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Metro and cities launch website on what to throw in the trash and what can be recycled

COURTESY PHOTO: MARISSA LEWIS FOR UNSPLASH - Plastic bags cannot be recycled. They muck up the machinery at recycle plants and cost everyone more money. How about a reusable bag instead?Attention please! Plastic bags cannot be recycled.

Although cities, counties, Metro regional government and garbage haulers have all publicized this information, plastic bags and plastic wrap that goes around toilet paper packages and the like continue to end up in recycle bins.

"Plastic bags have never been part of curbside recycling, but they have been the biggest problem at the (recycling) plants," said Shannon Martin, program manager, recycling and solid waste, for the city of Gresham.

The bags and wrap get tangled up in the machinery and the machines have to be shut down while the bags are extracted. It slows things down and raises the cost of recycling.

As much as people want to recycle plastic bags, they go in the trash.

"People want to do the right thing," said Patrick Morgan, recycling specialist, at Metro regional government. "But they run the risk of contaminating the rest of the recycle. It's more important to recycle correctly than recycle a lot."

Of course, taking a reusable bag to the store or for take out food, can reduce the number of plastic bags households end up with in the first place.

Recycling can be confusing. It seems odd that a cereal box, milk carton and aseptic soup and juice cartons can be recycled, but not the box that housed frozen mac and cheese.

To help the public figure out what can go in the recycle bin and what has to be tossed in the garbage, Metro and local governments have launched a web page,, to help answer questions about what can be recycled, even with the most baffling items.

There is also an Instagram page @recycleornot where people can send photos and questions on specific items.

The web page divides items by materials: plastic paper, glass and metal and "other." People can scroll through the examples that are clearly marked "recyclable" or "not recyclable."

Other items that cannot be recycled, but often end up in the recycle bin, are take out and to-go containers, plastic clamshells and coffee and drink cups. Lids for plastic cups and condiment packets are also garbage.

Republic Services in Woodburn, which serves north Marion County, also provides a website to clarify recycling:

Gresham's Martin said that just because the little recycle arrows are on the bottom of a container does not mean it belongs in the curbside recycle.

Batteries cannot be recycled or put in the trash. The Metro web page can help people find a place to take toxic materials at: COURTESY PHOTO: FREESTOCKS.ORG FOR UNSPLASH - This is a beautiful gift, but the glitter means the box cannot be recycled.

Holiday recycling

Christmas and Hanukkah gifts can produce mountains of debris, some can be recycled and a much of it has to go in the garbage.

Wrapping paper that does not have glitter or foil on it can go in the recycling.

"A little bit of tape is OK," Morgan said.

Holiday lights cannot be recycled. Bows, ribbon and broken glass ornaments are also a no go.

Cards with those tiny batteries that sing or say something cannot be recycled, unless the battery is removed. The batteries are causing fires in the recycling plants.

Those big blocks of styrofoam that cushion many gifts can't go into the curbside recycle bin. Gresham accepts it at Earth Day events.

Said Martin: "Oregonians have a deep commitment to the environment and recycling is very important. We're encouraging people to check the list and do it right." '

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