Reno recycling dos and don’ts

EcoChats get the conservation conversation flowing

Maia Dickerson of Keep Truckee Meadows Beautiful explains what can and can’t be recycled in Reno at an EcoChat last weekend.

Maia Dickerson of Keep Truckee Meadows Beautiful explains what can and can’t be recycled in Reno at an EcoChat last weekend.


Keep Truckee Meadows Beautiful, 851-5185,

If you’re anything like Kitty and Jeff Florez, you may be confused about exactly what can and can’t be recycled in Reno’s curbside recycling program.

“I was putting out things like plastic lids, and I didn’t realize you couldn’t put lids out in recycling,” said Kitty before a recent EcoChat presentation about recycling. “So we said, ‘We need to go and find out what we can and can’t put out.’”

Mai Dickerson, program director of Keep Truckee Meadows Beautiful, gave the second monthly EcoChat this past Saturday hosted by the environmental store EcoReno. The first was about dumping in public lands. The next, on March 28, will be about water conservation with guest speaker Andy Gebhardt from Truckee Meadows Water Authority.

“Basically, our efforts are to try to educate everybody and also have stuff in the store so we can live more sustainably,” said Morgan Tiar of EcoReno.

The roughly 25 people at the chat learned some surprising information. For instance, when it comes to curbside recycling of plastics, it’s not about its PET number, which ranges from 1-7. Rather, if it is a plastic bottle—defined as the top being smaller than the bottom—then you can recycle it here. So plastic water bottles and milk jugs, yes. But no plastic bags, yogurt cups, sour cream containers, or plastic lids. Plastic grocery bags, however, can be recycled at nearly any grocery store in town.

Some other clarifications:

• If you don’t have curbside recycling, take recyclables to bins at Smiths Shopping Center on Baring Boulevard in Sparks; Scolari’s at Mira Loma and McCarran Boulevard in Reno; and Recycle America transfer stations at 1100 E. Commercial Row in Reno or 1455 E. Greg St. in Sparks.

• Only clear, brown and green glass bottles or jars are recycled.

• Paperboard, the stuff cereal boxes are made of, is not recycled.

• Cardboard isn’t recycled curbside. Take it to a transfer station.

• You can recycle newspaper and magazines curbside, but office paper and junk mail needs to go to the transfer stations.

• Yes, you should rinse it, at least lightly. A 2005 Environmental Protection Agency Study in the Pacific Northwest found that 24 percent of plastic bottles were rejected as being too contaminated for recycling.

• Recycle compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) at any Waste Management facility, local transfer stations and at Home Depot and EcoReno.

• Recycle wine corks at EcoReno and Whole Foods Market.

• You sort your recyclables for a reason: The recycling truck is separated into compartments for glass, plastics and newspaper. However, a pilot project on Kings Row that had residents placing all recyclables in one bin—single stream recycling—was conducted in 2007. The resulting participation rate increased from 42 to 82 percent, but the cost to convert to single-stream throughout the city would be in the millions, according to city officials.

“If you don’t think something can be recycled, get creative,” said Dickerson. Yogurt cups, for example, make great seedling containers. And local artists, teachers, and visitors to Craigslist are often looking for materials for artwork and other uses. Dickerson noted that anyone concerned about local recycling options should contact their city council representatives.