Getting residential recycling simplified


08/11/2014 1:30 AM

08/06/2014 3:31 PM

Are you unsure of what can be recycled? Do your items pile up inside your home and make a mess? Does your cart get overloaded? Do you forget to take it out in time? This article is meant to help you organize the process of recycling at home and offer solutions to some of the most common complaints. 

Miami-Dade County provides curbside recycling services to residents in the unincorporated areas of the county and 20 municipalities, including Miami Springs, Virginia Gardens, Doral and Medley. Recently, the Public Works Department began running TV commercials featuring talking recycling carts that spit out “gross” non-recyclable items and eat up the “yummy” recyclables in attempt to better educate the public. The “Keep Your Cart Happy” campaign prompted me to learn more about the recycling guidelines in our area, and I was surprised by the results. 

Fortunately, the answers to all of our recycling-related questions are readily available on the phone and online. Miami-Dade County residents can dial 3-1-1 to speak to a live operator or visit to view and download detailed information about the program with charts that illustrate what can and cannot go into the recycling cart.

Consider reviewing the flyer and printing it out to be stored somewhere you can refer to it easily. The county also offers special tips about what should be recycled in apartments, condos and businesses. As the information states, recyclable items include: paper products, cardboard, narrow-neck plastic containers (the opening of the container is smaller than the body), drink cartons (such as milk or juice), glass (clear, brown and green), and aluminum or steel food containers.

All items should be emptied, cleaned, flattened, and included without the tops. The non-recyclable items include garbage, plastic bags, unnumbered plastics, margarine or butter tubs, yogurt cups, plastic plates, plastic cups, plastic utensils, foam products, window or auto glass, light bulbs, mirrors, glass cookware or bakeware, ceramics, TVs, CDs, DVDs, cell phones, PCs, monitors, keyboards, printer cartridges, batteries, flammables, paint, pesticides, medical waste or pharmaceuticals, cylinders, coat hangers, small appliances, microwave trays, and propane or oxygen tanks.

Refer to the county website for more information on waste collection centers or conduct your own search for other outlets to unload these non-recyclables.  

Once you are clear on what can be recycled, you want to create an organized system for handling all of the items. I think recyclables often turn into clutter on counters or the floor because no one wants to walk outside to the cart each time they handle an item throughout the course of the day. A simple solution is to create one or more collection areas inside of your home that are easily accessible.

Start by placing a container in the kitchen where you encounter the majority of your recyclables. You might also add a holder for papers in the office or near the mail station. Having these designated areas to drop items means that there is no visible mess and that you only have to go out to the cart when your holders are full. The options are endless. You can choose to collect items in a paper bag hidden under the sink or a decorative plastic container that you can label and re-use. Refrain from using plastic or garbage bags, as they are non-recyclable and can actually damage the machines at the recycling center. 

Residents with curbside pick-up have a wheel cart for recyclables that is usually stored outside or in a garage. On pick-up days, residents are asked to place the cart away from mailboxes and other obstacles, make sure the lid closes completely, and refrain from stacking anything on top. For those who collect a large amount of recyclables and have overloaded carts every other week, county policy states that citizens can call to request a trade in the standard 64-gallon cart for a larger 96-gallon cart free of charge. The county can also exchange the standard size for a smaller 35-gallon cart or sell one additional cart per household for a $50 fee.

Those who have trouble wheeling the cart themselves can apply for special assistance recycling service by calling 3-1-1. If forgetting to take the cart out is a concern, pin the pick-up schedule somewhere you will see it often, mark the date into your day planner, or register on the Miami-Dade County website for an email reminder the goes out the night before pick-ups. 

Effective recycling may take a little bit of extra effort, but I’m glad that all I have to do is save the stuff and wheel it out to the curb to do my part in “going green.” Whether we realize it, a lot of resources go into making our wasted products into new products. I have watched a few interesting videos of factory workers sorting the items by hand and the machines that separate items into different categories.

If you want to learn more about where our recyclables go, visit in the science section or and type, “How does a recycling machine work” into the search bar. Happy Recycling!

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