The ABC’s Of Recycling In Union County

Curbside recycling programs follow the same basic rules throughout New Jersey, and your local program may include additional materials. Always check with your local recycling coordinator for the latest news and updates on your local program. Download the free Recycle Coach app to receive notices and schedules about your local and countywide recycling programs in a handy mobile format. These are the basic statewide recycling rules:

1. What goes in my curbside recycling bin?

  • Paper products: Cardboard, empty food boxes, newspapers, magazines, juice or milk cartons, and more. Must be clean and dry.
  • Other items: Metal cans, glass bottles and jars, and plastic bottles or tubs labeled #1 and #2.

Always look for the #1 or #2 label. Check with your local recycling coordinator to find out if your curbside pickup includes #5 plastic. Jars and bottles should be rinsed clean with lids removed. The lids go in regular household trash.

2. What does not go in my curbside bin?

Many household items cannot be recycled at curbside and must be disposed with household trash:

  • NO Plastic Bags: Plastic bags clogs will clog the recycler’s sorting systems. Never put plastic bags in recycling bins.
  • NO Styrofoam: Styrofoam will contaminate sorting systems. Check with your local recycling coordinator to find drop-off sites for block-type Styrofoam packing material.
  • NO Pizza Boxes: Grease from the pizza soaks into the cardboard and will contaminate sorting systems. Never recycle pizza boxes, even if they look clean to the eye.
  • NO Shredded Paper: Shredded paper clogs sorting systems. Dispose with household trash.
  • NO Other Items: Curbside recyclers will reject bins with food waste, takeout food containers,  egg cartons, dishware, glass, mirrors, paper towels, hangers, flower pots, video tapes, pots and pans, light bulbs, batteries, hoses, shredded paper, syringes and other medical waste.

A good rule of thumb is: “When in doubt, throw it out — with regular household trash.”

3. How can I recycle more?

Curbside recycling is just one way to reduce household waste. Here are some drop-off recycling opportunities in Union County:

  • Household electronics: Bring broken or unwanted TV’s, computers and many other items to a drop-off site in your town. Best Buy Staples, and the company Tech Recyclers also take electronics for recycling. Find out more.
  • Unwanted household cleansers, chemicals and potentially hazardous items: Bring to Union County’s free Household Hazardous Waste drop-off events. Find out more.
  • Household scrap metal (pots, pans, appliances, gutters, fencing and more): Bring to Union County’s free scrap metal drop-off sites. Find out more.
  • Personal paper shredding: Bring sensitive personal documents to Union County’s free drop-off shredding events. Your documents will be shredded on site by a licensed recycler. Note: No business documents accepted: this service is for personal papers only. Find out more.
  • Plastic bags: Local grocery stores have drop-off bins for your excess plastic bags. The website Plastic Film Recycling lists additional locations. To reduce excess plastic bags at home, bring reusable totes when shopping.
  • Food waste: If you have a yard or garden, start a compost pile at home (see #6 below).
  • Paper egg cartons and wet or dirty cardboard: These items can go in a compost pile, too (see #6 below).

4. What about latex paint?

Many Union County residents are anxious to recycle leftover latex house paint. Unfortunately, latex paint is not recycled in Union County. Store for later use or share if possible. To dispose safely, let it dry in the can with the lid off. When fully dry, dispose whole can with regular household waste. To speed the drying process, add kitty litter or a commercial paint hardener.

Note: Oil-based paint can be recycling at Union County’s Household Hazardous Waste drop-off events. Find out more.

5. What about batteries?

Single-use alkaline batteries can go into household trash. These batteries are clearly marked “alkaline” on the package.

Everything else requires special handling. That includes rechargeable batteries of any type, as well as all “button” type batteries such as those used in smaller electronic devices, and any single use battery marked “lithium.” Bring any of these batteries to Union County’s Household Hazardous Waste drop-off events for safe disposal. Find out more.

6. How can I start composting at home?

If you have a yard or garden, home composting is a simple, effective way to cut down on food waste while conserving valuable resources. Home-made compost is a natural soil enhancer that can help plants thrive without the need for extra fertilizers. Kitchen scraps, yard waste (leaves, grass clippings, etc.) and cardboard (including carboard egg cartons) can all go into your compost pile. Find out more.