Recycling: What “Can” I Do?

Our next Question Box is not yet full.

But alert — and environmentally conscious — reader Frank Sisson’s email is important enough to warrant a special spot.

And an answer.

The other day, he wrote: “What are the rules about what should properly go into our blue bin recycle containers?

“My wife tends to put anything metallic or plastic in (while I think that only plastics with the special recycle triangle symbol on the bottom are allowed), and sometimes she doesn’t rinse food remnants out as well as I think we should. (I often retrieve things out of the bin and wash them clean before putting them back in.)

“And is all paper okay, or just newspaper, paper bags and magazines (even magazines, with all the color photos and staples, might be questionable).

“Is there a clear list of rules you might have access to?  I am sure many other Westporters could use this guidance.

“Also: What about batteries — As, AAs AAAs, 9-volt, the little button batteries, etc. Should they go into the regular trash, the blue recycle bin, or be dropped off at some special place for disposal (maybe the fire station?).

“I let mine accumulate in a cardboard box at home, but don’t really know where they should be go. Someone told me recently that storing them at home could be dangerous, and a fire hazard.”

I contacted Sustainable Westport — our town’s advisory team. They directed me to a website and app: RecycleCT. Click on or download it; then type in the name of any item (lithium battery, pizza box, whatever), and it will tell you how and where it can be recycled.

In addition, Sustainable Westport has an Instagram handle: @sustainablewestport. It includes a fun series of video tours that show what can be recycled at the Transfer Station on the Sherwood Island Connector (pro tip: batteries included!).

The transfer station is open weekdays from 7 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., and Saturdays from 7 a.m. to noon. If you haven’t been there, check it out. It’s one of the most popular (and friendly) spots in town

Sustainable Westport also welcomes questions directly — just email They’ll answer quickly — and address them in future videos.


13 responses to “Recycling: What “Can” I Do?

  1. 1-only 10% of plastic ever gets re-cycled; 2-if not clean, it all gets rejected anyhow; 3-it uses more energy to wash the thing than it saves recycling it;4- only the symbol with numbers 1,2 and 5 are re-cyclable; 5-paper is separately binned, and that more often actually gets reused.

  2. When in doubt, ask the crew at the Transfer Station. They know everything. Note – they have special sections for old tech stuff & metal.

  3. Emily Mikesell

    Thanks Dan. That’s a great site and very helpful. Sent me down a rabbit hole about when and how to recycle lids and caps.
    Glass jars, metal lids — leave attached. Plastic bottles, plastic caps —leave loosely attached and don’t crush. But having a hard time getting a real answer about milk cartons with plastic caps. Know the carton is recyclable, but the cap — on or off? And crush the carton (satisfying) or no?

  4. Julie shapiro

    Love the question but feel like you should post a simple bulleted post that says exactly what can and cannot go into our at home bins. Also tell people whether we wash stuff out or put it in as is. We are all hopefully trying to do our part but need it simplified

  5. Eric William Buchroeder SHS '70

    Hey Westporters!!!
    Check this out:
    “Better to light a candle than curse the darkness”

  6. Dick Lowenstein

    Why can’t the town publish an official recycling list? The Parks and Recreation department tells us what we can and can’t do in public parks. Can’t our Public Works department do the same thing for recycling at the transfer station? Why make us rely on well-intentioned but sometimes conflicting private sources of information?

  7. Pippa Bell Ader

    Many Westporters do not fully appreciate how much the Department of Public Works’ transfer station provides its residents . Go to for a full list of the Town’s recyclables.

    In addition to collecting all the items accepted in Connecticut’s Single Stream Recycling (, the transfer station (300 Sherwood Island Connector, off exit 18, I-95) collects batteries, textiles, electronics, paint, lightbulbs and flattened cardboard boxes and sends them to recycling facilities. In addition, metal items that do not meet the single stream recycling criteria (large metal items, scrap metal, metal utensils, etc) are collected at the transfer station.

    As for what is and isn’t being recycled, please follow’s rules. The recycling markets are changing so don’t assume you know what items and are not being recycled. As for plastic, this is what is stated on the website:

    “The numbers and symbols on the bottom of cups and other items are not recycling instructions. They identify resin codes and are intended for industry. The numbers may tell us it is RECYCLABLE, but it does not tell us if it is ACCEPTABLE in Connecticut’s residential mixed recycling program. A great example is plastic bags. They are 100% recyclable, but they are not acceptable in the mixed recycling program; they should be brought to participating retailers. Stick with basics – most acceptable plastic items are containers, such as bottles, cans, jugs and tubs.”

    And yes, clean, if possible, but it doesn’t have to be perfect. Do your best: the staff at the transfer station will be eternally grateful. For a flyer with the basics, print this or pick up a copy at the Town’s DPW office at Town Hall:

    I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that all Westport residents can also recycle ALL of their food scraps (including meat, bones, fish shells, etc) at the transfer station, FOR FREE. These food scraps are taken to an industrial composting facility and made into compost. For more information about food scrap recycling options (including hauler pick-up) go to

  8. Robert Mitchell

    There are no participating retailers that recycle plastic bags between Connecticut Avenue in Norwalk and Black Rock Turnpike in Fairfield. What does that say about Westport?

  9. I’m really interested in what the reject rates and reasons are, and what actually gets recycled profitably. Very soon we’ll have to admit that the free market is not going to take care of our waste, and either consumers/taxpayers or producers/corporations are going to have to pay to make sure their packaging is actually recycled. Making things that *can* be recycled is not good enough, that just transfers the responsibility from the industry causing the environmental damage via waste products to the consumer. It worked when a lot of the material got bought up and recycling made a profit, but when China shut down imports it showed that the capitalism will not magically tend to the environment for us – we have to force it.

    In the meantime, we can actually improve the recycling system by throwing less into the bin. We need to be more careful about what goes in because the reject rate drives up costs and drives the market away from using the materials. If you aren’t going to do it right just be honest with yourself and throw it in the trash, that’s where it’s going to end up. Don’t be an aspirational recycler, be realistic!

  10. AN important issue behind this question is, once residents separate and send their items for recycling, what actually happens to them? At one time, the U.S. sold its items for recycling, in bulk, to other countries. Times have changed. Now we have to pay them to take it, and many have simply refused to do so now and in the future. (The cost has become a rising budget item for Westport and other communities.) In addition, Westport is still, I believe, part of a 14-town consortium so we do not have independent control of what happens to these materials. It would be useful for our Public Works Department to provide residents with clear information about what actually does get recycled and what just gets passed along to the incinerator facility. Perhaps then when our contract with the consortium is up, we might find – if possible – other ways to proceed.