Last updated November 15, 2019
In Kitsap County, we collect materials that have the best chance of being made into new products.
Our list of accepted recyclables has always emphasized quality over quantity. Even in the face of changing global recycling markets, we have not needed to adjust this list. The items we collect are still relatively easy to sort and sell back to re-manufacturers.
Recycling relies on you putting the right things in the bin. Follow the recycling tips below to make sure the recyclables from Kitsap County are made into new products and stay out of the landfill!
It's important to only put empty, clean, and dry recyclables in the recycling bin. Why? Dirty or wet materials are likely removed from the recycling stream and end up in the landfill. They can also contaminate other recyclables in your bin. We know you value keeping recyclable materials out of the landfill, so remember to recycle right and make sure your recycling effort doesn't go to waste.
In Kitsap, only recycle plastics shaped like a bottle, jug, jar, or dairy tub.
The symbol on the bottom of many plastics is a resin identification code and tells you what type of plastic resin was used in manufacturing, but it doesn't mean it's recyclable.
Sort plastics by shape, because shape determines how a container travels through the sorting facility. The plastic containers we collect hold their shape and will be sorted properly. They are also made from plastic resins in high demand by re-manufacturers.
Items that don't belong in the recycle bin are contaminants. Top contaminants in Kitsap are bagged recyclables, dirty recyclables, non-accepted plastics, plastic bags and film, batteries, tanglers (hoses and wires), and trash.
Contamination makes it harder to sell recyclables and increases the cost of recycling. Buyers of recyclables offer a lower price or reject contaminated recyclables. When contamination is very bad, the materials may be landfilled instead of sorted.
If you're not sure an item can be recycled, check the Kitsap County recycling guide (PDF). The items on the guide are the only items that can go in your recycle bin. If you're still not sure, put it in the trash.
Plastic containers shaped like bottles, jugs, jars, or dairy tubs
Must be empty, clean, and dry.
Reattach screw caps, but put flat lids in the trash.
According to Waste Management, operator of the Materials Recovery Facility used by Kitsap County, "Plastics from the Pacific Northwest are primarily sold to a recycler in Canada."
This Canadian facility is a "secondary sorting facility," where plastics are sorted again to increase the quality of the materials so they're easier to sell back to re-manufacturers around the world.
Recycled plastics become a variety of plastic goods. However, when the price of oil is low, manufacturers are less likely to use recycled plastics and more likely to use virgin plastics.
Must be clean, dry, flat, and larger than a postcard.
According to Waste Management, operator of the Materials Recovery Facility used by Kitsap County, "Mixed paper has some local (WA state) markets and some of it goes to other parts of Asia like India, Malaysia, and other countries in that region."
Across the globe, market challenges have made it difficult to recycle paper. Learn about these challenges in this Oct. 22, 2019 Recycling Today article by Megan Smalley.
Must be empty, clean, and dry.
Labels OK. Leave lids partially attached and push it inside the can, or put loose lids in the trash.
Metal is 100% recyclable and can be recycled an infinite number of times (unlike paper, which has less and less fiber the more times it is recycled).
Steel (tin) cans are often recycled at Nucor Steel in Seattle. They melt and manufacture steel scrap into a variety of steel products.
Aluminum cans are often sent to aluminum smelters in the southeastern US. It takes only a few month for a can from your recycle bin to make its way back to the shelves as a new can!
Must be clean, dry, and flattened.
Remove all packing material, like paper, plastic, or foam.
Tape and labels OK.
It depends on the buyer, but a majority of cardboard is recycled at paper mills in the US. If the cardboard is purchased by Port Townsend Paper Company, for example, it may become the raw materials used to construct new cardboard boxes or pulp used to make new paper.
Learn about the rise in cardboard use and manufacturing in this March 22, 2019 New York Times article by Michael Corkery.
Glass bottles and jars
Must be empty, clean, and dry.
Labels OK. Put caps in trash.
It depends on the buyer. Glass is crushed in the recycling sorting process to minimize the abrasive impacts on the sorting machines.
Crushed glass is often sold to manufactures of composite materials or is sometimes used as an "alternative daily cover," a material placed on the surface of an active landfill cell to control pests, fires, odors, and blowing litter.
Cartons from refrigerated section
But put shelf-stable cartons in the garbage, these are made of three materials and are too difficult to recycle.
Cartons, which are made of paper embedded with plastic, are sorted into the paper pile at the Materials Recovery Facility. They have the same journey as paper.
After you sort your recyclables and set them at the curb or bring them to a drop-off recycling facility, they are hauled to Olympic View Transfer Station where they are combined with recyclables from across Kitsap County. Next, they are hauled to JMK Fibers, a Materials Recovery Facility in Tacoma. The facility's machines and workers sort the recyclables into similar materials, bale them together, and then sell the bales to manufacturers.
Domestic and international buyers bid on the bales on an open market. Buyers inspect each bale and pay a higher price for clean materials without contamination.
When recycling markets are good, you receive a recycling rebate on your garbage and recycling bill. If sellers cannot sell a bale of recycling, they may have to pay the processor to take the bale. Or they may re-sort the bale to remove contaminants. It is much easier to sell recyclables if the quality is good from the start. Quality begins in your home.
The recycling industry has gone through big changes recently. When China stopped accepted recyclables in late 2017, there was a need for new places to send materials being recycled.
For Kitsap, this meant finding new markets for mixed paper (magazines, office paper, and newspaper) and mixed plastics. New domestic and international markets for mixed paper and plastics are still emerging.