More answers to common questions about recycling
Do changes in the recycling system affect my garbage bill?
Yes, your bill is affected by changes in the recycling system, including rising costs to throw away garbage, buy the fuel that goes in trucks and pay the people that collect your waste.
The cost of handling and processing recyclables collected from homes and businesses has steadily increased as the system has tried to adjust to market changes. Several jurisdictions are increasing the rates on garbage and recycling to help cover those added costs. If you have questions about your rates, call your local government.
I’ve heard that certain items we can recycle at home now, like margarine tubs or milk cartons, won’t be accepted in the future. Is this true?
We don’t know yet. It’s possible that changes will be made to what’s allowed in your recycling at home or work. That’s part of what governments and the recycling industry are working to figure out: Over the long run, what are the best materials to recycle in terms of the availability of markets and the environmental benefits that come from recycling?
If there are changes to the list of what goes in the recycling bin, Metro and local governments will communicate this information. For now, nothing has changed. And it’s more important than ever to know what goes in the bin and keep everything else out.
Why does it matter if there’s stuff in my recycling that isn’t recyclable?
The recycling you put in your recycling containers at home and at work is sorted – by machinery and by human hands – at a local facility. Similar items, such as all the paper, or all the plastic, are separated and baled for transport and sale.
When we put items in our recycling bins that don’t belong there, recyclables are harder to sort. As a result, the bales have too much other material in them and reduce the likelihood they can be processed and sold. Recyclable materials that can’t be sold can’t be recycled.
The extra costs for sorting and then disposing of non-recyclable items also makes the recycling process more expensive, and eventually that cost has to be shared by everyone, including rate-payers.
What happens to stuff in recycling bins that isn't recyclable?
The non-recyclable stuff won’t get recycled. It'll be thrown out.
When you put items like plastic take-out containers or frozen food boxes in your recycling bin, it adds costs to the system because it has to be sorted out. These items can also cause safety hazards to workers – like when plastic bags get caught in the equipment. Also important: When these items end up in bales of other materials, it makes other recyclables harder to sell to manufacturers.
I’ve been taking the plastic bags and plastic take-out containers to my grocery store, but now they aren’t taking them. Are you really telling me that these are now garbage?
There’s no place for clamshells to go, unfortunately. There remain some opportunities for bags – check your local grocery store for a collection container. You can also search Metro's database for places that may take a variety of plastics.
Recycling has never been the perfect solution for reducing waste. Before recycling, reduce and reuse. That can be difficult – plastic is everywhere. Try using your produce bags twice or use cloth bags instead, and look for other ways to reduce the amount of plastic you use. If you can make a better choice at the store, do it.
So which plastics can I recycle now?
Until recently, many grocery stores and recycling facilities in the Portland area took plastic bags and plastic containers that don’t go in the home recycling bin. But most of those options are not currently available. And that’s really frustrating for many people. Here’s what’s important to remember about plastic:
- Absolutely no plastic bags, no plastic take-out containers and no plastic berry containers in your home recycling bin.
- Plastic bottles and tubs go in the recycling bin.
There’s a full list of what’s accepted at home at, as well as a database you can search for items that might be recyclable elsewhere, at the link below. You can also call 503-234-3000 with any questions you have about recycling.
Learn what plastic you can recycle at home
I can’t stand throwing away this plastic. Should I stockpile it until things change?
Storing recyclables can be problematic. Food residue in containers can attract bugs and rodents and break down the material so that it isn’t marketable. The best way to ensure you’re recycling as much as possible is to continue to follow the list of what goes in the bin at home or at work.
I live in Portland. Now that less stuff is recyclable, will the garbage get picked up every week instead of every other week?
No, but your garbage collector provides options for the size of your garbage can, so you can increase it if needed. If you have questions about your garbage service, call your local jurisdiction or your hauler.