Tips for Effective Selective Recycling in Center County

Last month, I tracked curbside recycling vehicles across town to get footage for a training video. While I was away, I noticed that many of our curbside customers are not preparing their bins properly, resulting in more work for our collection teams.

When a curbside recycling bin is properly prepared, collection crews empty each bin into the appropriate truck compartments, return the bin to the curb, and proceed to the next residence.

When a curbside recycling bin is not prepared properly, crews collect the acceptable materials, but must complete a “Thank you for recycling but” tag to be left in the curbside bin with the unacceptable materials . This label explains why unacceptable items have been left in their bin. Crews can also leave a curbside recycling guide in the bin for education and guidance.

The average shutdown of a properly prepared curbside bin is 45 seconds, while an improper bin shutdown takes much longer.

Once I saw that so many bins were improperly prepared, I took to our social media platforms to try and educate readers on the proper way to prepare a curbside recycling bin.

I know everyone wants to get it right, so if you follow the easy steps below, I guarantee the next time the team comes to your house to empty your bin, it will be knocked over when they’re done.

Tips for Preparing the Perfect Curbside Recycling Bin

1. Place rinsed plastic bottles, jugs and loose jars in the bin. The lids can stay in place. Only plastic bottles, jugs and jars are accepted at the curb. If your plastic isn’t a bottle, jug, or jar, don’t put it in your bin.

2. Place rinsed aluminum, steel and tin cans in the bin. Also accepted are empty spray cans, clean aluminum foil, empty paint cans, pie pans and spiral boxes (think breadcrumb containers).

3. Place the rinsed clear, green, blue and brown glass bottles, jugs and jars in your bin. The metal lids of glass jars can also be placed in the trash.

4. Flatten the corrugated cardboard (boxes with a thick, corrugated center) and place it beside or under your bin. Do not place flattened corrugated cardboard in a large unflattened box. Although it seems like the right thing to do, just flatten all the corrugated cardboard and leave it as shown above.

5. Now let’s move on to paper. Paper seems to be the trickiest since paper is the only item that needs to be bagged or bundled so it doesn’t leak out of bins or trucks. Wrap or bundle all clean office papers, mixed papers, cardboard/pressboard (think cereal/tissue boxes), magazines and newspapers together and place them in the trash. Remember – wrap/group all your paper. Loose paper cannot be collected even if it is recyclable.

I hope these tips will help you prepare the best bin possible. Who knows, maybe I’ll ask if I can go around town this time around with gift cards to reward perfect bins! Stay tuned and thanks for the recycling (it’s true!).

Amy Schirf is an education coordinator for the Center County Recycling and Refuse Authority. Contact her at