. Go to www.terracycle.com and type “pet food bags” in the search bar. The Bag Share Project, a local group, accepts certain types of feed bags for reuse, and provides instruction on how to make bags:: www.thebagshare.org.
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Traditional, glossy photographs are not acceptable in recycling because of the photographic chemical coatings in the paper. Old photographs are safe to throw in the trash. More modern photographs may or may not be recyclable depending on the printing process and the type of paper used. Home-printed photographs are acceptable in recycling.
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Pizza Boxes: A 2020 study by West Rock (a major US corrugated cardboard manufacturer) found that grease on pizza boxes does NOT cause problems for recycled paper manufacturers, as previously thought. If your community delivers recycling to the Springfield MRF, it is now OK to put the ENTIRE pizza box into recycling…but it MUST be empty (no crusts, food, foil, plastic, or waxed paper). Check with your community for their latest guidelines. Link to the study: https://tinyurl.com/pizzaboxes2020
Many people assume that all plastic items are accepted in recycling, but recycling is demand-based; only those plastics that can be made cost-effectively into new products are collected. Please note that plastic containers from food, beverage, soap and personal care products are the ONLY type of plastic suitable for your household recycling bin. All other forms of plastic must go to a separate, special collection or into the trash. See “Keep These Plastics out of the Recycling Bin” below for additional details.
Keep These Plastics Out of Your Recycling Bin!
Some plastic items cost too much to recycle, cause problems at recycling facilities, are unwanted by manufacturers or are recyclable only through separate recycling programs. Please do not add these to your household or municipal recycling mix:
Containers from food, soap and personal products:
The following items are welcome in your household recycling bin: plastic containers from food, beverage, soap or personal care products in the form of bottles, jars, jugs, and tubs (less than 2.5 gallons in size) and clear clamshell-type containers. Plastic bottle caps & plastic tub lids are recyclable, if attached to the container (not loose). Bottle pumps should go in the trash. When possible, flatten containers before affixing caps & lids (push caps inside container if they won’t stay on). If your community sends their material to the Springfield MRF for processing, rinsed clear plastic cups may also be included in your mix (no lids or straws). If a clear cup is labeled compostable, do not put it in a recycling bin. Visit springfieldmrf.org for details and user-friendly graphics about household container recycling.
Bags & wrap (Do NOT place in household recycling bin):
Plastic bags or plastic wrap create safety hazards, machinery malfunctions, and environmental problems at processing plants. Some of these materials are accepted in retail and grocery store collection programs (e.g. Big Y, Stop & Shop, Target, Walmart, Lowe’s, Staples). In general, clean and dry plastic bags and wraps are recyclable if they are: 1) clear or translucent; 2) moderately stretchy; and 3) free of food residue and paper (e.g. labels and receipts). Two important exceptions are household food or “cling” wrap, which must be placed in the trash, and bags labeled “Compostable” (which should be placed in a commercial or municipal compost bin or placed in the trash). Visit www.plasticfilmrecycling.org for additional details.
Bulky, rigid plastic objects (Do NOT place in household recycling bin):
Many rigid plastic items are reusable until broken or damaged; offer them for free on an online sharing group (e.g. Freecycle.org or a “Buy Nothing” Facebook group).
Some communities offer specialized bulky rigid plastic (BRP) collection programs. Check your town website or call your DPW for local information about opportunities near you. BRP collections are highly selective and accept only clean, molded, rigid plastic pails, bins, crates, baskets, totes, barrels, wheeled trash toters (metal and wheels removed), and plastic lawn furniture.
Foam (Do NOT place in household recycling bin):
The recycling market for rigid foam material (aka Styrofoam™ or expanded polystyrene) is growing, but only a few varieties are accepted for special recycling programs. Rigid foam products may be divided into the general categories of shipping peanuts, large chunks, and food-related serve ware (cups, plates, trays):
- Foam shipping peanuts:
Although difficult to recycle, foam peanuts are highly reusable. Some local retail shipping outlets accept clean & dry peanuts (call first; search for a store near you at www.TheUPSstore.com). Or, offer them for local reuse via an online sharing group such as Freecycle.org or a “Buy Nothing” Facebook group. The Amherst Transfer Station operates a free shipping peanut exchange for permit holders.
- Large, rigid foam chunks:
Large pieces of rigid white, clean and dry foam are recyclable only through a special, separate collection. Some communities collect this foam at municipal transfer stations or at special collection events and transport it to a special foam recycling facility. Gold Circuit E-Cycling in Palmer (413) 328-3187, www.recycleyourfoam.com accepts various types of foam from the public for a fee. Call for information. The transfer stations in Cummington, Plainfield, Westhampton and Williamsburg accept clean, white, packing block EPS from their permit holders.
- Foam cups, plates, and trays: not currently accepted at any recycling facilities. Place in trash.
Flexible plastic pouches, which can contain applesauce, yogurt or fruit, baby food, and health/beauty products, are NOT recyclable in municipal recycling programs. Terracycle runs several different mail-in recycling programs for pouches and caps; go to: www.terracycle.com and type “pouches” in the search bar. Please remove all residual food and liquid.
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PRESSURE-TREATED LUMBER (see “Building & Remodeling Materials”)
Larger varieties of propane tanks can be refilled, and many businesses that sell propane will accept tanks for reuse under specific conditions. Tanks are recyclable in special programs at transfer stations or recycling centers. Do not put tanks in scrap metal dumpsters or household recycling or trash. Do not puncture. Close the valves on barbeque grill size tanks. Some recyclers also accept small camping type tanks. Check your town website or call your DPW for local options; find commercial propane tank recycling options at www.earth911.com.
PYREX, CERAMIC AND PORCELAIN PRODUCTS
Offer for reuse. Do not recycle; dispose as trash. Colorful ceramic/porcelain items (even broken ones) are sometimes used by local arts centers or craftspeople, so a phone call, or a post to an online sharing group (e.g. Freecycle.org or a Buy Nothing Facebook group) may help extend their usefulness.
Many metal items (like bicycles or BBQ grills) can be repaired, sold or donated to extend their useful life. Because of the usefulness and 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, helium tanks, ballasts, air conditioners and refrigerators, and automotive parts require special handling due to toxic or pressurized materials. Many municipal transfer stations and recycling centers have scrap metal dumpsters for the recycling of scrap metal. Check your town website or call your DPW for local municipal disposal information. Or, 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, plastic parts should be removed.
Clean, gently used shoes are usually accepted for reuse and resale by organizations that collect clothing donations. Several organizations, such as One World Running (http://oneworldrunning.com), specialize in shoe reuse; visit a donation organization’s website to discover if they accept worn shoes. Rerun Shoes accepts used running shoes at a Pioneer Valley drop spot, and can coordinate shoe drive fundraisers, visit www.rerunshoes.com or call (413) 230-3032. DSW Warehouse shoe stores have Soles4souls donation boxes: https://soles4souls.org.
As of July 1, 2020, shredded paper is no longer accepted in western Massachusetts’ household/municipal recycling programs. To get confidential documents shredded and recycled, bring them to area businesses (e.g. copy shops, office supply, and shipping stores) for secure shredding. In addition, Valley Green Shredding in Westfield offers drop-off services (valleygreenshredding.com; 413-461-3333). Local banks often sponsor free spring and fall shredding events. The material that is shredded in these programs is delivered directly to paper mills, which avoids the scattering and contamination that ensues at a household recycling facility. Otherwise, dispose of shredded paper as trash. Paper shreds that are free of plastic and receipts can go in municipal compost programs, where allowed.
SMOKE & CARBON MONOXIDE DETECTORS
Remove all non-alkaline batteries and dispose of them appropriately (see ”Batteries”). Most household smoke detectors contain a small amount of a radioactive element, Americium-241. The quantity in each unit is considered harmless, but its presence is worrisome enough that retailer and manufacturer take-back programs exist. Ask at your local store or google the manufacturer’s name with “smoke detector recycling” for program and shipping details. Curie Environmental Services offers a fee-based, mail-in smoke alarm recycling program, see www.curieservices.com. Some communities allow smoke detectors to be thrown away in the bulky waste container at a recycling/transfer station. Check your town website or call your DPW for local information.
Carbon monoxide detectors are not considered hazardous waste, and can be safely disposed of in the trash after removing (and recycling) all non-alkaline batteries (see “Batteries”).
Sporting equipment exchange/donation options are found locally via charitable organizations such as schools, Scout troops, or the Lion’s Club. Sharing via online groups (e.g. Freecycle.org or a Buy Nothing Facebook group) has become very popular.
STYROFOAM (see “Plastics: Foam”)
TELEVISIONS (see “Electronics”)
Check with your local animal shelter or elementary school to see if they accept tennis ball donation (schools use them to reduce the noise and impact of chairs/desks on floors). A mail-in recycling program is available at tennisballrecycling.com.
TEXTILES (see “Clothing & Textiles”)
THERMOMETERS & THERMOSTATS (see “Mercury & mercury-containing products”)
TOOTHPASTE TUBES, TOOTHBRUSHES
These items are not recyclable in household/municipal recycling, but Terracycle.com runs a mail-in recycling program that accepts them, along with floss containers, and some packaging. Preserve® brand toothbrushes can be mailed for recycling (www.preserve.eco).
Contact your local trophy shop to see if they can reuse your old trophies. A Wisconsin-based trophy organization offers a fee-based, mail-in reuse program (awardsmall.com…search for recycling services). A Massachusetts based company accepts only sports medals/medallions (visit: sportsmedalrecycling.com).
Tyvek envelopes (large, white envelopes that won’t rip: often from express shipments) are made of high-density polyethylene plastic and must be placed in the trash. Do not put Tyvek material in municipal/household recycling, or in the plastic bag recycling programs at grocery stores.
Tyvek envelopes can be stuffed into a box or a Tyvek envelope and mailed to a recycler who can handle them. For quantities less than 25, mail to: CFS Recycling, 337 A Industrial Drive, Petersburg, VA 23803. For quantities larger than 25, call 1-800/44-TYVEK.
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 (might 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. Some communities collect organic yard waste seasonally for wood chip production or composting; Check your town website or call your DPW for local information. Goat farmers often accept bare Christmas trees as food. Visit www.mass.gov/composting-organics to learn about composting yard waste in your backyard.
Yoga mats are not recyclable, but can be repurposed; search the web for “yoga mat reuse,” or offer via an online sharing group (e.g. Freecycle.org or a Buy Nothing Facebook group).