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The City of Portland, Oregon

Sustainability at Work

Providing free tools and expertise to achieve your goals

Phone: 503-823-7037

Email: sustainabilityatwork@portlandoregon.gov

Business recycling guide

Portland businesses can recycle the same things at work as they can at home

Help your coworkers recycle right: Get free recycling signs to post at your workplace.

Do not put your recyclables in bags. Bagged recyclables cause problems at the sorting facilities.


Mixed Recycling

Paper, cardboard, plastic and can be collected together, but glass should always be collected in a separate container.

paper and cardboard that can be recycled in Portland

YES: Cardboard boxes, newspapers, magazines, catalogs, phone books, scrap paper, junk mail, cartons (milk, juice, soup), shredded paper (must be in paper bag, or large clear plastic bag with a few holes punched in it).

NO: Coffee cups, take-out food containers, paper plates, paper towels, napkins, tissue paper, wax-coated cardboard, pizza boxes, frozen food boxes, label backing sheets; or paper coated with food, wax, foil or plastic.

plastic items that can be recycled in Portland

When sorting your plastics, ignore the recycle symbol and number: Plastics recycling in Portland is based on the size and shape of the item.

YES: Plastic bottles with neck smaller than base (6 ounces or larger), plastic jugs (milk, juice, etc.), plastic tubs (6 ounces or larger) and buckets (5 gallons or smaller).

*Redeemable plastic beverage bottles with a 10-cent deposit can either be recycled in your regular recycling bin or, if you wish to collect your deposit funds, you can take them to some grocery stores or any BottleDrop Center.

Please rinse containers: They do not need to be perfectly clean, but should be free of food residue.

NO: Any plastic that is not shaped like a bottle, tub, bucket or jug. This includes:

  • Plastic bags. Plastic film of any type: pallet wrap, bubble wrap, stretch wrap.
  • Plastic caps and lids. Plastic take-out food containers and disposable plates, cups and cutlery. Prescription medicine bottles and other plastic containers under 6 oz.
  • Disposable plastic or latex gloves. 
  • Bottles that have come in contact with motor oil, pesticides or herbicides.

metal items that can be recycled in Portland

YES: Aluminum, tin and steel food cans, empty dry metal paint cans, empty aerosol cans, aluminum foil, scrap metal (smaller than 30 inches and less than 30 pounds).

To recycle small metal pieces (under 2 inches), like metal lids, screws and nails, collect inside a soup can, crimp tightly closed, then put into mixed recycling.

*Redeemable metal beverage cans and bottles with a 10-cent deposit can either be recycled in your regular recycling bin or, if you wish to collect your deposit funds, you can take them to some grocery stores or any BottleDrop Center.

NO: Aerosol cans that still contain liquids should be emptied (if non-toxic, like cooking spray) or disposed of at a hazardous waste facility (if toxic, like chemicals or paint). Not sure if it’s toxic? Call 503-234-3000.


Glass recycling

Glass should always be collected separately. Never put glass in your mixed recycling container. If glass ends up with other recyclables, it can cause harm to the staff and machinery at local recycling facilities.

glass items that can be recycled in Portland

YES: All colors of glass (labels are ok).

*Redeemable glass beverage bottles with a 10-cent deposit can either be recycled in your regular glass recycling bin or, if you wish to collect your deposit funds, you can take them to some grocery stores or any BottleDrop Center.

NO: Drinking glasses, flower vases, ceramics, dishware or drinkware of any kind, light bulbs.*

*Compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) must be disposed of at a hazardous waste facility or other approved drop-off (call 503-234-3000 to find the nearest location to you).


Frequently asked questions

Why is “recyclable” not always recyclable?

There is no regulation on labeling something “recyclable” (or “compostable”). What you can recycle differs all over the country – it depends on what recycling facilities are available.

A material may technically be recyclable but not realistically recyclable. Items allowed in Portland's recycling: 

  • Must have a stable market: Manufacturers must consistently want to buy the material at a price that covers the processing cost.
  • Must be able to be sorted by local facilities in a way that’s economically feasible and safe for workers.

We work closely with the recycling collectors, sorting facilities and manufacturers to come up with the list of approved list of recyclable items for Portland.

When in doubt, find out – and if you don’t have time to find out, throw it out!

What happens if the wrong things go in the recycling bin?

When the wrong things are put in recycling, staff at the recycling sorting facilities have to pick them out by hand. This slows down the sorting process, making it difficult for these businesses to operate efficiently and cost-effectively. If there is too much garbage in recycling, it may be disposed of as garbage.

How clean do things have to be before putting them in recycling?

You want to avoid “goop,” liquids and heavy food residue that could dirty paper in your bin, or attract pests at the recycling facilities. However, you don’t have to scrub recyclables clean – and in fact you want to avoid using a lot of hot water and soap, which have their own environmental impacts. A quick rinse and shake dry should do it for most items.


Recycling right matters

Recycling right is better than recycling more.

The main goal of recycling isn’t to “keep things out of the landfill” but rather to reuse materials to reduce the amount of natural resources and energy needed to make things from raw materials.

When people put things into their recycling that aren’t allowed (sometimes due to well-intentioned “wishful recycling”), they’re putting trash into the recycling system that people at the sorting facilities have to remove. This adds cost and hassle to the already challenging process of sorting recycling.

Top tips:

  • Follow the list. When in doubt, find out (or throw it out).
  • Never put plastic bags in your mixed recycling bin (they jam the gears at sorting facilities).
  • Never put batteries in recycling (some types can start fires at sorting facilities).

Not sure if something’s recyclable? When in doubt, find out – and if you don’t have time to find out, throw it out.