Recycling Plastics Properly

Plastic recycling explained

Recycling plastics can sometimes seem confusing.

  • What happens if I put the wrong stuff in my recycling?
  • Why can't I recycle all plastics?
  • But it has the recycling symbol on it, that means I can recycle it, right?
  • What really happens to all that plastic? 
  • Are there other plastics you can take somewhere to be recycled?  

These are all common questions that we hear and we've got the answers. 

Recycle only the accepted plastics in your home/work recycling 

This is very important! Resist the urge to add other items that seem similar or that you think should be recyclable. Unaccepted items that are frequently put in carts include all kinds of plastic bags, take-out food containers and more.

When the wrong items are placed in the recycling it may be impossible for our recycling sorting facilities to separate the "good" stuff which can decrease the value of our recycling material making it harder to recycle it at all. 

Many plastics can be recycled, but not in the mixed home/work recycling. What is on the accepted list is there because it can be sorted by our local material recycling facilities (MRFs) and it has stable end markets for turning it into other products. 

We encourage everyone to review the list of accepted materials. Even if you’ve looked at it before and your confident you recycle right, it can't hurt to double check and be sure to only include plastics from the accepted list. 

Recycling - What goes in?

In our area we recycle by shape and size not number. That little triangle, often referred to as a recycling symbol, doesn't mean it's accepted in our system. The small number is a resin code used by the plastics industry to identify the specific chemical makeup of that item and neither the number nor the triangle indicate whether or not that item is accepted in our local system. 

Here's a brief summary of what plastics are accepted, or not, in your home/work mixed recycling. 

Plastics bottles and round containers 6-ounces or larger, buckets up to 5-gallons and rigid plant pots at least 4 inches across.
Recycling of milk cartons, yogurt tubs, shampoo bottles, water bottles and more.
Not Acceptable
All other plastics not listed on the accepted list like plastic bags and take-out containers.
No recycling of blister packs, plastic utensils, brewed coffee containers and more.

Here's a short video all about plastics recycling. 

Thank you for making recycling successful in Oregon! Questions about what can be recycled? Ask Metro or call 503-234-3000 or contact Beaverton's Recycling Program at 503-526-2665 or

Look for opportunities to reduce waste

  • When possible, avoid items with packaging, plastic or otherwise. 
  • Try the bulk section at your local grocery store. 
  • Bring your own reusable shopping bags. 
  • Borrow before buying. If it's an item that you don't need often, try borrowing it from a friend, family or neighbor before buying. Borrowing means zero packaging waste. Remember the hierarchy, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. Reduce and Reuse have the largest positive environmental impact. Reduce, reuse, recycle hierarchy triangle

The plastics you properly recycle are made into new products

Oregon’s Right to Recycle law and City of Beaverton’s Solid Waste & Recycling Administrative Rules ensure that properly prepared recycling is not disposed of as garbage. The plastics you recycle at home/work are sold to manufacturers nationally and internationally to be made into new products. 

Common products made with recycled plastic include bottles, fleece clothes, plastic bags and even your recycling and garbage roll carts. 

Blue bag handle with phrase that says rePETe this bag is made from recycled materials

Recycle beyond the curb

When we say "Recycle beyond the curb" what we mean is consider taking materials not accepted in your home/work mixed recycling to a facility that can recycle them. Several materials like plastic bags and block foam (Styrofoam) packaging can be recycled, just not in your mixed recycling. For various reasons they must be kept separate. 

Visit Metro's Find a Recycler web tool or call 503-234-3000 to find options for other materials not accepted at the curb.