Basics of Recycling in Cary

Cary, NC — Recycling can be a great way to be good to the environment and reduce landfill waste, that is, if you’re doing it right. Here’s a refresher on the dos and don’ts of curbside recycling in Cary.

From Cart to Facility

Whether or not something is recyclable is determined by the marketplace and the technology used to sort and process
items. The collected items then go to a materials recovery facility (MRF) to sort, bale and sell the items that are collected.


The Don’t Recycle List

Bagged Items

Items must be loose in order for them to be sorted correctly at the MRF. The MRF Cary uses deems it unsafe and inefficient to empty bags of materials on the sorting line. Be sure to place and keep items loose in the cart so your efforts don’t go to waste.

Take Out (Clamshell) Plastic Containers

Okay, this one was new information to me. According to the Town of Cary’s Waste Wizard tool, all plastic “clamshell” style containers are supposed to be put in your garbage cart.

This brings up a good point — not all items that have a recycling symbol or number 1-7 on the bottom can actually be recycled in Cary. The number found on the container indicates the main type of plastic it is made from, but the shape of the container may mean different requirements for proper sorting and processing. When in doubt, check with the Waste Wizard search tool.

Pizza Boxes

Surprised about this one? It’s one of the most common errors in recycling.

Any type of food waste in our recycling carts is considered contamination, including food stuck on and grease-soaked into cardboard. Contamination lowers the quality of the material and can contaminate other clean items that are collected.

Plastic Bag & Plastic Wraps/films

First off, no black plastics are accepted at all. Other, clear plastic bags, wrap/film (like the overwrap on a case of bottled water) should stay clean and dry for recycling, and this is not possible in Cary’s collection process. The MRF is also not capable of handling this type of material as it gets caught in equipment and other recyclables.

To find drop-off locations for plastic bag recycling, visit

Why are Collections Every Other Week?

In 2009, Cary switched from 18-gallon recycling bins to 65 and 96-gallon recycling carts and introduced an every other week recycling schedule. According to the Town, these updates increased the efficiency, cost-effectiveness and safety of the service.

Households that consistently need more than one recycling cart can request a free cart online or call (919) 469-4090.

Special Items

Computer/Electronic and Appliance Recycling

Appliances/white goods and televisions/monitors are banned from North Carolina landfills. Find options to recycle these using the Waste Wizard.

Used Motor Oil/Filters Disposal

The Town collects and recycles used motor oil and filters free of charge by appointment. Request a collection by calling 311 or (919) 469-4090. Used motor oil must be placed in a plastic container no larger than 5 gallons, sealed with a screw-cap lid and labeled “Used Motor Oil.” Filters must be triple-bagged.

Residential Waste Cooking Oil Recycling

Save and recycle your fats, oils and grease (FOG) to make bio-fuel. The Town provides this service free of charge when scheduled through our Residential Cooking Oil Curbside Collection and Recycling Program.

Use these tips and the Waste Wizard tool to make sure recycling more and recycling correctly go hand-in-hand.

Story from staff reports. 

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5 replies
  1. Gary Brown
    Gary Brown says:

    On pick-up days I am still amazed with what I see & smell piled up in overflowing brown carts at the curb while out for a walk.

    The TOC’s video production crew needs to make a silent video that all languages will understand. Show a worker separating what is recyclable and what is not.

    Show close-ups of styrofoam, clamshells, pizza boxes, plastic bags, etc.

    It would even be a great Eagle Scout project!

    The website “wizard” is too clunky, in my opinion.

    People are totally fooled by recycling symbols.

    I suspect the TOC is not breaking even on the cost of pick-up.

    • Gary Brown
      Gary Brown says:

      also,maybe put out some not-to-recycle publicity about personal protective equipment (PPE) like disposable masks and gloves

  2. Patty Cervenka
    Patty Cervenka says:

    There is some good information here but I’d like to make the following comments.

    1. Cary no longer contracts with Sonoco. The most important impact this has had for Cary recycling is acseptic containers (milk cartons, broth cartons). These can be recycled at Wake County Convenience Centers.

    2. Pizza boxes and food waste can be composted at some Wake County facilities. See above link. ☝️

    3. I would encourage folks to consider trying to produce less waste before ordering another recycle bin. Consider being thoughtful about purchasing and finding ways to reduce and reuse before recycling.

    4. Great tips are available from local organizations like Toward Zero Waste, Cary It Green and Greenish Neighbor on social media.

    • Ashley Kairis
      Ashley Kairis says:

      Patty, thanks for this great information and clarification on Sunoco no longer being contracted. My apologies for this error, it is still listed on the Town of Cary website as such here —

Comments are closed.