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Recycling

Learn about your recycling responsibilities, what materials can and can’t be recycled, acceptable recycling containers, and more!

Boston provides residents with curbside collection for recycling of metal, glass, plastic, and paper. No need to sort your recyclables, we accept all items in one bin with our single stream service. Be sure to check what is accepted before putting recyclables in the blue bin.

Recycling Responsibilities in Boston

Responsibilities
PLACE RECYCLING CURBSIDE NO LATER THAN 6 a.m. ON YOUR COLLECTION DAY
  • To view your collection schedule, download the Trash Day App.
  • Wait until after 5 p.m. the evening before your collection day to bring containers curbside to avoid spillage and code violations.
ALL RECYCLING MUST BE PLACED IN A CONTAINER WITH A LID
  • The City supplies large, 64-gallon recycling containers to residents of buildings with six units or fewer. Request a new bin from Boston 311. 
  • You can also use a smaller than 32-gallon trash can as a recycling bin with a sticker from Boston 311.
RECYCLE RIGHT!
  • Use the waste sorting tool on our Trash Day app to learn what you can and can’t recycle.
  • Plastic shopping bags and black or white trash bags cannot be recycled.
  • Heavy-duty clear plastic bags are ONLY allowed if you do not have enough space in specific neighborhoods. These include Back Bay/ Bay Village, Beacon Hill, Charlestown, Fenway, Mission Hill, North End, Roxbury, South Boston, South End, and West End.
CODE VIOLATION TICKETS
  • If you don’t comply with our regulations, you may receive a ticket from our Code Enforcement Division. 
  • Residents can report offenses to Boston 311.

Appeal a code violation

Pay a code violation

EDUCATE YOUR TENANTS
  • As a Boston landlord, it is your job to educate your tenants on their responsibilities as residents.
  • Tell new tenants to download the Trash Day app for collection day reminders and to use the waste sorting tool.
CHECK IN WITH TENANTS
  • Create a plan with your tenants about how waste will be managed in your building.
MAKE SURE YOUR RESIDENTS HAVE RECYCLING CONTAINERS
  • Boston supplies large, 64-gallon recycling containers to residents of buildings with six units or less. Request a new bin from Boston 311.
  • You can also use a smaller than 32-gallon trash container as a recycling container with a recycling sticker from Boston 311.
  • Heavy-duty clear plastic bags are ONLY allowed if you do not have enough space in specific neighborhoods. These include Back Bay/ Bay Village, Beacon Hill, Charlestown, Fenway, Mission Hill, North End, Roxbury, South Boston, South End, and West End.
CODE VIOLATION TICKETS
  • If you don’t comply with our regulations, you may receive a ticket from our Code Enforcement Division. 
  • Residents can report offenses to Boston 311.

Appeal a code violation

Pay a code violation

Waste Sorting Tool on Trash Day App

Accepted Items in your blue recycling bin

Accepted Items
Contact: Public Works
For example:

Shipping boxes, cereal boxes, egg cartons, paper towel and toilet paper rolls.

Boston Recycling tips:

Flatten the boxes to save room in your bin. Make sure everything is clean and dry. No waxy coatings, please!

For example:

Office paper, newspaper, paper bags, magazines, junk mail

Boston Recycling tips:

Everything should be clean and dry. Staples and envelope windows are OK. No books please! (Try donating them instead)

For example:

Plastic drink bottles, milk jugs, yogurt cups, tubs and lids, and shampoo bottles.

Boston Recycling tips:

Make sure everything is clean and dry. To save room in your bin, squish the bottles. Put the caps back on so they won’t slip through the cracks in our equipment. No bags or other plastics please! (Bags can often be returned to your local grocery store)

For example:

Soda and beer cans, soup and vegetable cans, foils

Boston Recycling tips:

All must be empty, clean, and dry. Ball up your clean foil. No miscellaneous scrap metal items please! (Take those to a scrap yard)

For example:

Beer bottles, other beverage bottles, pickle jars

Boston Recycling tips:

All containers must be empty, clean, and dry. No pyrex, ceramics, or window glass please! (Broken items belong in the trash; donate unbroken items)

Items not accepted in your blue recycling bin

Items Not Accepted
Contact: Public Works
WHY NOT:

They wrap around and damage the sorting equipment.

INSTEAD: 

Recycle your bags at a participating grocery or retail store.

Plastic bags don’t belong in your recycling bin, but you can recycle them at participating grocery and retail stores. You will notice that many stores have a bag collection bin in their entry area. Another great option is to bring reusable bags when you shop. Do not put your recyclables in plastic bags, they will not be recycled. 

WHY NOT:

Black plastics are unable to be identified by recycling equipment and end up in the trash. 

INSTEAD:

Save black plastic containers and reuse them as food containers. You can also encourage your local food service establishments to use recyclable serviceware. 

WHY NOT: 

Anything under 2 inches by 2 inches will fall through the sorting equipment.

INSTEAD: 

Bring your own reusable cutlery and straws! Place the disposable ones and other small items in the trash. A great way to keep small objects like plastic utensils and straws out of the recycling stream is to not use them at all! 

WHY NOT:

Styrofoam breaks apart into very very small pieces that can not be sorted by equipment. Also, Styrofoam is often soiled with food, so it is not able to be recycled. 

INSTEAD:

Ask your local restaurants to say no to Styrofoam or bring your own takeout container. 

WHY NOT:

They damage sorting equipment at recycling facilities. 

INSTEAD:

Donate them through a local clothing drive, drop box, reuse store, or sign up for a home pickup. Check out our Boston Circular Economy Directory for more information.

WHY NOT:

They wrap around and damage the sorting equipment.

INSTEAD:

Place your unwanted cords, ropes, hoses, clothing hangers, and other tanglers in the trash.

VHS tapes are another surprisingly common tangler at our recycling plants. VHS tapes do not belong in your recycling bin!

EXAMPLES:

Pots and pans, springs, pipes, and car parts. 

WHY NOT:

They damage the sorting equipment.

INSTEAD:

Look up your local scrap metal recycler.

WHY NOT:

Batteries don’t belong in your recycling bin because they contain materials that are toxic if not properly dealt with. 

Batteries can cause fires if not disposed of correctly. Here’s how to handle and dispose of each type of battery. 

INSTEAD:
NON-HAZARDOUS BATTERIES

These battery types no longer contain mercury and can be disposed of in regular trash. 

Button: These batteries are about 1/3” across. They are commonly found in hearing aids. 

Traditional Everyday (AA, AAA, C, D, 9V): These batteries are single use, alkaline batteries. 

HAZARDOUS BATTERIES

Please put tape on battery terminals and bring to a local retailer or one of Boston’s Household Hazardous Waste Day’s for proper and safe disposal.

Lithium-Ion Rechargeable: These batteries are typically found in cell phones, laptops, and small power tools. If damaged, they can be extremely flammable. 

Rechargeable AA, AAA, C, D, 9V (Ni-Cad): Please do not put any rechargeable batteries in the trash or recycling. They may contain heavy metals that pose risks to human health and the environment. 

Lithium Primary: These batteries come in a variety of household sizes, including flat nickel-shaped batteries that may not be labeled as lithium. Do not put lithium batteries in the trash or recycling as they can be flammable when damaged or defective. Please put tape on terminals and handle with care. 

Lead Acid Automotive or Sealed: These batteries are commonly found in vehicles, lawnmowers, and some power tools. Leaking lead acid batteries are considered hazardous waste and should be handled with caution. 

 

WHY NOT:

They reduce the recyclability of other items.

INSTEAD:

Drop off your food waste with our Project Oscar community compost program. 

WHY NOT:

They get broken during sorting. Batteries and chemicals are unsafe for our workers.

INSTEAD:

Bring your unwanted or broken electronics to our Household Hazardous Waste Days. You can also check the Boston Reuse and Donation Directory for local organizations that resell, donate, or recycle electronics. 

Recycling Containers

Containers
Use a large recycling cart
Use a large recycling cart

If you live in a building with six units or fewer,  you can request a free large blue recycling cart from the City. You can request a cart through BOS:311:

Request a cart

 

Trash can
Convert trash can into recycling bin

You can turn a trash can into a recycling bin with a sticker from 311. The bin should be smaller than 32 gallons and needs a sticker.

Request a sticker

No plastic bags

Do not put recyclables in plastic grocery bags, or line your curbside recycling bin with plastic trash bags. Heavy-duty clear plastic bags are only allowed if you do not have enough space for a blue wheeled cart. If you have questions, call 3-1-1. 

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