Know Waste Wednesday

As seen on Nextdoor, Public Education Supervisor, Karen Maynard, asks a waste-related trivia question using the poll feature every Wednesday. Click on the previously asked questions below to reveal the answers.

Karen Maynard Nextdoor

Although it's misleading, Styrofoam products typically display a recycle symbol to show what type of plastic it is. However, this material is not accepted in Louisville's recycling program. The answer is FALSE. Try to reduce the use of Styrofoam instead! It should be noted that Foam Fabricators (950 Progress Blvd, New Albany, IN) does accept non-food contaminated Styrofoam for drop-off. Pieces must be free of tape, stickers, labels and may NOT have been used for food. A great option for those giant Styrofoam blocks used in packaging!.

The answer is Materials Recovery Facility, AKA – MRF (pronounced “merf”). Jefferson County’s household recyclables go to two MRFs – WestRock Recycling and Rumpke Waste & Recycling. If yours is picked up by Rumpke trucks, then it goes to the Rumpke MRF. All the other trucks, including Louisville Metro’s, take recycling to the WestRock MRF. At the recycling facility, the items are sorted, baled, and sent to manufacturers for further processing. (Our material stays in the US.) Of course, some items are contaminated or don’t belong - about 15% of the material received at the MRF cannot be recovered.

The correct answer is NO! We see a lot of recyclables tied up in plastic bags! Whether you are using a bin, cart, or one of our recycling dumpsters, please place items in the container loosely. Bagging recyclables not only slows down the sorting process, the plastic bags can get tangled up in the machines that help with the sorting. (The ONLY exception to this rule would apply to shredded paper; it may be recycled in a clear plastic bag.) If you use an open-top bin, place heavier items on top to prevent lighter items from blowing out.

The correct answer is… Toothpaste tube! All the other items ARE accepted in Louisville’s recycling programs. But we do ask that the plastic caps and/or tips are removed from the EMPTY aerosol cans before recycling. (Residents with Rumpke should discard those caps and lids in the trash. All other residents can recycle the caps, but please note that some very small items might not get recovered.) A toothpaste tube is typically a composite of polymer and aluminum, making it difficult to separate. Also, because toothpaste tubes are difficult to empty completely, the residual toothpaste can cause issues during the recycling process.

The correct answer is FALSE! The numbers are actually the “resin identification code”, or what type of plastic it is. The Materials Recovery Facility where the recycled items go has rules about which plastics are accepted. Some describe their accepted plastic by shape, and some use the numbers. If your recycling is collected by Rumpke, only plastic bottles and jugs are accepted. Other waste haulers, including Metro, accept numbers 1-7. Neither facility accept Styrofoam or plastic grocery bags, which both have a number on them. (Plastic grocery bags can be recycled at participating retail stores).

The correct answer is hard cover books! Try donating them or, if that’s not possible, you could remove the covers and recycle the paper separately. Cartons – crush to conserve space, keep the lid on. Pizza boxes – remove all leftover food. Grease is ok. If you think it’s too saturated with grease, cheese and/or sauce, just recycle the top half and trash the bottom half. Junk mail – yes, window envelopes are ok to recycle!

The correct answer is swimming pool chemicals! (Never put them with your recycling!) As for the other items, medical syringes should be collected in a strong, plastic container and placed in the garbage. (Never put them with your recycling!)Televisions should be donated or may be recycled at the Waste Reduction Center, 636 Meriwether Ave. Used fireworks should be disposed in the garbage. Soak any “duds” in water first.

The correct answer is FALSE! Containers should be empty, but they do not have to be squeaky clean. While it isn't required, it certainly doesn't hurt to wash or rinse your recyclables - it can help prevent pests and odors before collection. And the folks working at the Materials Recovery Facility won't mind either!

The correct answer is Whipped Cream Can and Drumstick Box! The empty whipped cream can and the empty cardboard box are recyclable here in Louisville. Capri Sun pouches are not accepted. Those spiral cardboard containers are a mix of metal and cardboard, so they are also not accepted. (The plastic lids are accepted unless you are serviced by Rumpke.)

The answer is... FALSE! Old metal pots and pans can be recycled, but only at a scrap metal facility. They are not accepted in curbside bins or drop-off recycling dumpsters. Please donate any usable items, of course.

The answer is… FALSE! Alkaline batteries are environmentally safe for landfill disposal! Although they can be recycled, it is a very expensive process. Participating stores like Batteries Plus will accept them for a fee of $1/lb. They can be recycled for free at our Household Hazardous Waste drop-off site at 7501 Grade Lane where the Waste Management District picks up the cost. Is it worth it? Well, that would be a topic for the Waste Management District Board to discuss…

The answer is… TRUE! And to conserve space in your recycling bin, you can squeeze the air out and then replace the cap.

In the biz we call those pesky items “tanglers!” Anything long and stringy can get wrapped up in the processing equipment and can cause costly shutdowns. (Think about what happens when you accidentally vacuum over a shoestring…) Do the recycling facility a favor by keeping those types of items out of your curbside recycling bins and drop-off recycling dumpsters.

The answer is… FALSE! Compostable takeout containers aren’t as “eco-friendly” as they sound if you don’t have a way to compost them! If you don’t have a way to compost, into the garbage they must go. If you have a backyard compost pile, consider helping the process along by cutting the item into small pieces before composting. And remember, it’s best to REDUCE! Try to avoid single-use items!

TRUE! You don’t have to tear that clear plastic window out to recycle those boxes or even window envelopes. During the recycling process, the cardboard and paper get broken down into a pulp. Items that don’t belong, like plastic, are filtered out and discarded.

FALSE! They can certainly be reused, but if you are disposing they should not go in your household recycling bin. They can be recycled, however, at participating stores that accept plastic film.

The cardboard was fine, the lids SHOULD be on plastic containers, so the answer is... the aluminum cans are in a plastic bag! Remember, keep your items loose. BUT that brings up another point: that bin is very full! Those milk jugs could have been crushed (replace the lid) which would have saved some precious bin space. Residents may be able to put extra items in another container or purchase an additional bin or cart (check with your waste hauler to be sure).

NO! They can be a big problem at the recycling facility because the tape inside will unravel and get tangled in the processing equipment. They ARE accepted with Electronics Recycling at the Waste Reduction Center.

The answer is... drop off at garden centers! Did you know Lowe's and Home Depot accept them back for reuse or recycling? They are accepted in curbside recycling (unless you're serviced by Rumpke trucks), but here's the tricky part - eventually the mixed plastic containers get sorted by optical sensors. Since the conveyor belt is black, the optical sensors don't read the color black! So the black flower pots might not get recovered...

The simple answer is no... Even if all the wax is gone, many candle jars are made from a different type of glass (than food and beverage containers) that withstands the heat of a burning candle. Our local recycling facilities don't want this type of glass in curbside recycling because it would be mixed with all the other glass containers. But before trashing the jars, try to repurpose them or find someone who can!

The correct answer is TRUE! Equipment at paper mills that recycle recovered paper is designed to remove things like staples, so you don’t need to remove them before recycling.

FALSE! The collection crews do not typically take the time to look at the contents of each bin or cart. Waste haulers will occasionally perform contamination audits and those will happen ahead of collection. Do your best to recycle right by following the local guidelines posted on our website (some Rumpke exceptions are noted), and better yet, use the Recycle Coach app to search What Goes Where!

TRUE! Grease is ok – those pizza boxes will be mixed and baled with a lot of other cardboard that isn’t greasy, so in total it’s minimal for the paper mills. Our local facility has not had any contamination issues with their paper mills due to pizza boxes, so please recycle!

Plastic candy wrappers should go in the trash. Halloween is a great time to teach kids about littering and remind them not to litter their wrappers while trick-or-treating!

FALSE! You definitely want to separate the plastic from the paper and recycle the paper in your curbside bin. The plastic is accepted at participating retail stores that have a bin for plastic bags/film.

LOWER! WestRock Recycling, where the majority of Louisville's residential recycling goes for processing, confirmed that we have a 5-8% contamination rate - well below the national average! In other words, only 5-8% of the material that comes in to their facility is not acceptable and has to go to the landfill.

A or C! They are accepted for drop off with our Electronics Recycling program at the Waste Reduction Center, 636 Meriwether Ave. But, if you don't do that, please do NOT put them in curbside recycling! They are considered a "tangler" and can cause problems at the Materials Recovery Facility. Garbage is the other option.(Other metal recyclers and hardware stores may also accept for recycling.

The answer is TRUE! Maybe not curbside, but you can drop off used cooking oil for recycling at our three Full Service Recycling Drop Off locations. And definitely DON'T pour it down the drain or outside!

The answer is B! If your recycling is picked up by Rumpke, the pods are not accepted because they only take plastic "bottles" (neck is smaller than base.)But all other haulers, including the city, take recycling to WestRock and they accept all plastic containers. The pods do need to be empty with the peel-off lid removed. They can be stacked together for a better chance of making it through the sorting process, since they're small. Better yet, get a reusable filter!

NO! Unfortunately, they cannot be recycled at the curb or at our drop off recycling dumpsters. But there are tons of ways to reuse them! For example, I've sewn the plastic woven kind into reusable tote bags! They could also be used as trash bags, just to give them a purpose before going into the garbage.

TRUE! Just remove non-paper handles or decorations from gift bags first. And of course, reuse when you can! Or try wrapping with reused items!

The answer is YES, but there’s more you should know! Although it’s all accepted in the bin, there are two types of receipts – paper ones printed with old-fashioned ink and thermal paper ones that are printed through a heat process. The thermal receipts may contain Bisphenol A (BPA), which can be harmful to our health and raises questions about whether it should be mixed in with other recycled paper. The good news is some companies are now making BPA-free thermal paper receipt rolls and even Phenol-free paper that doesn’t use BPA or BPS. When given the option, say no to a printed receipt!

FOOD WASTE! The chart attached is from Louisville’s Solid Waste Study, released in 2018, and shows the top 10 materials disposed in Louisville and their annual tons. Check out the EPA’s website for ways to reduce wasted food! The entire solid waste study is on the city's website at

NO! Just like staples and stickers, it’s ok to leave packaging tape on cardboard before recycling. Flatten to conserve space in your container or our drop-off recycling dumpsters.

The answer actually depends on who collects your recycling! For Rumpke customers, the answer is “None of them.” For all other customers (including city collection and recycling drop-off dumpsters) the answer is “All of them.” WestRock Recycling (where most of Louisville’s recycling is processed) committed to accepting most takeout containers through a community partnership with the Foodservice Packaging Institute in 2017. They also have the benefit of owning their own paper mills. Don’t trash your takeout, recycle it!

Although it is best to keep your recycling dry, it is generally not ruined from being in the rain. The one item that could get ruined is cardboard. If it is so saturated that it starts to pulp, it won’t make it through the sorting process. These days, open-top bins are small for the amount of recyclable items we have and items can get wet or blow out.

Those four items are actually our top 4 most searched items. Furniture items is number one, followed by household batteries, light bulbs, and then mattresses.

If your recycling is collected by the city or other haulers besides Rumpke, the answer is yes! (Remember, Rumpke only accepts plastic containers that have a mouth smaller than its base.) The can carrier in the photo says "rHDPE" which means it is recycled HDPE. So, the product was made from recycled plastic and can be recycled again!

Just the plastic lid is accepted!(Neither part is accepted for Rumpke customers.) The can itself is a mix of metal and cardboard, so it isn't accepted. You could cut off the metal rims and recycle the cardboard.

The answer is... MEAT. In a backyard compost system, meat can attract unwanted pests like rats, raccoons, cats, flies and maggots, and it will become very smelly. But egg shells, dryer lint, and cardboard tubes are great additions to the pile!

The answer is…FALSE! It is actually against Louisville/Jefferson County Ordinance 51.509 to mix yard waste with any other solid waste placed out for collection. This is, of course, so the yard waste can be composted and kept out of the landfill.

The answer is... FALSE! The recycling symbol has a number 6 inside and PS under it. The number and letters are indicating it is the #6 plastic called "polystyrene." When polystyrene is in its foam form, it is not accepted in our recycling program. We don't have a local way to recycle those foam takeout containers or foam cups, plates, etc. It's best to try to avoid using them in the first place! Although all plastic numbers are accepted, there are exceptions to the rule (like the #6 foam items). Reminder to Rumpke customers about plastics: recycle plastic bottles and jugs only.

TRUE, paper cartons are accepted in recycling! It's ok that there is a plastic spout. You can remove the cap and discard or reuse. (It can be recycled, but it's so small it may not get recovered during the sorting process.)

Take extra recyclable items to a recycling drop-off location or set out extra items in a reusable container along with your regular bin or cart. Do NOT put your items in plastic bags, they are a problem at the sorting facility.

Yes, if prepared correctly! This is the one exception to the "no bags" rule! Place in clear bags so that sorters can see what's inside. WestRock Recycling will take it in paper also, but prefers the plastic bags because paper bags can open up and the paper goes everywhere. And if it rains, the shreds turn to pulp quickly. Rumpke actually doesn't promote that they accept shredded paper, but if they receive it in clear plastic bags, they'll recycle it.

Yes, but trash the nozzle. The nozzle (along with pump mechanisms) are made up of multiple materials, including metal, so they aren’t easily sorted at the facility. Reuse first, then recycle the empty bottle, and trash the nozzle.

The answer is YES, both the paper carton and the plastic lid are accepted! Give them a quick rinse in warm water to get all the ice cream out. Rumpke customers - remember, they only accept plastic bottles and jugs, so no plastic ice cream lids. They don't accept the paper carton either, but if they get it they will recycle it.

False! There are a lot of plastic items that don’t belong in your curbside bins or drop-off recycling dumpsters. The most common are Styrofoam containers/packaging and plastic shopping bags. Anything long and stringy can get wrapped in the sorting equipment and cause problems. Other plastic items may not cause machinery problems, but they must eventually be sorted out. Stay tuned for more Know Waste Wednesday questions about other specific plastic items. And in the meantime, try to avoid plastic packaging, Styrofoam and single-use plastics. And reuse items when you can!

Old inflatable pools and floats should NOT be recycled in your curbside bin or at drop-off locations. You or someone else might be able to repurpose the material, but otherwise they should go in the trash.

The answer is false! Remember, the numbers just tell you what type of plastic it is. Plastic #6 is Polystyrene and it can be in a foam form or a rigid form. The foam is NOT accepted for recycling in our curbside or drop-off programs. But containers with a #6 that are rigid, like Solo cups, are accepted. (Rumpke customers should only recycle plastic bottles and jugs, regardless of the number.)