Tricky Trash and Risky Recycling

By Chiara Favaloro, Marketing Fellow 

Each year, Americans produce over 200 million tons of solid waste, most of which ends up in landfills. It can be challenging to know what to recycle and what to throw away, but it is very important not to mix them up. We’re here to help make sure you know how to correctly dispose of your most tricky trash and risky recycling items.


  • BLACK PLASTIC- Plastic items are sorted by optical scanners which use the reflection of light to identify the types of plastics. Black plastic doesn’t reflect light, so cannot be seen and sorted by the scanners and could end up contaminating other materials such as glass bottles.
  • PLASTIC UTENSILS- These are made of the same resin used to make polystyrene foam and labeled #6 which is not recyclable.
  • FREEZER BOXES- With freezer boxes, it is impossible to remove the plastic from the paperboard, and most municipalities cannot accept this plastic into their recycling stream.
  • STYROFOAM- Styrofoam is made of foamed polyesterene and the technology to recycle this material is not practical, so it has to go in the trash.


  • YOGURT CONTAINERS- Most yogurt containers are recyclable as long as they are clean!
  • POST-IT NOTES- Post-its are made of paper, and even though they have a sticky backing can still be recycled.
  • ENVELOPES WITH TRANSPARENT WINDOW- Even with the plastic window, paper envelopes are recyclable!
  • PLASTIC CLAMSHELLS- As long as they are not black or Styrofoam, clear plastic clamshells can be recycled.
  • COLORFUL PAPER- You can recycle most paper, even if it is glossy or colored.

This information is based on the recycling guidelines of the Springfield Materials Recycling Facility and is subject to change. A more detailed list of how to dispose of your discarded items can be found here


  • peggy

    Thank you Chiara!

    March 30, 2017
  • Chris

    Frozen food containers (ice cream, juice, etc) have been accepted for recycling in Amherst, Leverett other surrounding towns for YEARS – believe this article claim otherwise is incorrect for MA towns

    April 6, 2017
    • Kevin Pink

      Hi Chris,

      Thank you for your comment, and your dedication to recycling!

      It’s always important to check with your hauler and/or processor about what kinds of materials you can put in the recycling. Amherst and Leverett are both served by the Springfield Materials Recycling Facility (MRF). The MRF’s guidelines on materials accepted for recycling indicate that frozen food packaging and frozen juice cartons should not be included with recycling meant for the facility. However, I was able to confirm that residents of Amherst who have purchased a vehicle sticker may bring these containers to the transfer station to be collected as part of the drop-off composting program. I hope this helps to clarify the nature of these particular materials.

      Again, thank you for your comment, and for reading our article!

      Kevin Pink
      Marketing & Development Specialist
      Center for EcoTechnology

      April 13, 2017

Leave a comment


Email(will not be published)*


Your comment*

Submit Comment

Next Events
* indicates required