Each year, Americans produce over 200 million tons of solid waste, most of which ends up in landfills. It can be challenging to know what to recycle and what to throw away, but it is very important not to mix them up or create any recycling bin contamination. Luckily, Massachusetts has some very helpful tools for making sure you know how to properly dispose of each item. RecycleSmart MA has fantastic resources, educational information, and a short quiz to test your recycling knowledge.

CET is also here to help make sure you know how to correctly dispose of your waste items. Learn more about how to reduce your waste at home and check out the RecycleSmart MA Recyclopedia tool. Just type in the name of a waste item and the Recyclopedia will tell you how to recycle or dispose of it! This is a great way to make sure you know where each item belongs. To get you started, here is some guidance on the most tricky trash and risky recycling items:


  • BLACK PLASTIC- Plastic items are sorted by optical scanners which use the reflection of light to identify the types of plastics. Black plastic doesn’t reflect light, so it cannot be seen and sorted by the scanners and could end up contaminating other materials such as glass bottles.
  • PLASTIC UTENSILS- These are made of the same resin used to make polystyrene foam and labeled a #6 material, which is not recyclable.
  • FREEZER BOXES- Unfortunately, it is impossible to remove the thin plastic layer coating the paperboard, which has been sprayed onto the paper to prevent freezer burn. This layer prevents the paper fibers from being able to break down in the process of recycling.
  • STYROFOAM- Styrofoam is made of foamed polystyrene and the technology to recycle this material is not practical, so it has to go in the trash.


  • YOGURT CONTAINERS- Most yogurt containers are recyclable as long as they are clean!
  • STICKY NOTES- These are made of paper, and even though they have a sticky backing can still be recycled if they are larger than a credit card. Very small sticky notes should be excluded, as they will fall through the cracks of the machinery at the sorting facility and will not be recycled.
  • ENVELOPES WITH TRANSPARENT WINDOW- Even with the plastic window, paper envelopes are recyclable!
  • PLASTIC CLAMSHELLS- As long as they are not black or Styrofoam, clear plastic clamshells can be recycled.
  • COLORFUL PAPER- You can recycle most paper, even if it is glossy or colored.

This information is based on the recycling guidelines of the Springfield Materials Recycling Facility and is subject to change.