“Can I recycle this? If you have to ask, Springfield recycling probably says no

SPRINGFIELD, Missouri — “Can this be recycled?” is a question many may ask when hovering over their recycling bin clutching a greasy pizza box, coffee mug, or AA battery.

If you have to ask and you don’t have time to search for the answer, don’t recycle. Instead, throw it away.

Consumers often don’t have the time or the will to learn about everything that can be recycled, so they put the things they are unsure about into recycling in the hopes that they are right or that someone further will help them.

“That’s part of what we’re fighting against,” said Laurie Davis, education outreach coordinator for the Department of Environmental Services. “We call it” wish-cycling. “”

Ashley Krug is the Market Development and Sustainability Coordinator for the Department of Environmental Services. Krug said if people don’t know if something should be recycled, they should throw it in the trash. Just because a product has a recycling symbol on it does not mean it can be recycled in your community.

People’s well-meaning willingness to recycle can be invalidated if they don’t dispose of their products properly. In short, people who recycle incorrectly not only see their items thrown in the landfill, but also make it difficult for recyclers to do their job.

People often think they are recycling properly or putting things in their recycling bins hoping someone later in the process will find out. These people get it, but at some cost.

At best, the consequence is to make jobs at recycling centers more difficult. In the worst case, improper recycling can destroy recycling equipment and even create hazardous situations for personnel.

Do you have a second? look for it

If you want to do your part to ensure an item is recycled or disposed of properly, you can use the Springfield Department of Environmental Services’ Waste Assistant online tool to find out where the item should go. This tool will tell you where to go – whether it’s a municipal recycling center or a business – as well as the address and direction to that location.

If you are confident in your separation of recyclables, Springfield has several landfills around the city.

Do not recycle these items

Springfield’s Department of Environmental Services has a “Recycle Right” program that aims to help people who want to recycle or recycle right. The trick with recycling is to create a good balance between convenience for the consumer and having to rely on the consumer to make good recycling decisions.

“Recycling is only effective if it’s convenient for the consumer,” Davis said. “As soon as it stops being practical, it becomes a real challenge.”

Springfield offers both paid collection centers and recycling centers that are open to everyone, increasing the level of convenience. But if consumers could simply leave the following items out of their recycling bins, the process could be much simpler and safer for recycling workers.


Cardboard boxes are one of the biggest problems faced by Springfield’s recycling facilities. Anything that contains mixed materials cannot be recycled. Think paper products with a plastic liner, like disposable coffee cups.

“Starbucks cups are probably our number one item,” Davis said. “It has a plastic liner that keeps [coffee] beautiful and warm for you.

“Disposable coffee cups — I see a million of them in wastebaskets or recycling bins across town,” Krug said.

Chicken stock cartons, juice cartons with waxy liners, containers with metal caps – anything made with more than one material should be discarded.

Multi-material packaging

This does not apply to things you can take apart, such as batteries with plastic covers on cardboard backs. However, if you’re not going to take it apart, throw it away.

“If you’re going to leave them together, the CPU doesn’t have time to tear them apart,” Krug said.

As mentioned above, packaging containing several materials cannot be recycled as is. Davis had a new Monster energy drink can with its aluminum top attached to a clear plastic container. These types of packaging must either be discarded or completely separated before being recycled. If you can’t take it apart, throw it away.

Some hard plastics

Springfield accepted #1 through #7 plastics. These numbers can be found in the recycling symbol on packaging, but many products do not have them. Springfield now only accepts #1, #2 and #5 plastics.

Rather than memorizing the types of plastics each product is made with, Krug suggested people simply remember bottles, jugs and containers. Examples include soda bottles, sour cream containers, and laundry detergent containers.

Regardless of the plastic count, you should not recycle black plastic. It dyes other plastics like a red sock in a wash of white clothes. Other plastic colors can be recycled.

Soft and small plastic

Do not recycle soft plastic. Think plastic grocery bags, plastic wrapped around loose paper towel rolls and Saran wrap. These products get tangled in machinery and can break processing equipment.

If you’re looking for a place to put these products, take them to the grocery bag recycling bins at supermarkets such as Wal-Mart or Hy-Vee.

Small plastic items are also a problem. Straws and items smaller than a credit card should not go in the recycling bin.


If you recycle through curbside collection, do not recycle glass unless you want to collect it in a separate container and bring it to one of the drop-off points around Springfield and from around. Although Springfield recycles glass, the glass could potentially break in the bins during pickup and mix with plastic or injure someone.


Like glass, batteries should not be placed in curbside collection bins or any other recycling bin intended for anything other than batteries. Batteries should be taken to the household collection center or companies such as Batteries Plus for recycling. If a battery gets into recycling equipment for other materials, it could cause a fire.