Several items no longer accepted in Pierce County’s recycling program


Shredded paper, milk and juice cartons and plastic plant pots are no longer accepted in Pierce County’s recycling program.

This change affects all recycling, whether curbside or at drop-off locations, in Pierce County’s solid waste system. The Pierce County system does not include Tacoma, Ruston, Auburn, Pacific or Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

Recent challenges with recycling in the United States have prompted this change. For nearly two decades, most recyclables collected in the United States were baled and exported to mills in China. Many of the bales contained items that were not recyclable and had to be sent to landfills. To clean up their environment, the Chinese government banned the import of most categories of recyclable material in 2017.

Now that most recyclables are no longer sent overseas, recycling programs and ratepayers must manage the increased costs associated with processing and shipping recyclables to re-manufacturers in the United States and Canada.

Recycle right

The changes eliminate materials that are known to contaminate the recycling stream and ensure the recyclables can be marketed to re-manufacturers.

“Our tips for keeping contamination out of your recycling cart are to recycle the right things and don’t put things in the cart hoping they’ll be recycled,” said Ryan Dicks, Pierce County Planning and Public Works sustainable resources administrator. “We also need to think about ways to reduce waste, such as bringing reusable bottles and mugs with you and repairing items instead of replacing them.”

Decision made with stakeholder input

Pierce County staff reviewed all items accepted in the recycling program in fall 2018. They met with representatives from the hauling and disposal companies that operate in Pierce County and the materials recovery facility in Frederickson that processes most of the recyclables collected in Pierce County’s system. They also considered recommendations from recycling industry organizations.

The changes were reviewed and supported by the Pierce County Solid Waste Advisory Committee in December. The committee includes citizen representatives and members of both the business community and local government.

Residents can learn more about the changes and request a reminder magnet at

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