Drop That Pizza Box! Surprising Things That Can’t Be Recycled—And Why

By Rachael on August 4, 2016

Recycle Right blog post-3

It’s great that many of you are taking advantage of the opportunity to RECYCLE MORE—either with curbside collection or at a drop-off center. But some of us are still a little confused about what we can throw in that Curby Recycler or tub or deliver to the drop-off center.

Why does it matter? Well, putting materials into the recycling bin that shouldn’t be there may sabotage the entire recycling process. It can damage sorting equipment, decrease sorting efficiency and lessen the value of the created material.

The bottom line is if we don’t give the processor clean loads of recycling, they may stop taking it. Seriously.

So you can see how keeping recycling tidy and contamination-free is important. We’ve compiled a list of items to keep out of your recycling, but before you read on, consider the following:

  • This list contains items that CANNOT be recycled using Granger collection or a Granger drop-off center. If you do some research, you may be able to find alternative ways to recycle these items elsewhere.
  • Unfortunately, we can’t include everything that can’t be recycled in this post. To see what we do accept, click here for curbside or here for drop-off. If you still have questions, just ask. We’d be happy to help.

And now for the list of NON-RECYCLABLES you’ve all been waiting for:


s3_q0_sp183_0_Plastic Bags Wraps Film - small full

Plastic bags (shopping, produce, plastic film, etc.)—They wrap around and jam equipment. The good news is you can usually take them back to the grocery store.

styrofoam take out2

Styrofoam (packaging, food trays/cups, peanuts, etc.) —It gets contaminated easily and soaks up a lot of grease and dirt. Most recycling facilities don’t have the ability to deep clean it. It’s also flammable and hard to break down.

Source: iStock

Pizza boxes—They’re cardboard, but they soak up a lot of grease. (When’s the last time you had a pizza with no grease?) That grease is one of the hardest things to deal with in a recycling facility and makes the material pretty much worthless.

wax cartons source is obviously.com
Source: obviously.com

Cartons (juice boxes, milk cartons, etc.)—These usually contain a layer of paper and a thin plastic coating (and sometimes aluminum foil inside). The layers can’t be separated with traditional recycling equipment.

Plastic Bulky Items- small ok

Bulky, rigid plastic (buckets, storage containers, toys, kiddie pools, etc.)—These items are difficult to recycle due to their size (they’re bulky, remember?) and the fact that their composition can vary so much. Other types of plastic that are not accepted include garden hoses and lawn edging. These items can wrap around equipment and cause problems.

frozen-foods-940x624 source is earth911
Source: Earth911

Beverage cases, and refrigerator/freezer boxes—They’re boxboard, but they also have a layer of polyethylene that helps protect the food inside and keeps them from falling apart when they get wet. When it comes to recycling, layers make things very complicated.

pyrex Source- recyclenow.com
Source: recyclenow.com

“Other” glass and ceramics (window glass, drinking glasses, mugs, plates, light bulbs, windshields, mirrors, etc.)—The glass that makes up everyday household items contains materials like lead and plastic that cannot be mixed with bottles and jars. These items can also damage recycling equipment.


The good news is that even though there are items you can’t recycle, you can still make environmentally responsible choices. Remember, there are two other Rs out there, not just recycle.

Reduce: Think ahead. If you know you won’t be able to recycle something, buy another product or type of packaging you know you can recycle. And remember, the less you use, the less there is to recycle. Do you really need that plastic bag or can you use a grocery tote or just skip the bag altogether?

Reuse: The DIY craze will probably never go out of style. There are thousands of ways to reuse items that would otherwise be considered trash, you just have to be creative—or search the Internet.

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