Got a question about what you can -- or can't -- recycle in CRRA recycling towns? E-mail it to crrainfo[at]crra.org.* In the meantime, read these questions submitted by people from all over Connecticut. You may find your answer here!
Q. Are paper milk and juice cartons to be recycled within the Connecticut "singel stream recycling" program? I am studying your glossy flyer and it appears inconsistent. "NOT recyclable" lists "No wax or plastic coated cardboard" the photo of a full blue recycling tub shos at least one open topped juice carton. Should I recycle the 4 milk & juice cartons we use each week, or not?
A. Those milk and juice cartons are made from a specific type of material we refer to as aseptic packaging – it’s more than just wax-coated cardboard – and are most definitely recyclable. The Carton Council has more information.
Q. Are there fines associated with paper waste and waste to energy? A vendor stated that if there was significant percentage of paper in the waste going to the incinerator that they would be subject to fines. Is there truth to that?
A. There is a measurable amount of paper in the trash that we turn into electricity. Some of it may be recyclable, but by the time it reaches its final destination it’s been contaminated and no longer suitable for recycling. The solution? Keep paper clean and out of the trash in the first place!
Q. Where in Connecticut can I safely dispose of medications?
A. DO NOT FLUSH THEM DOWN THE TOILET! DO NOT POUR THEM DOWN THE DRAIN! Wastewater treatment facilities are not designed to remove medications or residues of medications from our water, so dumping them down the drain or flushing them just returns them to circulation. The Connecticut Department of Energy & Environmental Protection has more information about safe disposal of prescription drugs.
Q. Is gift wrap recycleable? I've heard conflicting opinions. A guy from CRRA on WTIC before Christmas said yes, Paine's recycling said yes, the website for our town says no (but the chief of public works said yes after we called him), but your website says no. It's all very confusing!
A. Printed-paper gift wrap is indeed recyclable. However, if the gift wrap is coated with foil or a thick plastic, it cannot be recycled because the paper cannot be separated cleanly from the other substance.
Q. Please let me know what happens if my workplace doesn't recycle or if people I know don't recycle. What happens to them? We recycle, our school recycles and my job recycles. I know companies that don't. What happens if people just don't do it? I read the sample enforcement letters on your website . . . there was no reference to legal penalties.
A. The sample enforcement letters you may have found on our website pertain to trash haulers, not the actual generator of the material collected and disposed of by the haulers.
Everyone is required to recycle in Connecticut, but unfortunately the recycling laws don’t have much teeth. There are some communities, though, that are having success in getting their residents to recycle by not collecting trash from any house that doesn’t recycle.
Business recycling continues to lag behind residential recycling. Perhaps your local legislator might be interested in taking up this cause – the legislature is where these efforts would have to begin.
Q. What options are available for recycling car seats in Connecticut? I was recently in an accident and will be replacing the car seat.
A. We hope you and your child are okay. Plastic car seats can't be recycled at this time because the size and shape of the plastic isn't compatible with the sorting and baling systems used at recycling processing centers. Please place it in your trash and know that it will be safely and cleanly turned into electricity.
Q. Can out-of-date encyclopedias be recycled?
A. The paper can be recycled, but the binding cannot. At the risk of sounding flip, if you or someone can take the time to tear out the pages the paper can go in your recycling bin and the binding in your trash.
Q. I read that latex paint is now being recycled back to better quality or converted into other useful products. I feel this is the way to go and ask what you know about this? We have about 30 one-gallon containers accumulated over many years and wish to dispose of it properly. Hopefully you can point me in the direction of this being done now – today – at some facility in Connecticut.
A. Last June 3, Governor Malloy signed into law Public Act 11-24, which will establish a take-back program for latex and oil-based paint by 2013. In the meantime, some towns collect both types of paint at their transfer stations or public works complexes – call your town hall to find out. You can also let the latex paint dry and harden in the can and place it in your trash, where it will be safely and cleanly turned into electricity.
Q. Recently before a storm I received a large shipment of ice in the event my home was without power for an extended period of time. After the storm, our power was restored and I'm left with lots of ice left over. Can I put it in my recycling bin?
A. There are lots of things you can do with leftover ice, but putting it in your recycling bin is not one of them. Unless the temperature is below freezing, ice left outside will melt quickly, and a water-filled recycling bin could be a hazard to the recycling driver.
Therefore, if you don't have room in your freezer for leftover ice, put it in a large plastic storage bin and let it melt. Once melted, you have a ready source of water for your garden.
Q. I want to recycle my old computer but I'm afraid that someone might be able to access my personal information. What should I do?
A. There are ways to protect yourself. Which you choose depends on how handy you are:
There are free software utilities you can download that will completely wipe clean your hard drive. You can do a web search for "hard drive clean wipe" to locate them; two examples of such free applications are Darik's Boot and Nuke and No File Recovery. (NOTE: CRRA makes no judgments about the effectiveness of these applications.)
Or, if you or someone you know is handy with a screwdriver, you can open up the computer and remove the hard drive, then break it with a hammer or drill holes through it to render it useless.
Q. What should I do with latex paint?
A. Unlike oil-based paints and stains, which must be disposed of at household hazardous waste collections, latex paints and stains can be safely disposed of in trash. Remove lids from cans of latex paints and stains and let the contents dry until solid, then just throw everything in the garbage.
Q. Is all corrugated cardboard now acceptable?
A. We can’t accept cardboard coated with wax, foil or other shiny coatings such as the box pictured at left.. Wax cardboard typically is used in the grocery industry for the transport of fruits and vegetables and seafood like oysters and clams.
Q. We’ve been told we can’t recycle metal lids from jars. Is that true?
A. Metal lids are acceptable. Just remove them from the glass bottle or jar because metal and glass are recycled separately.
Q. I know you can’t recycle bottles that contained prescription medication, but what about plastic or glass bottles that contained vitamins, health supplements or over-the-counter medications?
A. None of these containers should go in the recycling bin. For more information about what to do with these containers, check with the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection.
Q. What do I do with egg cartons?
A. That depends on what they’re made of. Cardboard egg cartons can be recycled with your other cardboard and paper. Foam plastic egg cartons should go in the trash.
Q. Are all non-corrugated boxes acceptable boxboard? I’m thinking of boxes from fabric-softener sheets, cookies and snacks, granola bars, dishwasher detergent and the like.
A. The types of non-corrugated boxes you listed are boxboard. Just remove the wax-paper or plastic liners and make sure all the detergent-type substances are emptied out before you recycle them. However, If the box is coated with foil or another shiny coating, it can’t be recycled.
Q. At the recycling center, after you’ve sorted everything, does boxboard get bundled with newspaper or with cardboard?
A. Depending on the needs of the mill buying our paper-type goods, boxboard may get bundled with corrugated cardboard, with mixed paper or by itself. The same is true for corrugated, mixed paper, newsprint and office paper.
Q. I’m jealous! I see so many Mid-Connecticut Project towns able to recycle all these #3-#7 plastics, but ours can’t. I’m tired of throwing all these things away. What can I do?
A. We’re working with towns in southwestern Connecticut to bring them the same single-stream system with expanded plastics recycling Mid-Connecticut residents are enjoying. Please let your elected officials know that you want what Mid-Connecticut Project towns already have.
Q. With regard to recycling boxboard, your website lists cereal boxes, pasta boxes, shoe boxes and shirt cardboard. Are these the only boxboard items CRRA will accept, or are they intended to be examples of the type of boxboard that is acceptable? For example, would rice boxes or cake boxes, etc. also be acceptable?
A. The boxboard items listed on our website are merely examples of this type of material. Please make sure the boxes are clean and that plastic or wax-paper liners have been removed.
Q. Can I recycle take-out foam coffee cups? A lot of them have the number “6” on the bottom.
A. If it’s a Styrofoam-type cup, whether it’s a #6 or any other number, it should go in the trash.
Q. My kids love those little pudding cups, but they don’t seem to have a number on them even though they’re plastic. Can I recycle them anyway?
A. The pudding cups you mentioned most likely are #5, but even without a number if the cup contained food or drink, it can be recycled provided it’s clean.
Q. When we go to single stream recycling, will we still be required to bind cardboard and paper into bundles with twine? All the info says it can go in the same barrel but there is no reference to any bundling requirements.
A. Once you convert to single-stream, all your recyclables go in the recycling barrel -- no bundling required.
Q. If I read your rules correctly is it true we cannot recycle plastic cups even if they are marked #6. (I am referring to thin plastic "soda" cups, not Styrofoam.) What about the rare #1 plastic cup?
Plastic cups made of #1 or #6 plastic are recyclable as long as they’re solid plastic and not foam. Both should be rinsed clean before recycling.
Q. Some of the material about plastics recycling uses the term "food grade." What does that mean? It implies that plastics #4-#7 can be recycled only if they contained food. Is this true?
A. “Food grade” is an industry term. There are some items – shampoo bottles for one – packaged in food-grade plastic that aren’t food. Bottles that contained medications or patent medicines are not acceptable.
Q. How can recycle shredded paper? If we dump the shreddings in our recycling bin, they’ll fly all over the street when our recycling is collected.
A. Shredder output can be recycled by placing it in paper bags, either paper grocery bags or large lawn and leaf bags, then leaving it curbside with your other recyclables. As you know, plastic bags are not acceptable.
Q. Is the collection and recycling restricted to just bottles, tubs and pails, or are other containers like cake domes and sandwich clamshells also accepted, such as those (#1 PET) shown at left?
A. Residents of Mid-Connecticut Project communities can recycle items such as those illustrated.
Q. Can I recycle DVDs and CDs? I was told they’re made of #7 plastic.
A. CDs and DVDs, as well as the jewel boxes in which they’re packaged, are all made of plastic, but because they’re not food-grade plastics they should be brought to electronics recycling collections.
Q. I see that we can not recycle plant pots. Does that include pots with triangle numbers on the bottom?
A. Unfortunately, we can not accept any plastic plant pots for recycling.
Q. Are the plastic bags that I get at the grocery store or department store okay to recycle with the rest of the # 1 through # 7 plastics? They have a # 2 on them. And what do you recommend I do with dry cleaning bags?
A. Unfortunately, we cannot accept any type of film plastic, including plastic grocery or dry-cleaning bags, for recycling. These materials foul our automated processing equipment and force us to shut down the plant when they jam the machinery.
Q.What is the appropriate way to dispose of or recycle printer toner cartridges?
A. Most toner cartridges can be returned to their place of purchase for recycling. Check with the manufacturer for details.
Q.I know you accept computer paper for recycling. I am inquiring about office paper from pads or household note paper.
A. We certainly will accept for recycling paper from pads. Just make sure the glue/backing that holds the pads together is gone, as this material can foul our processing equipment.
Q.I tried to recycle my cell phone, ink cartridge and plug-in adapter this Saturday in (a non-CRRA town), but the collection agency would not take these items. They said they didn't know anyone in my town who would accept them and suggested that I contact you, but I noticed that my town isn't on your list of towns. Can you direct me to someone who can help me?
A. CRRA does offer a limited number of electronics recycling collections, but they are for cities and towns that participate in CRRA and, as you noted, your town does not. You might also check your cell phone carrier store and/or electronics retailer, as more and more manufacturers are taking back their products for recycling.
Q.I'm wondering whether small milk cartons, juice boxes or aseptic juice containers would be recycled? I understand that some aseptic juice containers have a program where they credit a customer if they save the containers and send them back, are they also recyclable?
Q.Our elementary school in Westbrook is looking into recycling the little milk and juice cartons that they sell in the cafeteria. At one point I had gotten some conflicting information about whether these can be recycled. Can you please definitively confirm that they can be recycled?
A. Here are two people asking the same question. Those containers (referred to as "aseptic packaging") are recyclable. Just remove the caps and straws and rinse them, if possible. Details are on our website.
Q. Our family recycles our milk jugs, but in some parts of our town people typically have had a difficult time remembering to recycle, even when our city switched to one-bucket recycling.
Since almost everyone drinks milk, just like the bottled water, I was wondering if the State of Connecticut had ever considered legislating a nickel deposit on the one gallon or 1/2 gallon milk jugs.
Although WIC or food stamp consumers would pay the extra nickel on milk, they would also get the extra nickel upon returning their jugs to a recycling machine or station in their town.
A. In theory, you may be right about the deposit as an incentive to recycle. However, getting those nickels back is a time-consuming, inefficient process -- so much so that, as you can see on this posting from our blog, people would rather throw their deposit cans and bottles in their recycling bin and give up the nickels. It might just be a matter of public awareness. Since Torrington, for example, switched to single-stream recycling, and backed it with a public-awareness campaign, Torrington’s recycling tons have increased by 50 percent. No reason why your town can’t have similar success.
Q.Just heard that my hauler doesn't accept metals other than beverage cans. if other metal goes in trash does it get removed and recycled? Or do customers need to take to town transfer station? Also I thought newspaper could be put in single stream recycling loose, or does it need to be bundled/bagged? And what about latex paint cans with dried paint - in trash?
A. If you live in a Mid-Connecticut Project recycling community, your hauler should be accepting all steel and aluminum food and beverage cans for recycling, so you should be able to put them in your recycling bin. (If the driver feels differently, your town manager, first selectman, mayor or public works director might be interested in your situation.) Newspaper may be placed loose in the recycling bin.
Latex paint cans can go in the trash, but only after the paint has dried and hardened completely.Steel in the trash is pulled out by an electromagnet and recycled, but the most effective way to recycle steel is by putting your cans in your recycling bin and taking scrap metal to the transfer station.
Q.Just curious; even though styrofoam containers (i.e. fast food containers, other products) have a #5 or #6 polymer on them, what is it about their composition that makes them unrecyclable (at this time at least). Will they ever be recyclable; or are they already BUT the technology simply isn't available at the CRRA facility at this time?
Q.Even though Tyvek envelopes bear a #2, what is it about them that makes them unrecyclable at the CRRA facility; and, as above, are they recyclable anywhere and the equipment just isn't available at the CRRA at this time? Are there any plans to make this possible at the CRRA?
A. Foam plastics aren’t recyclable because the company buying our mixed plastics (#3 through #7) cannot use them in their recycling process (they take the plastics and turn it into a type of lumber). As technology advances, that situation may change, but at this time with no buyer for foam plastics they’re just trash. Tyvek envelopes aren’t recyclable for the same reason other film plastics aren’t recyclable – they can foul our processing equipment, which forces us to shut down the plant to allow mechanics to “un-stick” the machinery.
Q.I am a girl scout leader and we are discussing recycling and what we can and can't recycle. I thought I heard that the plastic caps on water and soda bottles are NOT recyclable (that the bottle is but the cap has to be removed and put in the trash). Is this true?
A. You are correct – the bottle is recyclable but the cap must be removed and thrown in the garbage.
* -- (Of course, substitute the "@" symbol for "[at]" when addressing an e-mail. We don't show the "@" symbol in e-mail addresses posted on our website to help prevent our being found by spammers.)