If I Put it in the Curbside Bin, It Must Be Recyclable

This is the full article on recycling written by Pam Patsch. A shorter version appeared in the August 2014 Simply News. This engaging article includes a Recycling Quiz to test your knowledge about items than can and cannot be recycled in Columbus. Then Pam also includes a list of items that Rumpke will accept as well as those that cannot be recycled (yet).  Pam is not satisfied with the list of items that the city will not accept, so she lists resources that can take hard to recycle items like styrofoam, prescription meds, plastic plant containers, stuffed animals, and more.

Pam has become our go-to Simply Living expert on recycling resources!  Members are encouraged to reply with comments and make suggestions for other recycing resources not mentioned in this article.  Feel free to copy and/or print this article and keep it handy in your house when you find yourself asking:  Can this be recycled?

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If I Put it in the Curbside Bin, It Must Be Recyclable

By Pam Patsch

I used to believe that if I put my trash in the curbside bin, then it MUST be recyclable.  I’m an intelligent and conscientious person so of course I didn’t include items such as food waste, light bulbs, or batteries.  I rinsed out containers and threw out soiled paper. I felt proud that my recycling bin was full each week and patted myself on the back for being such a good citizen.  There was no need to consult the list of acceptable items from my recycling company.  I was certain I knew the answers and besides, who has time for that!  Then I retired so I had more time.  I got involved with others interested in the environment.  I joined a study group and I read about trash and recycling (Garbologyby Edward Hume was eye-opening and fascinating).  I learned that I wasn’t as smart or knowledgeable or upstanding as I had believed.  A recycling company can only recycle items if there is a buyer.  Otherwise it is trash (regardless of whether you put it in your trash can or recycling bin).  About 5-7% of what goes to the Rumpke plant enjoys an “at our expense” paid detour on its way to the landfill (I’m actually shocked it isn’t much higher).  Rumpke has an impressively complex automated system of front-end loaders, conveyors, scanners, filters, and humans that sorts and bales the materials.  Watch the video on their website and you’ll be impressed too.   My “know it all” noncompliance meant added costs in transportation and processing which also meant unnecessary use of fossil fuels.  My identity as an environmentalist was in jeopardy.  I realized that good intentions are not enough.  If I genuinely cared about the planet we are leaving to future generations, then I needed to be better informed.  And if I want to have a bigger impact, then I can share what I’ve learned.

What items are acceptable and unacceptable for recycling?  Most residents in Central Ohio are serviced by Rumpke.  This includes curbside service as well as drop off bins.  The exception is Delaware City residents who are serviced by Sims Recycling.  There are some differences in what the two companies accept for recycling.  Check their websites for a comprehensive list and call if you have questions about items not listed.  I called about shredded paper (I’d been putting it in paper bags and stapling them shut) and photographs.  Rumpke’s general number is 1-800-582-3107, but I spoke to Anne Gray, Rumpke’s educational specialist, who was very helpful (513)242-4401, ext. 7164 or anne.gray@rumpke.com.

So – how knowledgeable are you?  Take the Recycling Quiz below before reading further.

Test Your Recycling Knowledge

Circle the items that CAN NOT be placed in your Recycle Bin

batteries     aluminum cans      newspaper      foil      cereal boxes     steel food cans

light bulbs    magazines       pizza boxes    junk mail with plastic windows      plastic bags      

egg cartons      milk jugs   phone books   Styrofoam   toilet paper rolls   glass bottles

aluminum foil pie plates     plastic bottles #1-7     juice or soup cartons empty aerosol cans

foil drink pouches   corrugated cardboard margarine tubs   yogurt cups manila folders    

colored and coated folders   candy/gum wrappers      plastic food trays from frozen meals CDs

film containers     photographs contact solution bottles    plastic bottle caps paper towels

plastic plant containers      ceramics     laundry detergent bottles    chip board   coat hangers

Score ___/40

Rumpke’s Acceptable items include: newspaper and magazines; manila folders; colored and coated folders; corrugated cardboard; chipboard; aluminum and steel cans; glass bottles; plastic bottles with necks (opening smaller than base such as milk jugs, laundry detergent bottles, ); bottle caps if attached to the bottle; phone books; toilet paper and paper towel rolls; aluminum foil and pie plates;  food and beverage cartons (chicken broth, milk, juice boxes, wine boxes); empty aerosol cans; flattened cardboard boxes; junk mail including envelopes with plastic windows

Rumpke’s Unacceptable items include: light bulbs; plastic tubs and lids such as margarine or yogurt containers; loose bottle caps; photographs; candy and gum wrappers; egg cartons; plastic plates/cups/utensils; facial tissue and paper towels; foil juice pouches; coat hangers; plastic food trays; film containers; ceramics; containers for hazardous materials (anti-freeze, cleaners, pesticides, paint, oil); greasy pizza boxes; Styrofoam; batteries; plastic plant containers; plastic bags (these jam up the conveyor belts and everything stops until they are disentangled)

For a more comprehensive list, go to www.rumpke.com/recycling or www.swaco.org

In case you were wondering, shredded paper should be put in clear plastic bags so it can be snagged off the conveyor belt by humans who can recognize what is inside and separate the paper from the plastic bag.

But I don’t want to send it to the landfill!  What to do with items that can’t be recycled.

  • #5 plastic (Gimme 5 program) and Brita filters – Whole Foods Stores
  • Old appliances – AEP will pick up appliances such as refrigerators or stoves AND pay you $50; go to their website to see which appliances they will pick-up and how much they pay (amount varies for different appliances)
  • Metal coat hangers and dry cleaning bags – Swan Cleaners
  • Styrofoam packing blocks (not food containers) – UPS store in Graceland Shopping Center on N. High St; Phoenix Recycling @2040 E. Hamilton Rd, Columbus 43232, 226-9617
  • Plastic plant containers – Meijer
  • bottle caps – leave them on your bottles if accepted by your recycling service; if not The Goodie Shop in Upper Arlington recycles them
  • Bubble wrap and Styrofoam peanuts – UPS and PakMail stores
  • Old trophies – After School All Stars, 263 Carpenter Street, Columbus, OH 43205, 257-1678 (I was able to drop them off at Louise’s Needlepoint store in Powell – the owner’s daughter worked for After School All Stars)
  • Well-worn athletic shoes (not worthy of donating) – Nike has a recycling program that turns shoes into gym floors; Fleet Feet on Polaris accepts donations, check with stores that sell Nike to see if they accept shoes for recycling.
  • Stuffed animals – Stuffed Animals for Emergencies, Inc. (SAFE) – their website lists several local drop-off locations. Through SAFE, I connected with AdoptaPlatoon who was collecting small stuffed toys such as Beanie Babies to send to Afghanistan for soldiers to give to children. The SAFE website gives good directions for cleaning gently used stuffed toys. help@safe-inc.org.
  • Prescription medications – some local police stations have a drop-off box; check SWACO website for the one nearest youwww.swaco.org.
  • Hazardous materials – Solid Waste Authority of Central Ohio (SWACO) – 645 E. 8th Avenue, Columbus 43201 (near the state fairgrounds. Check their website for accepted items and hours www.swaco.org.
  • Batteries, CFL and florescent bulbs – Batteries Plus Stores
  • Electronic waste – Staples takes computers, keyboards, printers, and other office electronics; Best Buy also takes e-waste; Big Green Head holds community recycling drives and their Facebook page indicates they will take anything with a cord –www.BigGreenHead.com 614-560-4777; ReCycleForce Columbus at 2038 Britains Lane, Columbus 43224,http://recycleforcecolumbus.org, or visit their Facebook page. For Worthington residents, the City of Worthington has a permanent e-waste drop-off at 380 Highland Avenue, Worthington 43085 weekdays 8-4 and the last Saturday of the month 12-3.
  • VHS tapes, CDs, DVDs, plastic cases are usually accepted by businesses that collect e-waste
  • Construction materials – Habitat for Humanity ReStore

I’m still looking for a place that will take the metal and plastic coat hangers you get when purchasing clothes at department stores (because I forgot to refuse them).


  1. Hi,

    I am happy to see that yu have highlight important facts . which are need to consider.


  2. What was the answer on shredded paper??

  3. What should you do with used plastic bags?

    • Cathy, sorry for late response. Plastic bags cannot be recycled in the Blue bins for local pickups. You have to take the plastic bags at any of the big supermarkets – Kroger, Giant Eagle, Meijer’s, et al. In addition to plastic bags, ou can also drop off newspaper and produce bags, cereal box liners, plastic wrap from paper towels, toilet paper and bottled water packaging and food storage bags. Here is a link yo s very useful fact sheet about recyclables from SWACO: https://www.swaco.org/DocumentCenter/View/76/Bring-Me-Back-Fact-Sheet–PDF

  4. Jane Teresa Mitchell

    Drycleaners take back metal hangers.

  5. My sister wanted to make sure that our garbage will be properly disposed of. It was explained here that most of the trash that’s produced at home can be recycled. Furthermore, it’s recommended to hire professionals for quality drop off recycling.

  6. Hi Pam, I found it interesting when you said that items in the curbside bin should be recyclable. I definitely agree when you said it as we’re also doing the same thing. Otherwise, we have put the items in the bin by mistake. Thus, I also like how you presented a sort of test and I even answered it. Thanks, really!