You can’t recycle these 7 things curbside in Michigan, even though you want to

Local drop-off program can likely take them

Green garbage bin. (WPLG)

Sometimes, an item just feels like it should be thrown in the recycling bin. But you may not be guessing right. And that can cause big problems for local recycling programs.

If an item is not on the approved list for your local recycling program, it’s probably because they can’t manage it appropriately. Michigan EGLE identified seven items that are commonly misunderstood as things you can recycle in the state:

Carton containers

  • Although often mistaken for paperboard, they are actually made of two or three materials layered together (paper, plastic, and aluminum).
  • Manufacturers have joined together as the “Carton Council” to increase access to carton recycling programs across the United States. Many programs in Michigan now accept carton containers, but be sure to double check before you put it in your bin.

Paper coffee cups

  • Paper cups are lined with a thin layer of plastic or wax coating to keep liquid from leaking through the cups.
  • Processing facilities only exist in select locations, and are not common.
  • Consider a reusable mug or compostable paper cups.

Plastic bags and film packaging

  • Some recycling facilities are not designed to remove plastic bags prior to the recycling stream. When not properly removed, they can get tangled in machinery and processing equipment.
  • Check near the entrance of your local grocery store for a drop-off bin.
  • Minimize your use of plastic bags by taking along a few reusable bags when you go to the store.


  • Many programs don’t accept EPS because of it’s limited compaction ability, light weight characteristics and bulkiness. Additionally, frequent use in the food industry presents a higher risk of contamination.
  • Check with your local recycling program for information on drop-off centers or special collection days in order to recycle Styrofoam.

Bulky rigid plastics

  • Includes such items as 5-gallon buckets, lawn furniture, laundry baskets, crates (such as milk crates), clothes hangers, and plastic children’s toys and outdoor play equipment.
  • Many recycling facilities aren’t designed to handle and process these materials. Check with your local recycling program to see if they are equipped to take them. If your recycling program does accept them, be sure to remove any batteries.
  • If the items are still in usable condition, consider donating them for re-use.

Clothing and textiles

  • Each year, the average person throws away over 50 lbs. of clothing that could be reused or recycled. Discarded clothing accounts for about 10% of our waste stream.
  • When possible, donate to a local store or charity.
  • While curbside clothing recycling is uncommon, a few places in Michigan offer this service. If your area does not have a curbside program for textiles, see if your local recycling program has a designated drop-off receptacle


  • It is important for batteries to be recycled properly due to toxicity from heavy metals, such as lead, mercury, cadmium, and nickel.
  • Batteries are not regularly collected through curbside recycling, and if you take your household recycling to a drop-off center, batteries typically shouldn’t be recycled with other commingled recyclables.
  • Battery recycling is often offered through a special receptacle at recycling drop-off centers, household hazardous waste collection events/locations, or at other local businesses.
  • Many Home Depot and Lowes stores take batteries. Check the map here.

Some recycling programs in Michigan do accept some of these items at drop-off sites or through special collection events, so be sure to check with your community or service provider for options in your area. Recycle Here! in Detroit is a great place to start, and it’s free.

Related: With more access, Michiganders’ recycling rate has reached an all-time high

About the Author:

Ken Haddad is the digital content and audience manager for WDIV / He also authors the Morning Report Newsletter and various other newsletters. He's been with WDIV since 2013. He enjoys suffering through Lions games on Sundays in the fall.