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Ask Charlie | June 09, 2009

Q: Which plastics can be recycled these days? - SEATTLE

Q: Dear Charlie,

Which plastics can be recycled these days? Many plastics are labeled with a number. Can I rely on those numbers as a guide for recycling?

A: Dear Eve,

It's not about the numbers! I wish I could answer this question with a simple recycle-by-number chart, but unfortunately plastic recycling requires a bit more scrutiny.

The number on your plastic product describes the plastic composition of your item but does not indicate whether the plastic can be recycled into a new product. Misleading? A little.

It's a plastic world out there, so before you throw your arms up and your plastics in the garbage, here are some guidelines for plastic recycling in Seattle. If you are from another city, take a look at your City's website or give your local hauler a call.

Not all bags are recyclable! Clean bags such as grocery, dry cleaning or newspaper bags can be collected in one bag and put in your recycle cart. Bags from bread, chips or produce may contain food residue that can contaminate recyclable materials. These bags go in the garbage.

Bottles, Tubs & Jugs
Most clean bottles, tubs and jugs are recyclable, including shampoo bottles and detergent jugs. Empty toxic materials containers belong in the garbage. Examples of toxic materials include motor oil jugs and bleach bottles. These go in the garbage.

Caps & Lids
Coffee cup lids and all caps smaller than 3 inches go in the garbage. Caps and lids larger than 3 inches can be recycled. Examples of recyclable lids include margarine and yoghurt tub lids.


Corn-Based or “Compostable” Plastics
Corn-based plastics marked “compostable” must go in the garbage unless specifically marked “Cedar Grove Compostable,” in which case they go in your food & yard waste cart. A list of Cedar Grove approved compostable products can be found at

Food & Beverage Containers
Residents in Seattle can recycle all clean plastic food and beverage containers, such as salad tubs, margarine containers, take-out food containers, water bottles or milk jugs.

Pill Bottles and Sharps
Non-prescription pill bottles go in your recycling cart. Prescription drug bottles cannot be recycled at home but they can often be returned to a local drugstore. Information about needle recycling is available here.

Plastic Cups & Utensils
Clean plastic cups can be recycled at the curb but plastic forks, knives and spoons belong in the garbage.


recycling  plastic  seattle 


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