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It would be nice if we could recycle, well, everything. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. There are quite a few items and materials that cannot be recycled. Knowing what they are can help you properly dispose of them without clogging up recycling centers, and maybe make you think twice before using some of them in the first place. Let’s get into what can you not recycle so you can start living a more eco-friendly lifestyle.

Person holding up a bag for the blog what can you not recycle?

What Can You Not Recycle in North Carolina? 

Though the rules of recycling can get confusing quickly, there are some absolute off-limits items that should never make their way into your household recycling. 

What Can You Not Recycle in Your Curbside Bin? 

While the exact rules vary from city to city, many locations in North Carolina agree that the following items should not be placed in your recycling bin for curbside pickup:

  • Needles
  • Propane Tanks
  • Motor Oil
  • Pesticide
  • Waxed Cardboard
  • Wood and Yard Waste
  • Wire, Hose, Cords, Rope, Chains
  • Styrofoam
  • Plastic Bags
  • Food-Contaminated Boxes and Bags
  • Antifreeze
  • Waxed Boxes
  • Used cooking oil 
  • Bubble wrap
  • Coat hangers
  • Razor Blades
  • Tires

If these are found in your bin or beside it, your collection team may opt to avoid picking up your bins completely that week. Or, you can keep trash out of landfills by learning how to upcycle.

What Can You Recycle in Curbside Bins?

If you’re looking for a more specific list of what you can recycle in North Carolina, here’s a quick cheat sheet.

You can recycle: 

  • Newspapers
  • Inserts
  • Junk mail
  • Notebook paper
  • Computer Paper
  • Brown Paper Bags
  • Corrugated Cardboard
  • Plastic Beverage Rings
  • Cereal Boxes
  • Food Boxes with minimal or no grease 
  • Glass (Clear, blue, brown, and green)
  • Green Glass
  • Metal and Bi-Metal Cans
  • Plastic Bottles No. 1-7
  • Gable Top Cartons

Your municipality should distribute recycling bins. As long as you have the bin out on collection day—which you should be able to find by giving the city a call or heading to their website—and the lid will close securely, the collection crews will pick it up and sort through the materials, ensuring they are properly recycled. 

How To Dispose of Things You Cannot Recycle

Just because you cannot recycle certain things curbside in North Carolina doesn’t mean all of those materials have to go straight to the landfill. Some items that will not be collected with curbside recycling can still be recycled through other means. 

Plastic Bags 

Plastic bags can cause equipment malfunctions and delays at the recycling center, so they should never be placed in curbside recycling bins. Instead, bring your plastic bags to a local grocery store. Most of them offer drop-off locations. 

Once they are collected from these locations, they can be recycled into synthetic lumber, or into another bag.

Better yet, opt for reusable canvas tote bags for your grocery trips and farmer’s markets visits to avoid worrying about properly disposing of plastic bags altogether. 


Styrofoam is one of the most difficult materials to recycle, and many residents opt to simply throw it into the trash rather than navigate the process of giving this material new life. 

There are some styrofoam products that still cannot be recycled in North Carolina as of now. These will need to be disposed of in the trash for collection:

  • Blue or pink foam insulation 
  • Flexible foam 
  • Styrofoam cups 
  • Styrofoam to-go boxes

However, there are some styrofoams that can be collected by recycling programs and repurposed. Those include:

  • Block styrofoam such as that used in packaging for appliances and coolers
  • Packing peanuts

Programs like Hard 2 Recycle by Rainbow Recycling put on events where you drop off these items regularly. Packing peanuts can be used again for packaging, and block styrofoam can be remolded or turned into insulation. 


Batteries are an especially confusing item to recycle. There dozens of different types of batters, and each one comes with its own very specific recycling requirements. Plus, improperly disposing of batteries can be especially harmful to the environment, as materials and compounds used in them such as mercury, cadmium, lead, nickel, and others are dangerous to both human health and the environment. 

Some single-use alkaline batteries can be disposed of with other waste, while others need to be picked up by local household hazardous waste collection programs. Check out our in-depth guide to battery disposal for more info on how to recycle every type of battery.

Cooking Oil

Most of us already know that you should never pour oil down the drain, but how should you dispose of it? The most environmentally-friendly way to recycle your cooking oil is to reuse it when possible. 

Simply wait for the oil to cool, strain it through a coffee filter or cheesecloth, and keep it in an airtight container for reuse. After three or four uses, it’s probably time to recycle the old oil. This can’t be done with your curbside pickup, but you can bring it in a sealed container to your local recycling center. 

Most commonly, old cooking oil can then be made into a fuel that can be run in diesel engines.

Motor Oil

If pouring your cooking oil into the trash is frowned upon, it stands to reason that doing the same with your motor oil would be a big no-no. But since most of us are changing our oil at least once a year, we’re left asking what to do with the old oil once we drain it out. 

In North Carolina, as in many other states in the U.S., household hazardous waste collection centers located throughout the state offer motor oil collection to make the process easy. 

You’ll just have to be sure that you are draining your oil into a plastic drain pan with a screw-top lid that will stay closed. Then, deliver it to your local household hazardous waste collection center for proper disposal.

Used motor oil will then be either re-refined to be reused as motor oil, burned for specific types of heaters, or used for energy recovery. 


Pesticides are substances used to kill insects and other organisms harmful to landscapes and plant life. If you have unused, expired, or simply unwanted pesticides sitting around your North Carolina home—or even empty containers that used to hold pesticides—you cannot dispose of them with curbside recycling. 

You should also not just toss them into the trash: Pesticides are potentially toxic to people and animals. If they are improperly disposed of they can seep into water systems and ecosystems and cause long-term damage. 

Instead, always bring any leftover pesticide to your local North Carolina hazardous waste collection center, where they can safely dispose of it. While most of the containers are made of plastic which can technically be recycled, the hazardous nature of the materials they contain require careful management before they can be sent to the facility that recycles the particular type of plastic they are made from. 

Waxed Cardboard

Waxed cardboard is cardboard that has been coated with polyethylene in order to make it more durable. It’s commonly used in product packaging and for shipping produce. 

This type of cardboard cannot be recycled in North Carolina. Instead, it must be tossed with regular waste. Be sure not to get this mixed up with glossy cardboard. This cardboard is  commonly used in product packaging, and can be recycled. 

To make sure what you’re looking at is waxed cardboard and not glossy, scrape the surface with your fingernail. If wax comes up, you’re dealing with waxed cardboard. 

Yard Waste

North Carolina state law dictates that yard waste has to be disposed of in a separate bin from garbage and recycling. So while there are options for recycling your yard waste, it can’t technically be recycled the same way other materials are. 

Yard waste, such as lawn clippings, leaves, and small branches, should be either placed in a separate 32-ounce trash can or bagged in a heavy-duty clear plastic bag. No matter the container, they should not weigh any more than 50 pounds. 

Construction Waste

Construction projects can be big producers of waste. Everything from insulation to wood and plaster piles up quickly. 

Some construction waste might be recyclable, but any material that is not needs to be disposed of by bringing it to a nearby landfill.

The easiest way to clean up after a construction project? With a roll-off dumpster rental. Wall Recycling can drop off a 10, 15, 20, 30, or 40 yard dumpster to your construction site. Fill it up as you go, and when you’re ready our team will show up to get the whole thing and all of its contents off your hands. We take it from there, making sure all materials are properly disposed of. 


This is a big one: In 2011, North Carolina made it illegal to toss old computers and televisions. Instead, they have to be disposed of either through donation to an organization like Goodwill, or through recycling centers like Wall Recycling. 

If you choose to drop it off at a recycling center, you won’t have to worry that you are complying with local technology recycling laws: They take care of that for you. 


Appliances can also not be disposed of in the trash, according to North Carolina state law. 

To get rid of old appliances and stay in accordance with state legislation, homeowners can schedule a special collections pick up for a fee of $50. This special pick up applies to furniture and carpeting, in addition to old appliances.

You can also take your old appliances to a recycling drop-off center, such as your local Wall Recycling location. There is no fee for a drop-off, making it the most cost-effective option for responsibly disposing of appliances. 


It’s illegal to simply put tires in the trash, and they will not be collected if you put them out with your curbside waste and recycling in North Carolina. This is because tires contain steel belts which can pierce liners and equipment at landfills, leading to contamination. Instead of throwing them out, consider: 

  • Taking them to a tire shop for disposal for a small fee
  • Finding a nearby recycling center that will take tires 
  • Calling a junk removal service to come pick up and dispose of the tire for you

Razor Blades

While the material razor blades are made of is recyclable, actual blades are not—thanks to obvious safety concerns. 

To dispose of razor blades in North Carolina, you’ll need to either place them in a sealed container to be thrown away with your regular trash, or wrap the blade in several pieces of paper and bind completely with tape. 

You can even buy “blade banks” specifically designed to safely keep old razor blades until it’s full and ready for disposal. 

North Carolina Landfill Disposal Bans

The North Carolina General Assembly has banned certain materials from landfills, either for safety concerns, operations concerns, or environmental concerns. 

That landfill disposal ban applies to:  

  • Used oil
  • Yard trash
  • White goods (Appliances and furniture) 
  • Antifreeze
  • Aluminum cans
  • Scrap tires
  • Lead-acid batteries
  • Motor vehicle oil filters
  • Plastic bottles
  • Wooden pallets
  • Oyster shells
  • Computer equipment and televisions
  • Beverage containers from ABC permit-holders
  • Fluorescent lights
  • Mercury-containing thermostats


Whether a recent spring cleanout has left you with a pile of junk you’re not sure how to dispose of, or you’ve just had the same old computer or appliance lying around for ages with nowhere to put it, Wall Recycling can help. 

Drop off your items at Wall Recycling and let us take it from there. You can rest easy knowing our experts are on it. 

Contact us today to learn more about recycling in North Carolina!