Tips on what can and cannot be recycled

Published 11:23 am Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Column: Randy Tuchtenhagen, Solid Waste Officer

Our residential recycling participation remains steady and our collection trucks and drop sites are occasionally overflowing.

Randy Tuchtenhagen

That is a good thing, and we at the Freeborn County government are working to provide better service and encourage people to use the program. The new recycling drop boxes at the Waste Management recycling center north of Albert Lea are now much easier to use, and we have noted less contamination.

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Steel bars have been welded across the opening of the recycling bins to prevent illegal dumping of televisions, tires and other trash. The bins were also moved to a more convenient location.

When using the recycling center drop boxes, be mindful of traffic and make certain to place your recyclables into the correct container. They are labeled, some for paper and corrugated (fibre) and some bins are for rigids like glass, plastic bottles, aluminum and metals.

Many residents ask about what is recyclable and what items cannot be recycled. We print new and updated recycling information and instructions sheets each year, and they can be viewed on the Freeborn County website under Environmental Services Department (

Some simple tips to help you decide what is recyclable are: If the paper product came from the refrigerator or freezer, it is not recyclable. That would be the paper box for bacon, butter, butter wrapping, pizza and other fibre materials that are wax-coated. You can, however, recycle the corrugated pizza box you brought home or had delivered from one of the pizza businesses as long as it is not dripping with grease. You don’t want food contaminating your recycling bin.

Another question frequently asked is whether to leave the lids on drink bottles or remove them. The answer: We want the lids to stay on the bottles, but the liquids must be removed first! Lids are typically a different kind of plastic than the bottle, but new sorting and processing technology allows for the lids to remain on because they are a nuisance on the sorting floor and get caught up in the machinery workings. Step on the bottle before putting the lid back on to save space.

Books like dictionaries, encyclopedias, novels, cookbooks, school books, yes, yes, yes. Our recycling program not only wants them, we ask that the covers remain on. Don’t worry about metal spiral bindings, staples or glue. Just put them into the recycling. With the increased use of computers, there has been a trend towards lower recycling rates of paper products of all kinds. There are books online, mail to friends and family is sent over the Internet, electronic billing and paying, and electronically stored files have reduced paper use. This means there is a lot of old paper storage that can be recycled as we move toward the use of newer technology. The nice thing about our recycling program is that you do not have sort or separate. Just put all paper and fibre together and all rigids together. But please, please do not put any plastic bags in the recycling. No exceptions!

Keep up the great recycling.


Randy Tuchtenhagen is the Freeborn County solid waste officer.