Pizza boxes, plastic bags are hampering recycling efforts

Photo credit: Mary Galioto

Pizza boxes are cardboard and therefore should be recyclable, right? Nope. The problem is the once cheesy goodness leaves a greasy residue on the box, which contaminates the whole load. Meaning, everything goes to the landfill. Fold up those boxes and put them in the garbage—no matter how clean they may look. 

The same goes for the plastic bags you get from the grocery store which, should you choose to use them, must go back to the grocery store (most have a container for used bags). Not only are they NOT recyclable, they are the worst offenders when it comes mucking up the machinery. Double plus ungood for recycling efforts. 

In case you wondered, if the Township is providing recycling, your #3-#7 plastics are not recyclable either! If you live in Brandon Farms, however, you can also recycle your #5 plastic because it’s a different provider. A lot of take-out food is put into in #5 or #7 plastics—so look for that mark! 

For those who want to recycle their #5 plastics, foam egg cartons, wine corks, and more, The Hopewell Valley Green Team ( offers a recycling day the last Saturday of every month through October. Bring everything to their tent at Pennington Farmers Market held at Rosedale Mills, 101 Route 31 North, Pennington. 

You CAN however recycle your bottle caps, but DON’T leave them on the bottles. It’s a hazard for the recycling staff when bottles get compressed and bottle caps become little plastic projectiles. It’s also OK to leave your paper recyclables out for pickup even if it’s going to rain. Note: #1 and #2 plastics are good to go, but please rinse them out because contamination.

Thanks to Dan Napoleon, the Director of Environmental Programs at the Mercer County Improvement Authority (MCIA), who delivered these key tips for improving recycling quality at the Hopewell Township Committee on July 15. Mr. Napoleon also announced the MCIA is planning a campaign to make residents aware about what’s a go and what’s a no-go when it comes to recycling. Here’s the thing: Once the campaign is complete, if the collectors see banned stuff in the bin, they will leave it and apply a sticker explaining why it’s still on your curb.

Still confused as to what is and isn’t recyclable? Consider downloading the Recycle Coach app. Simply enter your address and it will tell you when your next recycling pickup is. You can also report a missed collection and search for items to find out whether they are or aren’t recyclable and how to go about disposing of them. 

Recycling is a great thing to do for the planet, but doing recycling wrong actually hurts more than it helps because those items—along with your good intentions—will just end up in the trash. We can and must do better. 

L. Helena Bouchez,

Hopewell Township (Brandon Farms)

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  1. What about kitchen garbage bags? I rinse out cans I recycle & put them in a trash can until I can’t take them to the dumpster in my apartment complex. It’s easier if I put them in a trash bag.

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