Back to Basics

You asked for it!

Master Recyclers recently responded to a survey about what information would be most useful and one of the top answers was a regular refresh on the basics. So for this month, we are revisiting the top 17 questions we get asked just about every time we set up an information booth on recycling. 


  1. Name the five components that make up the residential curbside collection service (Hint: four are specific containers usually provided by the hauler; one is not.)?
  2. What three categories of materials go together into my mixed recycling?
  3. What do I put in the bin or bucket separate from other materials?
  4. What plastics can I recycle on the curb at home and at work?
  5. Do I have to throw the other plastics away?
  6. Why can’t I put lids or plastic bags in the curb if they have the same number as the bottles and tubs?
  7. Can I recycle metal lids to jars and bottles at the curbside even though they have the rubber or plastic seal? What should I do to them?
  8. Do I have to remove plastic windows, spiral binders, sticky notes and staples?
  9. Can I recycle shredded paper in the mixed curbside recycling? What should I do with it to prepare it?
  10. Can I recycle pizza boxes at the curb?
  11. What can I do with batteries?
  12. What can I do with motor oil?
  13. What can I do with empty metal spray cans?
  14. What can I do with magazines, cereal boxes, phone books?
  15. Can I put milk cartons, aseptic boxes, freezer boxes and coffee cups in with my recycling at home?
  16. What do I do with light bulbs?
  17. What is special about electronic waste and what can I do with it?


1. Garbage, mixed recycling, compost, glass, and motor oil

2. Paper, plastic, metal.

3. Glass bottles and jars. Mix all colors together, remove the lids, labels are ok.  (No light bulbs, drinking glasses, flower vases, ceramics, dishware, cookware, mirrors, window or picture frame, broken glass.)

4. Plastics accepted include only these four sizes and shapes:

  • bottles with neck (6 oz. or larger)
  • yogurt or margarine-like tubs (6 oz. or larger)
  • plant pots (4 in or larger)
  • buckets (5 gal or smaller)
  • No plastic bags, clamshells, or lids.

5. No, there are many places in the region that accept plastics (like bags, lids and clamshells) that are not accepted in the curbside program. To find the one near you call Metro at 503-234-3000 or visit Metro Find a Recycler.

6. The machines that separate our mixed recycling sort mostly by size and shape. The lids are flat and may end up going to paper mills contaminating the paper and plastic bags get tangled in the machines and cause problems sorting other materials. Plastic bags are also a hazard for workers because when they get tangled in the machinery, workers have to crawl down into them to cut bags loose.

7. Yes, that rubber seal is not important because the steel will be melted at such a hot temperature when they recycle it that the rubber will just be burned off. Flat pieces of scrap metal and those smaller than two inches can go loose in the recycling cart. To ensure they don’t fall through sorting machines you can also place them inside food cans and crimp closed (metal lids, glass bottle lids, screws and nails).

8. Nope! These items are considered accepted levels of contamination for office paper.

9. Yes, you can include shredded paper in mixed recycling. It is best to place it in a paper bag. In some offices, shredded paper is collected in a plastic bag and picked up separately by a shredding company.

10. Please do not include pizza boxes in mixed recycling. In Portland, residents can include them in the compost container, however they are not accepted at workplaces. 

11. It depends on the type of battery. Regular alkaline batteries can be tossed in the garbage. All of the other types from rechargeable batteries to car batteries should not go in the garbage because they are toxic. To find the place nearest you to take batteries call Metro at 503-234-3000 or visit Metro Find a Recycler.

12. In most parts of the region, you can place motor oil in a clear plastic container with a screw top and set it out on the curb next to the other containers on your regular pick up day.

13. Remove the lid and place them in the mixed curbside recycling. It must be completely empty. Do not smash the container or remove the nozzle.

14. Place them in the mixed curbside recycling. You do not need to flatten items before they go in.

15. Milk cartons, aseptic boxes can go in the mixed curbside recycling (no need to smash them). Freezer boxed and coffee cups belong in the garbage. All four of these materials have plastic injected into the paper so that they can hold liquids, but coffee cups and freezer boxes have much more because they must withstand more extreme temperatures. These two items belong in the garbage. There are no depots at this time that accept them for recycling.

16. Regular incandescent light bulbs go in the garbage. Compact Fluorescent Lightbulbs (CFLs) and Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs) should be taken to the Household Hazardous Waste facility or to a local collector. To find the closest location to you call Metro at 503-234-3000 or visit Metro Find a Recycler.

17. Keep computers, monitors and TVs, mice, printers and keyboards out of all of your curbside containers. Computers, monitors and TV’s found in the garbage can result in a fine. Go to Oregon E-cycles to learn how to properly dispose of these materials that contain toxic chemicals and valuable metals.