New Recycling Rules For Cleaner Recyclables

Please follow the recycling rules

Recently, the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) released new recycling guidelines, with some major changes as is outlined below. Read more about the new rules here:

Recyclables that are contaminated with non-recyclables may end up in the landfill due to excess contamination. Due to recent changes in the recycling industry as outlined in our other blog post, it is especially important that we work to limit contamination of recyclable materials.

Recycled materials are a  traded commodity. If contaminated, however, no one will be willing to purchase them, and they will instead likely end up in the landfill.

Plastic and paper cups are no longer accepted

The biggest change is that plastic cups (even clear ones), as well as utensils and paper coffee cups, are no longer recyclable. That’s right – the plastic and cups you get your cold beverages in will now have to go directly into the landfill waste bin in addition to the straw and lid.

The main problem is that these items tend to be spoiled with liquids and food. These items can then contaminate other materials in the recycling bin, such as paper. As a result, our recycling service provider is no longer accepting these products in our recycling stream.

For plastic items, ONLY plastic containers – jugs, bottles (with caps ON), tubs, and jars will be accepted, once rinsed and dried.

Empty, Clean, and Dry

Items that can be recycled such as hard plastic containers, yogurt cups and plastic bottles and jugs (with the caps on) as well as glass bottles MUST be emptied, cleaned, and dried before being placed in a recycling bin. Please do not put any items with food, food residue, or liquid still in them in the recycling bins.

Plastic Bags are NOT recyclable

Any kind of plastic film or plastic bags can not be placed in the recycling bins. This includes grocery bags, bubble wrap, flexible plastic packaging, saran wrap, zip lock bags, and styrofoam. These items get caught in the machinery used in sorting facilities and can cause breakdowns and even worker injuries.

Other items that are NOT accepted as recycling

These items go to the landfill. Do NOT place these items in the recycling bins.

Paper items

  • paper towels
  • paper plates
  • tissues
  • cups (with lids)


  • greasy pizza box bottoms
  • juice and milk cartons

Plastic (even with recycling symbol)

  • plastic cups
  • plastic bags and plastic wrap
  • chip bags
  • styrofoam
  • plastic utensils
  • foil-lined energy bars – brings these to a terracycle bin (locations on our Eco-Map) instead!


  • lightbulbs – bring incandescent and CFL light bulbs to 550 Boston Ave. to have them replaced for LED light bulbs!
  • broken glass

When in doubt, throw it out

It may seem counterintuitive to throw something out in order to support sustainability. However, it is much better to throw something out if you are unsure it can be recycled rather than contaminate the recycling with materials that can not be recycled. Please refer to the infographic below, but when in doubt, throw it out.

In addition, do not rely on the triangular recycling symbol found on many products. This symbol signifies that the material used in the product are physically able be recycled, but that does not meant that the waste infrastructure in your specific community  has the capacity to recycle them.

For example, the sorting facility where recyclables from Tufts end up can not accept plastic bags, as they can damage the sorting equipment. However, companies like Trex take plastic bags and have a separate, special sorting facility where they can turn those bags into recycled outdoor decking materials and products.

1 Comment

  1. This is truly a wonderful guide to read.

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