UncategorizedJuly 29, 2022What Can and Can’t be Recycled in Charlotte NC?


While Mecklenburg County has a public, pick-up recycling program, there are still items and material you should not put in the curbside recycling can. These non-recyclable things are approved at any of the county’s full service drop off waste facilities. For the curbside recycling cart, please place only allowable items for pick up.

The Mecklenburg, Charlotte program aims to recycle many things; however the municipal program doesn’t accept everything with the recycle symbol on it. The county does not use the plastic recyclable numbering system. Many products are numbered incorrectly for the municipal program.

Acceptable Recyclable Items

  • Plastic containers with necks
  • Cartons and juice boxes
  • Empty aerosol cans
  • Aluminum cans
  • Cereal boxes
  • Cardboard boxes (must be flattened)
  • Clean pizza boxes
  • Glass bottles and jars
  • Tin and steel cans
  • Paper
  • Junk mail
  • Newspapers and magazines

If the waste is not on the approved list, it is not recyclable in the county’s curbside recycling.

Common Items Mistakenly Put into Recycling

There are a huge number of items and material put into recycling cans or facilities which should not be. Please do not put these items into Mecklenburg County curbside pick-up cans or recycling centers.

  • Plastic bags, plastic wrap or plastic film
  • Do not put recyclable things in a plastic bag. The county program can’t recycle any bagged items.
  • Ceramics or glassware such as Pyrex, vases and picture frames (If in good condition, please give away. If damaged, please place in the trash.).
  • Pots and pans (Take these to a county Full Service Recycling Center for handling.)
  • Paper plates
  • Diapers
  • Cat litter
  • Napkins
  • Battiers (Take to a Full Service Recycling Center.)
  • Light bulbs (Fluorescents and CFL’s should likely go to a Full Service Recycling Facility. All other light bulbs go in the trash.)
  • Wire or plastic hangers
  • Clamshells or styrofoam products
  • Plastic food trays
  • Paper, styrofoam or plastic cups
  • Shredded paper – Shredded paper falls through the screening devices and contaminates the glass we gather.
  • Hardback books – Even if you get rid of the hard cover, the spine of book does not let the separation equipment accept the paper. The Mecklenburg County Compost Central location at 140 Valleydale Drive takes books for recycling. It also takes shredded paper for recycling.
  • Needles – Do not be place needles in curbside recycling containers. Dispose of needles in a duct taped sharps container or a hard plastic container, such as a laundry detergent bottle and put it in curbside trash.

What Plastic Items Can I Recycle in the Residential Curbside Can?

Only plastic bottles and jugs, with a pourable neck or spout that is smaller at the top than the base, are accepted. These are the only pure plastic items Mecklenburg County can sell on the recyclable materials product market. Labels do not need to be removed.

Recyclable plastic containers include: Water and soda bottles of any shades, milk or juice jugs, laundry detergent bottles, hair shampoo or conditioner bottles (pumps should be removed first.).

Please keep in mind the following usual house plastics are not accepted in curbside recycling:

Plastic bags/bubble wrap, clamshells, yogurt cups, dairy tubs, takeout food containers, styrofoam, zip bags, vitamin and medication containers, disposable utensils and plastic cups, containers, storage containers, hoses.

What to Do with Lids and Caps

Never place loosened lids or caps in the recycling can. Loose covers and caps are too small and fall loose into the county’s recycling machines, which contaminates the glass being collected. Glass mixed with plastic or metal, or other material, can’t be sold to processers as raw, recycled material as it’s not usable. Please keep plastic caps on bottles. It’s acceptable to leave securely attached lids and caps on clean, dry and empty bottles, cartons and jugs. Do not put caps into the recycle bin on their own.

What if Something is too Greasy?

How much grease or leftover food is acceptable in or on recyclable material? Let’s take a pizza box as an example. There can be a little grease, but no pieces or crumbs of food left on recyclable items. The county system processes clean, dry cardboard and sells it by the ton. Whole pieces of pizza, crumbs and grease are contaminants. You can tear off the clean part of a box, put it in the recyclables, then put the dirty part in the trash.

What about Cooking Pans, Aluminum Foil?

The Mecklenburg County machines only sort and work with aluminum cans. Pie, lasagna and roasting pans and aluminum foil usually have too much food waste on them to be recycled.

Recycling Batteries

Rechargeable batteries must be thrown away appropriately because they have dangerous elements such as lithium, nickel and steel hydrides. Never put rechargeable batteries in trash or recycling cans as they are the main cause of fires at public centers. Please take rechargeable batteries to the household hazardous waste sites at one of the full service drop off facilities.

Traditional alkaline batteries can be put in the trash to be sent out to the landfill, due to the fact that they do not consist of any hazardous elements.