Johnson County Dives into What You Are Recycling 

In celebration of America Recycles Day, which occurs every November 15, Johnson County Department of Health and Environment (JCDHE) in conjunction with Waste Management and Bridging the Gap (BTG) conducted an in-depth sort at the recycling facility. The goal of the sort was to look at what materials residents are putting in their recycling bins that can and cannot be recycled. The results revealed that over 26% of what residents are putting in their recycling bin is actually not recyclable curbside 

Recent restrictions brought about by China, and several other Southeast Asian countries, have brought increased attention and pressure to the recycling industry. By placing non-recyclable materials in your curbside recycle bin, residents unintentionally impact the recycling industry in several ways, including harming the equipment at the recycling facility, and causing good, quality recyclable materials to end up in the landfill. 

Last month, volunteers sorted through 1,433.50 pounds of recycling from one local neighborhood route in Johnson County; of that amount 1,053.8 pounds were recyclable. Through analysis by Bridging The Gap, it was determined that the remaining 26.5% of the sample was considered contamination and would ultimately end up in the landfill or lead to contamination of usable recyclables. The two materials that caused the most issues by weight were bagged recyclables and contaminated or wet/dirty paper. Other notable contaminates included glass, plastic bags or product wrap, and scrap metal, all of which is recyclable at drop off locations but not accepted curbside.

The results from the sort will be used to educate the public on recycling right. The complete report can be found by clicking here.


Segmented collection of recycables to be sorted


Volunteer crew ready to begin


Recyclables placed on table for sorting


Volunteers can’t believe how many bags there are!


Volunteers spent four hours sorting through the materials.


#DitchtheBags! Plastic bags are not recyclable curbside.


Not recyclable curbside: pool toys, plastic bags, Amazon envelopes, plastic envelopes


Not recyclable curbside: paper plates, plastic hangers, candy wrappers, leaves, food (of any kind), foiled mailing envelopes


Not recyclable curbside: plastic bags, napkins, tissues, yard debris


Not recyclable curbside: food of any kind (limes and cereal shown here), pill or vitamin foil wrappers, tissue paper, candy wrappers


Not recyclable curbside: food, newspaper bags, paper towels, dirty containers (the salsa jar could have been recycled if properly rinsed)