Where can I recycle plastics?

by Michelle Lasley

Michelle Lasley is a mother, wife in Pacific Northwest learning to balance green dreams with budget realities.

August 15, 2008


In Multnomah, Washington, and Clackamas Counties, recycling curbside got easier with the roll out of the big blue bins. Many residents will find they can now recycle yogurt and margarine tubs, for example, at the curb. No longer do you have to collect and haul to New Seasons or another place that recycles those hard-to-recycle plastics.

But, curbside recycling is not perfect. There are still many items that aren’t accepted in the big blue bins. However, there is an answer! The Master Recycler Program offers “Recycling Roundups” a few times a year at various locations around the Metro Area. At these locations you can recycle the following:

  • Plastic bags (dry cleaning, grocery store sacks, bubble wrap, cereal liners, Mylar, six pack rings, tortilla chip bags).
  • Plant containers 4 inches or smaller and trays (please knock dirt out ahead of time)
  • Plastics without numbers (Bottle caps, drink lids, DVD’s, CD’s, CD cases, straws, lawn/patio furniture, kids’ toys (think slides!), pet igloos, laundry baskets, kiddy pools, & more) .
  • Reusable Plastic Items. – Be sure and drop by this section to see if you might find a useful item you would like to bring home.

Just like curbside, be sure each item is free of food residue. Be sure and rinse and separate plastics with numbers by each number separately (bags and plant containers go in the first two categories, no Styrofoam food trays even if they have a number). Also, the volunteers, we are cautioned, do not collect garbage. So, be prepared to take back what they cannot accept. If you have questions call ahead, 503-823-7530 (City of Portland Office of Sustainable Development).

Here is a short list of items they cannot accept:

  • Styrofoam block, Styrofoam peanuts, Styrofoam food trays or Styrofoam egg cartons even if they have a number
  • “Biodegradable” plastic or plastic that says PLA 7 on the bottom (this is a contaminant for plastics recycling)
  • Plastic with metal inside (no car seats/highchairs, hand pumps for spray bottles and lotion have a metal spring in them)
  • VHS or cassette tapes
  • PVC pipe
  • Small toys
  • Food-contaminated or dirty plastic
  • Plastic that contained motor oil, herbicides or pesticides (a thin layer of dried paint is okay)

For packing peanuts, many packing supply stores will accept and reuse them. For Styrofoam Blocks, you know the formed or molded Styrofoam in which electronics are packed, there are haulers who will accept those items. Call Metro, 503-234-3000, to find a business near you.


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