You may have heard the PSAs from the City Environmental Services Department. They run on our station and they encourage us to help stop “recycling contamination”. That is, when “dirty” or non-recyclable items are put into the blue bins which often results with the entire load of “recyclables” being thrown into a landfill. If you toss a used paper plate into your recycling bin, that might make the entire bin “non-recyclable”.

I took a really close look at the directives on recycling and I was surprised. Did you know the city of El Paso does NOT recycle glass? Well, “glass” is on the city’s list of things that can’t be in the blue recycle bin. I think a lot of people, myself included, just ASSUMED glass could be recycled. For one thing, most glass bottles specifically say that they are “100% recyclable”. Also, there are plenty of American cities that DO recycle glass. In fact, El Paso CAN recycle glass, but you have to drop it off at a separate recycling center yourself; you’re not supposed to put it in your blue bin.

Also, the city says an entire bin can be contaminated by a single pizza box. But there are  multiple articles online that say pizza boxes CAN AND SHOULD be recycled. Dominos Pizza just this year promoted their boxes as recyclable.

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So, there’s a whole LOT of confusion and mixed messaging.

But here’s the NUMBER ONE thing that you’re not supposed to put in recycling and I think a vast majority of El Pasoans have no idea: plastic trash bags.

Yep. “Plastic Bags” and “Bagged Recyclables” are on the no-no list. I told this to a number of my co-workers and I was met with disbelief. But, it’s true. When you throw out your recycling DO NOT put them in a Glad or Hefty bag. My suspicion is that the plastic actually IS recyclable but the Sanitation workers don’t have time to check inside them. Better to just tell everyone that trash bags aren’t allowed. It makes sense but, at the same time, it’s really confusing.

Here’s a complete list of things you can recycle in El Paso. Notice that every entry includes the words “do not bag”. Told you!


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