Frequently Asked Questions about Recycling

Carts & Recycling

How do I obtain a rollout recycling cart?

Each single family household is allowed one 96-gallon recycling cart for all its recyclables, no sorting needed. Call City Link by dialing 311 or 727-8000. You can also request a cart online via the or the Recycle Today home page.

How can I get a replacement for my cart that is missing or damaged? 
 Call CityLink 311.

My recycling was missed. How do I report a missed pickup?  
First, check to see if you were left a red non-collection courtesy notice explaining why the materials were not collected. If you did not find a notice, call the Recycling Hotline at 72-EARTH (723-2784) between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. on weekdays. Please allow 24 hours for pickup.

How do I know what week to put out my cart?

A collection map and calendar for Red Week and Blue Week collections is posted online. You can also look up your rollout recycling and garbage collection days by address online. Residents without access to a computer can call CityLink at 311 and a CityLink agent will provide their collection information.

What if I have more recyclable materials than will fit in my recycling cart? 
You have several options: 
(1) Flatten your recyclables to create more space in the cart. 
(2) Retain you excess recyclables for the next collection. 
(3) Take your additional materials to the free recycling drop-off center at the Hanes Mill Road Landfill. 
NOTE: Recycling carts are serviced with automated collection trucks. Recyclables left beside the cart cannot be collected.

The recycling truck usually comes by my house late in the day. Why do I have to have my cart at the curb by 6a.m.? 
Route schedules may change due to employee changes, weather conditions, or other factors. Late set-outs may delay your pickup until your next collection day.

Should I put my recycling cart out when it's raining? 

What if I cannot roll my cart to the curb?

Households where no one is physically able to roll out the cart, but want to participate in rollout recycling, can call City Link 311 and make arrangements for a crew to service their cart. These households will have to compete a form certifying that no one in the home is physically able to roll out the cart. Rollout recycling exemption form - print and mail in [pdf/1p]

I'm moving. What should I do with my recycling cart?  
Each cart is assigned to a particular address and the city retains ownership of the cart. If you move, leave the cart for the next resident to use. If there isn't a cart at your new residence, call City Link at 311 or 727-8000.

I live in a multifamily complex with a recycling station. Will I receive an individual cart for my unit?  
No. Residents in a multifamily with a recycling station must take their recycling to the station. If your multifamily complex does not have a recycling station, the complex manager should e-mail Derek Owens, the city’s recycling coordinator, to arrange for a station.

What do I do with my old green recycling bin?  
You may keep the bin and use it for something else. If you want, you may recycle your bin by putting it in your cart once rollout recycling starts.

What if I want to turn my green bin in? 
 Call CityLink 311 and request a pickup.

I understand that there is a computer chip in the cart. What is it for? 
The carts come with unique radio frequency identification (RFID) chips. The chips may eventually be used with short-range scanners mounted on the collection trucks to keep track of the carts and provide collection data. However, this is not currently part of the program.

What can and can't be recycled

What is NOT accepted for recycling? 
Antifreeze containers, books, binders, ceramics, deli containers, dishes, drinking glasses, hazardous waste containers, light bulbs, mirrors, motor oil containers, paint cans, pesticide containers, pizza boxes or other cardboard boxes that are contaminated with grease or food residue, plastic bags, plastic newspaper bags, plastic wrap, Pyrex containers, spiral notebooks, Styrofoam, wide-mouth containers (margarine tubs, ice cream pails, etc.) or window glass. If in doubt, please call 72-EARTH.

Why should I recycle? 
Recycling has both environmental and economic benefits. Recycling reduces the amount of waste generated by your household, saves landfill space, and reduces the costs for landfill disposal. Also, recycling saves energy and natural resources (i.e., water, minerals, trees), reduces air and water pollution, and creates markets for recyclable materials.

Can bottle caps and lids be recycled? 
 Yes, metal caps/lids; Yes, plastic caps/lids

Can I recycle....

... envelopes with the plastic windows? What about staples? Glossy advertisements? Post-its? Can I recycle paper with tape on it? 

... spiral notebooks? 

... batteries? 
 No, Batteries can not be recycled through the curbside program.

... cereal boxes? 
 Yes, they are chipboard (paperboard with a gray inside).

... plastic bags? 
 Not in your recycling cart. Most grocery stores provide recycling bins for plastic bags.

… toys and household objects made of plastic? 

... my computer and printer?  
Computers and printers can be recycled at Goodwill Attended Donation Centers through Reconnect, a Dell/Goodwill partnership.

Can I recycle ANY plastic that has a recycling sign and number on it? 
No, it must be a plastic bottle with a neck that is smaller than the base or widest part.

If plastic doesn’t have a recycling logo on it, can it still be recycled?  
Per Terry Feeney of Recycle America, a recycler would have to see such a bottle before accepting it. There has to be a market for it in order to be accepted. Most bottles are coded 1-7.

Can some things be recycled more easily than others? 
Paper is the easiest material to recycle into new products.

Product specific questions

Why can't I recycle pizza boxes? 
They generally contain grease and/or food residue.

What do the little numbers on the bottom of plastic containers represent or stand for? 
The numbers on the bottom of plastic containers are resin identification codes and they indicate the type of plastic a container is made from. The codes are not intended to mean that a particular product is recyclable, which is why recycling programs identify what plastic products are acceptable and are not acceptable.


Do I have to separate glass, plastic, aluminum, and steel? 
 No. Place all you recyclables in your blue rollout cart.

How clean do containers need to be before I toss them into the recycling cart? 
 Simply rinse; no need to wash.

Do I need to take the labels off jars and cans? 
No, labels are OK.

Should I step on plastic bottles and crush cans before recycling? 
Only if you need more capacity in your cart.

What are the basic procedures for recycling aluminum cans? 
Empty and rinse. You do not need to crush unless you need more space in your cart.

Is paper worth any money when you recycle it? 

What can I do with packing peanuts? 
Save them for personal use or check with packaging service stores to see if they will accept them.

City requirements

Is recycling required by law in Winston Salem?

No, it is a voluntary program. But a new state law, effective on Oct. 1, 2009, makes it illegal to dispose of plastic bottles in the trash; they must be recycled. Aluminum cans are also banned from the landfill from a prior law. (Read news article about plastic bottles banned in landfill.)

What about recycling yard waste? Is it required by law?  
It is not required by law, but N.C. State Law prohibits the disposal of yard wastes (e.g., leaves, grass clippings, tree limbs, etc.) in sanitary landfills. Therefore, the Sanitation Division operates two permanent leaf drop-off sites: Reynolds Park Road, which only accept leaves from city Sanitation crews during the leaf season; and Overdale Yard Waste Facility, which accepts leaves from the general public as well as the city Sanitation crews throughout the year.

What happens to it?

What is being done to help Winston-Salem schools recycle?

School recycling information.

Where do Winston-Salem's recyclables go?  
Recyclable materials are taken to a materials recovery facility(MRF), where they are separated, baled, and prepared for market. Ultimately, those recyclables will come back in the form of new products.

Does stuff put in recycling carts ever get thrown away?
Yes, unacceptable items, known as contamination, are taken to the landfill.


If something is made from recycled paper or plastic, can it be recycled again? 

What are the top three simple steps I can take to reduce landfill waste and improve recycling in Winston-Salem? 
Reduce first, then reuse, and finally recycle. Learn what is accepted in the program and then recycle everything that you can. Encourage others to recycle, whether at home, school, work, and on the go.

What would happen if everyone in Winston-Salem stopped recycling? 
If everyone stopped recycling, there would be increased environmental problems, an increase in waste in the landfills, and the life of landfills would be reduced.

What are the benefits of recycling? 
Recycling saves natural resources and landfill space, reduces the need for new landfills, conserves energy, reduces pollution and litter, and creates jobs.

What else can I do? 
Encourage others to reduce waste and recycle. Don't forget to "close the loop" by purchasing recycled content products and packaging.

Notes: Terry Feeney, District Manager - Recycle America Materials Processing Facility contributed to answering these questions. He may be contacted at 631-9439. Effective Oct. 1, 2009, it is illegal to dispose in landfills any rigid plastic containers (bottles) that have a neck smaller than the body of the container. More info can be found at

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