We cannot accept:

  • PVC pipe
  • CD/DVD cases (take them to Recycled Reads or throw them in the trash)

Remember to remove all metal components from hard plastics before recycling them.

You cannot recycle plastic bags, films and wrappers in your blue cart. We process recyclables at two local recycling processing facilities that use automated systems to sort and bale the recyclables. Prohibited items, like plastic bags, jam the automated machinery.

Take plastic shopping bags to your local grocery stores or to the Recycle & Reuse Drop-Off Center to be recycled.

Rinse recyclables to remove food residue

Dry paper before putting it in your cart

Flatten boxboard and corrugated cardboard

Remove any metal components from plastic items.

Note: Do not place recyclables in a plastic bag. Plastic bags are not accepted in our curbside recycling program and contribute to contamination.

Austin Resource Recovery curbside customers may continue to set out large rigid plastics during twice-per-year bulk item collection. These items are currently taken to the landfill, but Austin Resource Recovery is exploring ways to recover and recycle these items in the future.

One way to use less water is to rinse your recyclables in the water used to clean dishes. Some people even put a pitcher in their bathtub to catch the water from their shower as it heats up.

  • Place multiple labeled recycling containers around your home. When the containers are full, empty them into your blue recycling cart.
  • Recycle in every room. Place recycling containers in areas like your bathroom, so you can collect items like toilet and paper towel rolls and shampoo bottles.
  • Get the whole family involved by making recycling a habit. Talk to your  family, friends and roommates about what items can be recycled, what items can’t and how each item should be disposed of in your home. 

After collection, recyclables go to two local materials recovery facilities (MRFs) to be sorted and prepared for market. Many of these will become the same product in what is known as closed-loop recycling. For example, glass, aluminum, and steel can be used to make new bottles or cans. Many fibers, such as those from cardboard, are used to make new boxes. And most common household items contain some recycled materials. For example, recycled plastics are turned into new bottles, but they can also be made into carpeting, park benches, and fibers for clothing. The Keep America Beautiful website provides more detail about the recycling process.

Recycling keeps reusable items out of the landfills, which in turn offers many benefits:

  • Recycling can save you money – Austin Resource Recovery provides bundled services to manage your trash, recycling and yard trimmings. Costs are based on your trash cart size. Recycling as much as possible may allow you to downsize to a smaller trash cart, which will save you money on your monthly utility bill.


  • Recycling saves natural resources – By recycling, we save natural resources from being used to create new products. In addition, creating products from recycled content releases fewer greenhouse gases than mining or harvesting new materials.
  • Recycling saves energy – Recycling saves energy that would otherwise be used to extract, process and transport virgin materials.


  • Recycling reduces landfill dependence– Landfills are one of the largest sources of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas that is 21 to 75 times more potent than carbon dioxide. Reducing the amount of trash sent to landfills reduces the amount of methane and other greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere.
  • Remove metal components from plastic items
  • Empty and rinse items before recycling them. 
  • Make sure all items fit inside the blue recycling cart with the lid closed.
  • Only hard plastics are accepted; plastic foam, plastic bags, and plstic wrap are not allowed. 
  • Set out your blue recycling cart every two weeks, even if it’s not full.
  • Never let recyclables go into the trash. Give your trash another life!
  • Become an advocate – encourage your friends, co-workers and neighbors to join the challenge and help our great city live up to its green reputation. You can even become a Zero Waste Block Leader.

Use the What Do I Do With? tool to find out how to dispose of different materials.

Below is a brief description of the symbols. For more detailed information, visit the resin identification codes page of the American Chemistry Council Web site.

  1. Polyethylene Terephthalate (PETE) or (PET): soft drink and water bottles, beer bottles, mouthwash bottles, peanut butter and salad dressing containers. It can be recycled into polar fleece clothing, fiber, tote bags, bottles, clothing, furniture, and carpet.
  2. High Density Polyethylene (HDPE): milk jugs, water and juice containers, liquid detergent bottles, yogurt and margarine tubs. It can be recycled into liquid laundry detergent containers, drainage pipe, oil bottles, recycling bins, benches, pens, doghouses, vitamin bottles, floor tile, picnic tables, lumber, mailbox posts, fencing.
  3. Vinyl (Polyvinyl Chloride or PVC): clear food packaging, shampoo bottles.
  4. Low Density Polyethylene (LDPE): squeezable bottles (e.g. honey, mustard).
  5. Polypropylene (PP): ketchup bottles, yogurt containers and margarine tubs, medicine bottles.
  6. Polystyrene (PS): aspirin bottles, cups, plates.
  7. Other: Use of this code indicates that the package in question is made with a resin other than the six listed above, or is made of more than one resin used in combination. Plastics such as three and five gallon reusable water bottles, some citrus juice and ketchup bottles, clear baby food containers.

After recyclables are collected, they are transported to two local Materials Recovery Facilities and then are sorted and baled before being sold to manufacturers to create new products.

When incorrect items are recycled it is called contamination. Putting the wrong items in your blue cart can disrupt the recycling process and cause safety hazards.

For example, plastic bags, garden hoses and wire hangers get tangled in machinery and halt production. Broken glass is a safety hazard for collection crews and MRF employees. Plastic foam breaks up during processing and ends up as small pieces contaminating paper, aluminum and other recyclables.

After collection, Austin Resource Recovery staff takes recyclables to two local Materials Recovery Facilities (MRFs) for processing. The staff at each MRF does their best to sort everything correctly, however  contaminated materials still sometimes find their way through the system, often at the expense of the MRF operator and the City.

If you cannot fit all of your recyclables in your cart, you may place additional items in a cardboard box or a reusable container. If you have excess cardboard, please cut or fold the cardboard into 2 feet by 2 feet piles, and tie them into manageable bundles with string or twine. Place the bundles next to your recycling cart. Extra recyclables will be picked up at no extra change.

To make more room in your cart, crush recyclables like cans, plastic jugs and bottles. Be sure to "break down" or flatten boxboard and corrugated cardboard so that it fits more easily into the cart.

If you frequently run out of room in your recycling cart between pickups, you can request an additional blue cart free of charge by calling Austin Energy at 512-494-9400.

  • Plastic bags
  • Garden hoses
  • Styrofoam (cups, egg cartons, take-out containers)
  • Soiled pizza boxes from take-out or delivery services
  • Yard waste/leaves (set out for yard trimmings pick up)
  • Food waste
  • Trash (you may be charged for extra trash if you put trash in your recycling cart)
  • Helium tanks
  • Large metal items such as frying pans and metal pipes
  • Large plastic items (plastics that are gallon-sized or smaller are ok)
  • Wire coat hangers (recycle at your local dry cleaners)

Why we can't take these items

The recycling processing facility uses an automated system to sort and bale the recyclables. Prohibited items will jam the automated machinery.

Austin Resource Recovery collects trash from almost 30,000 homes each day. Occasionally, crews miss a house. Sometimes the crews are not able to collect the material safely or a road hazard or blockage may prevent access. If there is a problem with the material that prevents collection, a notice will be left behind to let you know the problem.

If you haven’t received a notice and you placed the material at the curb by 6:30 a.m. on your collection day:

  • Leave the missed items at the curb and call Austin Resource Recovery at 3-1-1.
  • You may contact us by e-mail. Please include your address, a contact number and the items that were missed. We will come by to pick up the missed material as soon as possible.

Vendors and manufacturers that buy so-called “mixed rigid plastics” prefer to receive plastics without metal components. Plastics that contain metal are considered contaminants and a lower value.

Dirty recyclables can contaminate other recyclables. Dirty items do not have as much value as clean recyclables and sometimes cannot be sold to manufacturers to become new products. These items can end up going to the landfill. This leads to higher expenses for the operators of the recycling facilities, as well as the City. Also, recyclables that have food residue on them can cause odors and attract pests in your recycling cart.

Most of our trucks are equipped with automatic arms that pick up the carts. Our crews can collect materials more safely and efficiently if all the recyclables fit into the cart, preventing drivers from getting out of the truck. If you have items that don’t fit in the cart, either break them down, or set them out during bulk item collection.

Single Stream Recycling allows Austin Resource Recovery customers to mix recyclable paper, plastic, aluminum cans and glass in one bin. This method of curbside recycling is more convenient for residents because it does not requires sorting of items. Other advantages include:

  • Reduced collection costs because collection can be automated, and collection routes can be serviced more efficiently
  • Worker injuries may decrease because single stream means switching from bins to cart-based collection using trucks with automated lifts
  • More paper grades can be collected, including food packaging (boxboard), junk mail, and mixed residential paper