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.
On July 1st, 2020, aerosol cans will no longer be accepted in municipal recycling. Until then, 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 NEVER recyclable. Place empty hazardous waste aerosol containers in your household trash (empty cans from 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, 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 info about crayon recycling. Recycle Prang markers by visiting www.dixonrecycle.com. Schools can participate in Crayola ColorCycle, which accepts all brands of plastic markers, highlighters and dry erase markers: www.crayola.com/colorcycle.
There are strict removal & disposal requirements for asbestos. Contact the Western Region of the Mass Department of Environmental Protection: John Moriarty, phone 413-755-2128 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org. To find licensed asbestos contractors, go here: www.mass.gov for a listing of licensed asbestos contractors.
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 DPW for a hazardous waste collection option or call 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. Check with your town DPW for local disposal information. 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 (see “Plastic Pouches”)
back to top
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. (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 website or call your DPW 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.
- 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 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 public libraries, little free libraries, or a book exchange, or dropped off at your local recycling/transfer station’s swap shop. 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; place the spine and covers in the trash. 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. Also accepted: CDs, DVDs, and vinyl records in working condition (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 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., packaging 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. It is now OK to put the ENTIRE pizza box into recycling…as long as it is empty (no crusts, food, foil, plastic, or waxed paper). 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), Gold Circuit E-Cycling (Palmer: 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 (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
In dual stream recycling programs, “paper” cartons should be recycled with bottles & cans (“gable tops” for milk and orange juice, “aseptic packaging” for almond milk, soup, juice boxes). Rinse containers. Discard straws; plastic caps & spouts may stay. Don’t include foil drink pouches (e.g., Capri Sun, Honest Kids) with your bottles & cans.
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. 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 to donation centers & drop-off boxes for the 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, 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; 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 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 (call first). 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: www.origins.com/our-commitment. 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.
As of July 1, 2020, clear plastic cups will be acceptable in municipal recycling that is processed at the Springfield MRF (springfieldmrf.org). Remove lids and straws and place in trash. Other plastic cups, such as polystyrene (#6 plastic), colored keg cups, and opaque plastic cups, are not acceptable for recycling and must go in the trash. 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 degrade 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, but many items with power cords can be recycled. 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 go in scrap metal recycling.
Staples stores’ accept computer-related electronic waste for free recycling. Staples does not accept TVs. Staples stores also offer a reuse program. Best Buy accepts a wide range of electronic waste for free recycling, but charges $25 for TVs. For more information, call your local store or visit their website and 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 donations of working electronics, including local Salvation Army 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.
To donate your eyeglass frames and prescription lenses for reuse, look for a Lion’s Club eyeglass collection box in your local Post Office or wherever eyeglasses are sold, or mail to: Lions Clubs International Headquarters, 300 W. 22nd Street, Oak Brook, IL 60523. New Eyes for the Needy is another mail-in reuse option: www.new-eyes.org/join-the-vision. 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 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. 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 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.
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); mail cards to: St. Jude’s Ranch for Children, 100 St. Jude’s St., Boulder City, NV 89005..
The Starkey Hearing Foundation operates a hearing device reuse program. Mail to: Starkey Hearing Foundation, ATTN: Hearing Aid Recycling, 6700 Washington Avenue South, Eden Prairie, MN 55344. (www.starkeyhearingfoundation.org/hearing-aid-recycling) 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 with your local recycling contact or your community website for local household hazardous waste options. 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 often 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 – 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);
- Yellow Pages Opt Out – 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”)
Old fashioned 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. Many transfer stations collect these. Check your town website or call your DPW for local information.
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 discount coupon for a future purchase (www.holidayleds.com/christmas-light-recycling-program.aspx).
back to top
MARDI GRAS BEADS
Donate Mardi Gras beads and trinkets to the Arc of Greater New Orleans’ reuse program: 925 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, 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.
Some locations of national chain pharmacies are offering free drop boxes for prescription medications. Call your local store or refer to the drop boxes for acceptable items.
National Prescription Drug Take-Back Days are normally schedule for every April and October. The April 2020 event has been cancelled. These collections aim 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 an upcoming collection by calling 1-800-882-9539 or by visiting www.deadiversion.usdoj.gov/drug_disposal/takeback.
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, 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, 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 household hazardous waste collections options.
- 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: email@example.com. 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. Free CFL recycling is offered at Home Depot, Lowes, and Solar Store of Greenfield.
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 some 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. Accepted in special programs at many municipal transfer stations and some Hazardous Waste Collections. 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 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, 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. 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 888-989-0338.
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 is reusable. Once deflated, it can also be recycled with plastic bags (see “Plastics” for retail store recycling programs).
- 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). New England Disposal Technologies (Westfield, MA) accepts paint year-round for modest fees (nedt.org; 866-769-1621).
- Petroleum (oil-based) paints, stains, thinners, & varnishes are considered hazardous materials, requiring proper disposal.
- 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”)
Worn-out pantyhose, nylon knee-highs, and tights in any condition can be sent to Recycled Crafts; they use them to make pet toys, rugs, placemats, and table runners. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for donation information, or visit: savemyhosiery.yolasite.com.
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. Flatten and stack empty bags, roll up the stack and place the roll in an empty pellet bag. Ask your 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 feed bags that are paper 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. Search www.terracycle.com using the brand name of the food. Local efforts such as The Bag Share Project are accepting certain types of feed bags for reuse: www.thebagshare.org.
back to top
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.
back to top
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. It is now OK to put the ENTIRE pizza box into recycling…as long as it is empty (no crusts, food, foil, plastic, or waxed paper). Link to the study: https://tinyurl.com/pizzaboxes2020.
Many people assume that all plastic items are recycled, 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.
Containers from food 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 caps & lids are also recyclable, but they must be attached to the container (not loose). When possible, flatten containers before affixing caps & lids (push caps inside container if they won’t stay on). As of July 1, 2020, clear plastic cups are now accepted in municipal recycling in the 65 communities that send recyclables to the Springfield MRF. Rinse the clear cups clean and place lids and straws in the trash. If a clear cup is labeled compostable, it should not go in recycling. Visit springfieldmrf.org for details and user-friendly graphics about household container recycling.
Do not put plastic bags, Styrofoam, black plastic, compostable serving items, and containers that held hazardous materials (such as automotive oil or degreasers) in your household recycling. See “Keep These Plastics out of the Recycling Bin” 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:
Bags & wrap (Do NOT place in household recycling bin)
Never place plastic bags or wrap in a household, municipal, or commercial recycling mix. Because of the safety hazards, machinery malfunctions, and environmental problems they create, they are only collected separately in retail and grocery store programs.
Clean and dry plastic bags and some forms of clear plastic film (such as bubble & case wraps) are recyclable only via special bins inside grocery stores and other retailers (e.g. Big Y, Stop & Shop, 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) free of all paper and food residue. An important exception to this criteria is household food or “cling” wrap (Saran® and Glad ® wrap), which are not accepted in these programs and must be placed in the trash. See the table, “Plastic Bag Recycling“ in this guide, or visit plasticfilmrecycling.org for additional details.
Dispose of the following bags & wrap in your trash: soiled (dirt, food residue), greasy, wet, painted or embellished (glitter, paper labels), non-stretchy or crinkly food bags (e.g. from pre-washed lettuce, grapes frozen foods, Legos), and bags from heavy items such as soil, mulch and driveway salt. Any bags labeled compostable should be composted or placed in the trash.
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)
Many items are reusable until broken or damaged; offer free on an online sharing group (e.g. Freecycle.org or a Buy Nothing Facebook group). Only clean, molded, rigid plastic pails, bins, crates, baskets, totes, barrels, wheeled trash toters (metal removed), and rigid plastic lawn furniture are recyclable via specialized collection programs. Ask your community representative about opportunities near you.
All other bulky plastic items belong in the trash or bulky waste if unusable, including toys, outdoor play structures, clothes hangers, shelving, kiddie pools, plant pots and nursery/garden trays.
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 recycling. 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
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 (888-283-0007, goldcircuitecycling.com) accepts white chunk foam from the public for a fee.
- 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.
- Foam cups, plates, and trays
Are not currently accepted at any recycling facilities. Place in trash.
Toothbrushes and Razors
(see “Toothpaste Tubes, toothbrushes”)
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.
back to top
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 & 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. 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.
Clean, gently used shoes are usually accepted for reuse and resale by organizations that collect clothing donations. Organizations that specialize in shoe reuse include soles4souls.org, rerunshoes.com, and oneworldrunning.com. Shoes in poor condition can be recycled into rubber playground material and other uses. Visit an organization’s website to discover if they accept worn shoes.
As of July 1, 2020, shredded paper will no longer be acceptable in western Massachusetts’ household/municipal paper recycling program. Going forward, the best way to get your confidential documents recycled is to bring them to area businesses (e.g. copy shops, office supply, and shipping stores) for secure shredding. The material they generate moves directly to paper mills, which avoids the scattering and contamination that ensues at a household recycling facility. In addition, local banks often sponsor spring and fall shredding events. Otherwise, dispose of shredded paper as trash.
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. Curieservices.com offers a fee-based mail-in smoke alarm recycling program. 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 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 dropped off at the Hadley Whole Foods’ customer service desk, or mailed in (visit www.preserve.eco for “Gimme 5” program details).
Contact your local trophy shop to see if they can reuse your old trophies. A Wisconsin-based trophy organization has a mail-in reuse program (awardsmall.com…search for recycling services), while only sports medals/medallions are accepted for recycling at Massachusetts-based Sports Medal Recycling (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. Please do not put Tyvek material in municipal/household recycling.
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 for wood chip production or composting; ask your community representative (local website or DPW) for specifics . Goat farmers often accept bare Christmas trees as food. Visit 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).
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!