Where to recycle everything in Chicago. Here’s how to get rid of all the packaging and detritus from the holidays. Here’s a great Cheat Sheet I found and thought I’d share. Good luck.
This is also helpful if you’re new to the area, having a big clear out or are thinking about stepping up your recycling game. Test your knowledge of Chicago recycling rules here.
- Put CAPS ON plastic bottles before recycling, if possible. Squeeze a little air out before twisting caps on – to ensure they don’t pop off under pressure.
- Got Yard Waste? Request your free pick-up by calling 311 or using the 311 app.
- Recycling electronics reclaims precious resources like gold, silver and copper and keeps toxins out of the environment. Plus it’s the law. Recycle your old electronics here.
- Paper gift bags that aren’t metallic are recyclable, if you use this trick: Remove the handles first and toss those in the trash.
- Envelopes with plastic windows go in recycling.
- Wet or dry, clean or dirty – napkins, tissues, and paper towels go in the trash because the fibers are too short for recycling.
- Polystyrene/Styrofoam products are not recyclable curbside. This includes cups, plates, packing peanuts, foam blocks and coolers.
- Potato chips bags are not recyclable because they’re a mix of plastic and foil that can’t be separated at the sorting facility.
- Greasy or food crusted cardboard (ie pizza boxes), and paper, goes in the trash. But don’t toss the whole thing, tear off the greasy parts and recycle the rest.
- All cartons including milk, juice, broth, wine, ice cream, and soup cartons are recyclable curbside.
- Disposable coffee cups (ie Starbucks) are not recyclable because they have a plastic lining that can’t be separated at the recycling facility. Switching to a reusable cup even once a day can save 5 trees over 10 years.
- All plastic bottles, as long as they’re empty, are recyclable. This includes bottles in the kitchen, bathroom and cleaning closet too! Discard nozzles or pumps (because of the metal), leave plastic caps on.
- Recyclables do not need to be spotless, they just need to be empty. Usually a good swish of water or scrape of the spatula will do. Or wipe out the residue with a used napkin.
- Any liquid, including rain water, shortens paper’s fibers making it less valuable for recycling. That’s why it’s so important that recyclables are dry and that the cart lid is closed, so they stay dry.
- The plastic wrap needs to be removed before the newspaper can be recycled. Plastic wrap, film, and bags, are not recyclable curbside but can be recycled at most grocery stores.
- You can’t recycle shredded paper. It gets stuck in the recycling equipment.
Things you cannot recycle (If you put them in your blue bin the whole bin will end up in the trash):
- Plastic bags Don’t bag your recycling.
- Shredded paper
- Pizza boxes Put the entire box in the garbage or tear off the greasy part before recycling.
- Styrofoam, No. 6 plastic
- Coffee cups
- Electronics — yep, they’re made of metals and plastics; nope, not recyclable.
- Potato chip and other snack bags
- Toys and other odd-shaped plastics like laundry baskets.
- Garden hoses, cables, cords, Christmas tree lights.
The City of Chicago’s Blue Cart Recycling and Drop-Off Centers accept many types of materials. For items that the City cannot collect, residents may contact other organizations and businesses dedicated to recycling. The directory below provides an alphabetized database of common household materials and where they can be recycled.
Each page includes the following information:
- What materials can be recycled?
- Is this material accepted in Blue Cart or Drop-Off? City of Chicago Recycling Drop-Off Center
- Is there another alternate recycling location?
- Recycling Location Address, Phone, and Website
- Details / Restrictions for the Location
If you find outdated information or cannot locate a material in this directory, please submit corrections or inquiries to StreetsAndSan@cityofchicago.org
Here are other third party recycling options:
Best Buy – This website allows you to search by state. Some items they accept are electronics, rechargeable batteries and CD’s. You should check the specific item as there are restrictions.
City of Chicago Family Hazardous Drop-off Facility, 1150 N. Branch Street, (two blocks east of Kennedy Expressway at Division Street. This facility accepts hazardous waste materials, such as electronics, paint, batteries and oil.
City Farm Chicago – City Farm converts unused city land into urban farms. They operate community drop-off sites and recycling services throughout the city.
ComEd – ComEd will pick up your old, working fridge or freezer for FREE, recycle it in an environmentally responsible way, plus send you $50.
Earth 911 – This site has a search feature by item and location.
Free Cycle – Sharing site where you can “offer” things you want to give away or place a “wanted” for things you’re looking for.
Whole Foods – Items they accept:
Donate to charity – only donate things that charities can use. The charity has to pay to dispose of unsaleable items.