Curb Your Enthusiasm: How to Recycle Right in Utah

Click to learn where to recycle common household waste that doesn’t belong in the curbside recycling bin.

By Jared Mendenhall

Most Utah communities offer curbside recycling. But not all recycling is created equally. There are a handful of common household items that should never go in the general recycling bin. That doesn’t mean there isn’t hope for the recycling-minded among us. Below is a quick look at what to do with the recyclable trash that doesn’t go to the curb.

Plastic Bags

Plastic bags require a different collection system and processing equipment than other recyclables. Including them in your curbside bin causes unintended headaches for the recycling company and sanitation workers.

Instead, most grocery stores provide containers to collect used bags for recycling. Residents should simply return their old shopping bags to the store they came from.

In the end, though, reusable grocery bags are the best choice to minimize pollution.

Glass Bottles

The long-lasting nature of glass means it can be recycled forever. Old bottles and jars can be remanufactured into new bottles and jars. And, it can be done over and over and over again.

Different types of glass, however, have different melting points. Some glass is made to withstand high temperatures, while others are made to hold cold drinks. Typically, only glass from bottles, not vases, cookware or windows, can be recycled.

For the most part, glass isn’t allowed in general recycling bins. More and more cities are offering curbside glass recycling, but it isn’t universal. Residents can find glass recycling drop-off locations through their city or on the web.

Along the Wasatch Front, Momentum Recycling has many drop-off locations for glass bottles.

Styrofoam

Styrofoam, technically a number 6 plastic, is not processed through local recycling efforts. It should be sorted and dropped off to a third-party.

Marko Foam Products in Salt Lake takes and recycles Styrofoam. They ask that Styrofoam be free of any contaminates or labels. Marko does not accept food containers or packing peanuts.

Some packing and shipping companies, like UPS, will reuse used (but clean) packing peanuts.

Electronics and Batteries

Most electronic waste and batteries contain toxic heavy metals that can contaminate soil and water.

Recycle old electronics and batteries at hazardous waste facilities, county recycling centers or community hazardous waste collections. There are also dozens of retail locations that collect old electronics.

Animal Waste

A common misconception surrounding pet waste is that it serves as a natural fertilizer and can simply be disposed of in a yard waste bin. Although cow or horse waste is used as a soil enhancer, pet waste is a different story. To be used as a fertilizer, animal waste must contain mostly digested plant material. Household pets are omnivores and their waste isn’t a safe fertilizer. Pet waste should go in a standard trash receptacle.

Hazardous Waste

Products, such as paints, oils and cleaners often contain hazardous ingredients and require special disposal. Pouring this type of waste down the drain, on the ground, into storm drains or in with the regular trash can pollute the environment, threaten human health and contaminate wastewater treatment systems.

Most auto parts stores will take used motor oil. You can also search the web for a hazardous waste drop-off location in your area.

Light Bulbs

Light bulbs have come a long way since Thomas Edison. Each variation of the light bulb must be recycled differently.

Incandescent and halogen bulbs don’t contain toxic chemicals, so they can go in with the regular trash. If you want to recycle old incandescent light bulbs, most home-improvement stores and recycling centers accept “regular old light bulbs.”

Unlike incandescent bulbs, CFL bulbs (or Compact Fluorescent Light bulbs) contain mercury. Broken CFL bulbs can damage the environment if they enter landfills or the water supply.

To dispose of CFL bulbs properly, recycle them. Most home improvement-stores and recycling centers accept old CFL bulbs.

LED light bulbs don’t contain hazardous chemicals. It is safe to throw them out with the trash. Some of the components in LED bulbs may be recyclable. So, check with your local recycling company to see if they accept LEDs.

For more information on household recycling visit the Division of Waste Management and Radiations Controls recycling page. For help finding recycling locations in your county, visit our interactive map page.

Jared Mendenhall, Utah, DEQI am a public information officer for DEQ and a former marketer and magazine editor. Follow me on Instagram @Jarv801.