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All Plastic Is Not Created Equal

Not to brag, but I’m the best recycler in my family. I recycle everything.   All things plastic, paper, cans, and glass go into my blue bin. I don’t use Styrofoam coffee cups any longer. I buy refills for products when I can. I have tons of reusable grocery bags, -the problem is I can’t always remember to take them shopping with me, so when asked paper or plastic, I always get plastic because I want to save the trees.

After reading a recent article in USA Today about recycling, I realized I’m not as good as I thought.   How in the world did I not know that plastic grocery bags are not recyclable? Let me clarify, they are recyclable, but not with your regular blue bin items. They must be handled separately. Most grocery stores have a plastic bag collection center right at their front door. Apparently though, all plastics are not created equal! The problem is, Mecklenburg County’s Materials Recovery Facility operated by ReCommunity is a single-stream center.   This means that the entire contents of everyone’s blue recyclable container comes to this facility, gets dumped together and sorted by hand. Employees at the facility try to remove all un-recyclable items, but you can imagine how over-whelming this task could be since the City of Charlotte Solid Waste Services runs 23-24 recycle trucks every day. Yikes! That is a whole lot of stuff to sort.

Plastic bags, along with things like garden hoses, Christmas lights, and plastic shower curtains can cause major problems and damage, or jam the recycling equipment. By sending the wrong items to the facility, we are hindering the facility’s ability to actually recycle.

We must all take responsibility to sort our discarded items properly and doing a bit of research before you recycle can make all the difference. Of course, recycling rules vary from one city to another, but here are a few ways to improve your recycling routine.


Prohibited items generally include:

  • Plastic Grocery Bags
  • Styrofoam
  • Shredded Paper
  • Plastic #6
  • Ceramic Cups
  • Pyrex/glass dinnerware or plates.
  • Paper contaminated with food residue/plastic food containers
  • Diapers
  • Textbooks


Other unacceptable blue bin items may include: cans of paint, hazardous waste, electronics, batteries, scrap metal and fluorescent lights. Many of these items are recyclable at different facilities or you can take them to a Mecklenburg County Full Service Facility.

For a full list and some very helpful tips go to


Re-cycle, Re-use, Re-purpose.


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