Recycling FAQ

Thank you for your interest in recycling right. A recycle symbol is NOT a good indicator of whether something can be recycled locally. We recognize that this can cause confusion about what goes in curbside recycling carts and recycle dumpsters and what should go in the trash. We address some of the most common recycling questions here. 

When in doubt, throw it out – or ask. Unwanted materials can harm employees and equipment at the Recycle Center. If you don’t see an answer to your question, email us at or message us @LiveGreenLex on Facebook or Instagram. We’ll get back to you. We may even add the questions/answers to this page as a resource for other thoughtful recyclers.

To quickly find an answer, you can search keywords in the page by using the find feature. For PCs, hold down control and F together, and a search box will appear near the top right of the screen. For Macs, hold down command and F together, and a bar will appear along the top of your screen with a search box along the right-hand side.

What materials can be recycled in my curbside cart?

Aluminum and steel cans, lids and canisters; plastic screw-top bottles, jugs and jars (caps on); corrugated cardboard; paperboard; brown packing paper and brown paper bags; paper – newspaper, magazines, catalogs, office paper, mail, paper envelopes; refrigerated and shelf-stable cartons (caps on); glass bottles and jars

Materials should be clean, dry and loose. A flyer of this list, with pictures, can be downloaded and printed.

What if I use a private hauler for recycling?

The list above still applies, as local private haulers use the Lexington Recycle Center for sorting.

I have an item with a recycle symbol on it. It can go in the blue cart, right?

Not all items with a recycle symbol are recyclable in Lexington. Contamination can harm equipment and place Recycle Center employees at risk. 

Should I bag my recycling?

No, never bag recycling. If workers cannot tell what is inside, they must treat it as contamination. Materials should be loose, not bagged.

Can receipts be recycled?

No. You know how receipts have a slick feeling to them? That's a chemical coating, which makes it so they can't be recycled.

What types of cartons can be recycled?

Refrigerated gable-top (like milk), shelf-stable with a cap (like broth), and shelf-stable with a poke-top (like juice boxes) can be recycled in the blue curbside carts and mixed recycling dumpsters.

Can the caps from cartons be recycled?

Yes, caps from cartons can be recycled. They should be put back on after the cartons are emptied and rinsed. Cartons can be recycled without the caps, but caps cannot be recycled unless they are attached to the empty, clean container.

Can wine boxes be recycled?

Yes, wine box cartons can be recycled. The bladder lining must be removed first.

What is paperboard? Can I recycle all paperboard?

Paperboard is a thin, cardboard-like material frequently used in packaging, such as cracker boxes, pasta boxes and tissue boxes. Paperboard includes items that are brown on both sides (e.g., paper towel rolls), printed on one side (e.g., cereal boxes) or white on both sides (e.g., shirt boxes). Refrigerated and frozen paperboard CAN go in the recycling. This includes drink boxes, frozen pizza boxes and frozen meal boxes. The only exception is paperboard with a waxy coating that you can scratch off with your nail. If the coating easily scratches off, the container should go in the trash.


Can cardboard be recycled?

Yes, please! Break down cardboard boxes and remove all packing material. Only dry cardboard can be recycled, so make sure the lid of your cart is fully closed. Don’t set extra cardboard boxes on the curb if rain is in the forecast.

Can I recycle pizza boxes?

Takeout, delivery and frozen pizza boxes can be recycled if they are free of food and grease.

What should I do with egg cartons?

Generally speaking, there are three types of egg cartons. Styrofoam egg cartons should go in the trash; the same is true of plastic ones. Paperboard egg cartons can go in your blue curbside recycling cart or the mixed recycling dumpsters.

Can I recycle toilet paper rolls, paper towel rolls or wrapping paper tubes?

Yes, all three can go in your blue curbside recycling cart or in the mixed recycling dumpsters.

Can I recycle brown paper bags?

Brown paper bags can go in your blue recycling cart or mixed recycling dumpsters, as long as they are free of grease or other food residue. 

Can I recycle packing paper?

Brown packing paper, the type included with many shipping boxes, and the grayish paper, often used for moving, can both be recycled in curbside carts and mixed recycling dumpsters. Tissue paper cannot.

Can wrapping paper be recycled? What about tissue paper?

No. Neither wrapping paper nor tissue paper should go in your recycle bin. Please throw them away. Or, try a fun reusable option like gift bags or wrapping gifts in fabric. 


Do staples need to be removed from paper prior to recycling?

Staples are okay. Binders, binder clips, spiral binding should all be removed.

Can I recycle my old books?

Hardcover books should not go in your recycle cart. If they are still in usable condition, try finding a place to donate them. Otherwise, throw them away. Paperback books and unwanted phone books can be recycled. 

What about shredded paper?

Shredded paper cannot go in curbside recycling. It falls through the machinery and ends up with the trash. We recommend holding onto it until the next Paper Shred event.

What types of plastic can be recycled?

#1 and #2 screw top bottles, jugs and jars. Think soda and water bottles, milk jugs and liquid laundry detergent jugs. Caps can be recycled by placing them on the container. The container should be emptied and rinsed. Caps not on containers will fall through the machinery and end up in the trash. Plastic bottles, jugs and jars can be recycled without the caps, but caps cannot be recycled unless they are attached to the empty, clean container.

Can I recycle lids and bottle caps?

Yes, plastic lids can be recycled. They should be screwed back onto the container after it is empty and rinsed. Loose caps will fall through the machinery and end up in the trash.

Can I recycle plastic prescription bottles?

No, they cannot go in your blue curbside cart or the mixed recycling dumpsters. Vitamin, aspirin and other medicine bottles and caps (non-prescription) can be recycled. 

Can I recycle aluminum foil or pie tins?

No. Aluminum cans are the only type of aluminum that can go in your blue curbside cart or the mixed recycling dumpsters.

What types of steel cans can be recycled?

Steel food cans, canisters and lids can go in your blue curbside cart or the mixed recycling dumpsters. Canisters include things like tea, coffee or cookie canisters.

Can I recycle aerosol cans?

Most aerosol cans can be recycled, as long as they are completely empty. The exceptions are cans that contained WD-40 or spray paint.

What types of glass can be recycled?

Glass bottles and jars, colored and clear. Examples include soda, beer and wine bottles, pasta sauce and salsa jars.

Can lids from glass jars be recycled?

Yes. They should be put in the cart loose, NOT on the jar.

Do I need a special bin for glass?

No, glass bottles and jars go in with the rest of your recycling. Lexington used to separate glass, so you may have an older recycling cart if you see a reference to a glass bin.

Do I need to wash jars, cans, bottles, etc. before recycling them?

Items should be clean and dry before they go in the recycle bin, meaning all food residue should be removed. Ideally, they should be rinsed and dried, but they don’t need to be washed in the dishwasher.

Do I need to remove labels?

No, that isn’t necessary. Materials should be clean and dry, but labels don’t need to come off bottles, jugs and jars before you put them in the recycle bin.


What is the proper way to recycle cell phones and other small electronics?

You can take them to the Electronics Recycling Center, located at 1306 Versailles Road. They are open six days a week. This service is free for Fayette County residents. Electronics should never go in recycle carts or dumpsters. They can get tangled in equipment and cause fires at the Recycle Center. 

How should I dispose of medical waste?

Place used needles and other sharp objects inside a sharps container (like a coffee can), seal it so it won't come open and then dispose of the can with your household trash. Urine bags and medical tubing can be put in green trash carts after they are secured in garbage bags. Empty urine bags first.

Never, ever put medical waste in your recycling. This can cause serious safety issues for employees working the line. It also results in otherwise acceptable recyclable material being sent to the landfill, since it has been contaminated.

Can empty one pound propane or helium bottles be recycled?

Not in your curbside recycling cart or mixed recycling dumpster. Empty compressed gas containers should be saved for the next Household Hazardous Waste event.

In my former town, I could recycle yogurt cups/clamshell containers/etc. Why can’t you take those items?

Each recycling market is different. It is based on having the equipment to sort the materials and industries willing to buy and process the sorted materials. That’s what we mean when we say “recycling is local.” Lexington is careful to ensure that the material we collect, sort and sell is turned into new material, not landfilled or shipped abroad to places with less strict environmental regulations.

My question is not on this list. How can I find the answer?

If you don’t see an answer to your question, email us at or message us @LiveGreenLex on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. We’ll get back to you.