Recycling 101: What to Put in Your Purple Cart

Now that the City and County of Denver will be picking up recycling in our purple carts every week, its the perfect time for a refresher on what can be recycled. Recycling rules and laws in different areas can vary drastically, and some can be complex and confusing. So, whether you use a City purple cart or have recycling picked up by a private hauler if you live in an apartment or condo, here are some of the best tips to help you recycle easily, no matter what your local recycling center requires.

  • Cardboard, metal cans, paper, and plastic with the numbers 1 or 2 are most widely recycled, so no matter what your rules are, these get the green light. 
  • Speaking of plastics, those labeled 1 and 2 are always recycled, 5 is often accepted by some recycling centers, 3, 6, and 7 are not recyclable. 
  • “Clam-Shell” containers like those used to package strawberries, bakery goods and salads with a 1, 2 or 5 label on them can be recycled.
  • To-go cups aren’t usually recyclable, since there is usually a plastic or wax lining. 
  • Styrofoam cups and containers are not recyclable.
  • Pizza boxes that have grease or food residue shouldn’t be recycled, but they can be composted!
  • Plastic bags cannot go in recycle, but you can take them to Safeway or King Soopers! Plastic bags are the number one recycling contaminant in Denver.
  • In general, anything smaller than a credit card should not be recycled, as it can clog the recycling machines. So no K-cups and individual coffee creamer containers.

Hopefully these tips help you easily decide what can or can’t go in the recycling bin. If you are not sure if an item can be recycled, put it in the trash. When in doubt, throw it out. The more we sort our recycling, the less time and energy is spent later on at recycling centers, meaning your small habit can make a big change.