What Not to Recycle: Recycling's Dirty Dozen

Wrong or improperly prepared items – called contamination – may seem recyclable but are unwanted in recycling markets. Contamination can place workers at risk, damage sorting equipment, lower the value of the material that can be recycled, and increase program costs.

Here’s recycling’s Dirty Dozen – items that should never be placed in your recycling cart.


Reuse, donate to food banks, or recycle at your local grocery store.


Place items loose in your recycling cart or bin.


Empty liquids from all recyclable containers.

(4) FOOD

No food or recyclable containers with food residue. This includes greasy pizza boxes.


No clamshells or other plastic containers used to hold takeout food, berries, or lettuce.


No string lights, water hoses, wire, or similar items.


No pots and pans, silverware, bicycles, car parts, or plumbing leftovers. Donate these or take them to a convenience center or scrap yard.


Batteries can cause fires or explode if not property managed. Recycle rechargeable batteries at Best Buy, Lowe’s, Target, The Home Depot, and other retail outlets. Learn more at Be Battery Smart.


Give products to someone who will use them. Check local program options (i.e., household hazardous waste events or programs) at RecycleHereSC or dispose of these items according to label instructions.


No block foam, bubble wrap, peanuts, or shrink wrap.


Do not place these in household trash or recycling bins. Both pose dangers (e.g., fire, explosion) to workers and machinery in recycling facilities. Check RecycleHereSC to see if your program has a household hazardous waste program or an upcoming single-day event. Many retailers also accept these containers.


No clothing, hangers, frozen food boxes, ice cream containers, toys, VHS tapes, CDs, ceramics, glassware, CFLs and other light bulbs, paint, motor oil, shoes, syringes, sharps and needles, or textiles. See Know Your Nos below for more items that DON’T belong in the bin.

Always check to see what your local recycling program accepts. To find your program, visit RecycleHereSC.

For more information on how to properly recycle or dispose of hard-to-manage items, click here.

Know Your No’s

It is essential to know the difference between recycling right and wrong. The table below lists items that should never end up in your recycling bin, but often do.

Items that never go in your curbside recycling bin
Batteries (household Pizza boxes (greasy)
Batteries (lead-acid) Plastic bags
Bubble wrap Polystyrene
Christmas lights Rubber balls
Coat hangers Scrap metal
Chains Sharps (e.g., needles, syringes)
Clothes Shredded paper
Diapers Sports equipment
Electronics Razor blades
Electrical cords Take-out containers
Food waste Tires
Food wrap Toys
Garden hoses Tubes (e.g., toothpaste)
Household cleaners Stuffed animals
Household glass (e.g., ceramics, mirrors) Waxed cartons
Light bulbs Wood
Paint Yard trimmings