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Sustainability at Work

Providing free tools and expertise to achieve your goals

Phone: 503-823-7037

Email: sustainabilityatwork@portlandoregon.gov

Can I recycle this?

You’re holding a plastic cup, hovering over the recycling bin, but doubting yourself. Does it go in recycling? Or maybe trash? 

Plastics are especially confusing when it comes to recycling. Here’s a run-down of what goes where and why:

Can I recycle these?
Plastic lids, cups, containers, straw and utensils

No. 

These plastics should not go in your regular recycling container.Plastics not allowed in city-wide recycling system

At work, and at home, the only plastics you should put in your recycling container are bottles, tubs (6oz or larger), buckets and jugs.
Plastics allowed in city-wide recycling system

Why?

Sometimes it’s because the items are too small (think lids), making them too hard to sort out from paper, cardboard and other recyclables.

Other times it’s because the global market for a particular type of plastic changes too frequently (to-go containers, for example). Recycling only works if it makes financial sense for companies to buy the used plastics to turn into new plastics.

What about the numbers on the bottom of plastics?

1-7 Recycling number labels for plastics

Ignore the numbers. The numbers on the bottom of plastics refers to the materials they are made from and play no role in what is recyclable in Portland

Just think size and shape. The allowed plastics – bottles, tubs, buckets and jugs – are the right shapes to get successfully sorted, and they’re the types of plastic that recycling companies want to buy.

Is there any way to recycle these extra plastics?

Yes. Even though you can’t put these items in your mixed recycling, they can still be collected separately and dropped off at many places around town. Find the closest drop-off location to you by using Metro’s Find a Recycler website, or calling their hotline: 503-234-3000.

To set up extra plastics recycling at work, check out our helpful guide.

What about plastics labeled “compostable” or “biodegradable?”

Never put plastics labeled “compostable” or “biodegradable” into any recycling container. These “plastics” are made to break down quickly and will contaminate the plastics recycling process and reduce the quality of goods produced from the recycled materials.
"compostable" & biodegradable plastics