All answers pertain to materials from residential households, not from businesses, schools, or institutions.
What materials can be recycled from my home?
Here are the basic recycling guidelines for curbside programs in SWANCC communities. Check with your village or city for updates.
Where can I recycle batteries?
According to the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, single-use Alkaline batteries AAA, AA, C, D 6v & 9v are classified as "non-hazardous" and may be safely disposed with household trash. When possible, recycle Alkaline batteries to recover metals including zinc, manganese, brass and steel.
Lithium Primary and rechargeable Nickel Cadmium (NiCd), Nickel Metal Hydride (NiMh), and Lithium-Ion batteries contain mercury and other heavy metals and according to the IEPA, should be recycled. These batteries are found in cordless electronics like power tools, laptop and tablet computers, cell and cordless phones, as well as some toys, power banks, home security alarms, cordless vacuums, toothbrushes, and other devices that are plugged in an outlet to recharge the battery.
Because single-use Alkaline and Lithium batteries look amazingly similar, the best way to know is to read the label. Always place individual Lithium batteries in a plastic zip baggie, wrap it in plastic film or tape the terminal end with duct or electrical tape before recycling or disposing in the garbage to eliminate the risk of sparking a fire.
Call2Recycle partners with retail stores such as Best Buy, Home Depot and Lowes that accept lithium primary and rechargeable batteries only – NO alkaline batteries! Go to call2recycle.org/locator to find a location and for more information.
SWANCC sponsors a program for batteries. Check with your Village/City to see if they collect these items from residents.
- Where can I recycle light bulbs that contain mercury?
What is the best way to get rid of old medications and sharps (needles)?
There are a number of local, no-cost opportunities for residents to safely dispose of their unwanted and expired medications.
Where can I recycle televisions, computers, or other electronics?
Visit your community’s website or call the City/Village recycling coordinator to see if there is a provision in the municipal recycling contract to have electronics picked up at your door. Non-tube televisions, monitors, and other electronics and can be taken to retailers such as Abt Electronics in Glenview, Best Buy, or Goodwill for recycling. Please call to verify your items will be accepted and if there will be a fee.
SWANCC provides year-round and seasonal Electronics Recycling drop-off locations, as well as one-day events during the spring, summer and fall. There is a limit of 7 items per household and drop-off locations will be closed on National Holidays and in severe weather. Residents of a SWANCC-member community may utilize any of the Agency’s options.
How do I get rid of paint and other household chemicals?
There are two basic types of house paints, latex and oil. Latex paint is water based that does not contain hazardous chemicals and can be dried out and thrown away in the garbage cart – with lid off so the hauler knows the paint is completely dried. There are also programs that charge a fee to recycle latex paint - listed in SWANCC’s Reuse and Recycling Directory.
Oil-based paint contains harmful chemicals and needs to be taken to an Illinois Household Hazardous Waste Facility (HHW).
Since syrofoam cannot be recycled curbside, what are my options for recycling it someplace else?
Polystyrene, known as Styrofoam, is made into two types; (1) expanded white blocks for packaging and (2) rigid which is clear for cups, cutlery, clam shells and more. Abt Electronics in Glenview only accepts white block Styrofoam, and the Dart Corporation in Aurora accepts a variety of Styrofoam products. Each business is listed in SWANCC’s Reuse and Recycling Directory.
- How should recyclables be prepared?
How do I dispose of smoke detectors?
Ionization smoke detectors contain small amounts of radioactive materials. Never disassemble a smoke detector. Intact detectors pose little threat, but can be a health hazard if broken open. By federal regulation, all smoke detectors contain the mail-back address to send used units with radioactive chips. The address of the supplier may be listed in the product warranty or user's manual. The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission suggests checking the label on the detector for disposal options, but residents may safely discard individual units in their regular garbage.
Find other disposal options for smoke detectors SWANCC's Reuse and Recycling Directory .
- How do I recycle large batteries?
How do I get recycling at my condo or apartment building?
Each condominium association and apartment building landlord contracts with a private hauling company to provide garbage service. It is up to the managing company or landlord to include a recycling provision in the contract – which will be an additional fee. Join forces with your neighbors to make this request.
- How do I dispose plastic bags or wraps?
If I can't recycle my item curbside, is there another recycling option?
Earth911provides a directory of locations to recycle may vairous items as well as information and resources on living sustainably. Visit their website at Earth911.com.
TerraCycle® collects hard-to-recycle materials and turn them into new products. For more information on their programs and collection boxes visit terracycle.org.
What do I need to know before attending a document destruction event?
See SWANCC's Document Destruction page.
How to prepare for a shredding event:
- Paper must be dry, clean, and loose
- Remove metal clips, plastic sleeves, folders, and binders (small staples are okay)
- Place paper in paper shopping bags or cardboard boxes - NO PLASTIC BAGS - please!
- Limited to six (6) bags or boxes
- NO – Photos or family albums
- NO - Photo negatives
- NO – Plastic credit or gift cards
- NO - Plastic covers from check books or registers
- NO - Store receipts
- NO - Books
- NO - Non-sensitive documents
Recycle these in your curbside cart:
- Junk mail, ads, or coupons
- Greeting cards or wrapping paper
Find other options for paper shredding on SWANCC's Reuse and Recycling Directory .
How do I recycle propane and helium tanks?
Propane tanks, also called propane cylinders, are commonly used to fuel stoves, grills, and water heaters. Propane tanks are made of recyclable steel and copper. But due to the gas and pressure inside, these tanks cannot be recycled with your other curbside recycling or thrown in the garbage. If any gas is left in the tank, it could cause a fire or explosion at the landfill. You should not open a tank to let the rest of the gas leak out because it’s highly flammable. These pressurized containers are not welcomed in the trash because they create a potential hazard of explosions or fires in compactor trucks – and definitely not recyclable in the curbside cart.
So, what are your options?
- Get your tank refilled at the point of purchase.
- If the tank is no longer needed, take it back where you got it.
- Many Walgreens, Walmart, and Ace Hardware locations offer trade-in or disposal/recycling programs.
- Take smaller propane tanks to a household hazardous waste facility – visit websites for details.
- Contact a local propane specialized recycler, such as AmeriGas.
522 South Vermont St
Palatine, IL 60067
For a large, bulk propane tank at a home or business, contact a licensed propane company, such as your propane supplier for removal. They’ll be able to safely purge any remaining propane from the tank. They’ll also have the specialized tools to remove the tank safely.
Helium tanks can be dangerous if not properly prepared for recycling. Helium tanks, much like propane tanks or fire extinguishers, contain pressurized gas that can explode if handled incorrectly. This is unlikely to happen around your house, but if a full helium tank goes into the back of a compactor truck it can blow up, hurting or even killing sanitation workers.
Steps to Take:
- Ask yourself, “Are balloons really necessary for my gathering?” Balloons, especially helium, can float long distances and pose a threat to animals and eco systems if released into the outdoors.
- Buy prefilled balloons at the store.
- Many party stores rent helium tanks that you can return when you are finished.
- You can also purchase a large empty tank and have it filled at a party store or industry supply company when needed.
- Balloon Time has instructions and a video that takes you step by step through the process of depressurizing helium tanks. The key is to make sure the tank is completely empty, remove the valve, then punch a hole in the tank so it is safe for recycling.
The metal that makes up your old helium tank is very easy for a metal recycler to turn into something else. There is no reason to throw this valuable resource in the trash when it can have a second life as a useful product. Check with a HHW facility or find a local metal scrap yard for a recycling option.
- Get your tank refilled at the point of purchase.
How do I recycle appliances, large and small?
About White GoodsWhite Goods refers to major appliances such as refrigerators, stoves, air conditioners, and washing machines. Refrigerators and freezers contain refrigerants, oils, and other compounds that, by federal law, must be removed and recovered. Some recycling programs also capture the foam insulation inside the refrigerator doors for added environmental benefits. The steel, other metals, and selected parts can then be recycled. The average refrigerator aged 10 years or older contains more than 120 pounds of recyclable steel!Five Ways to Recycle White Goods1. Recycle through an Appliance RetailerLook for retailers that partner with EPA’s Responsible Appliance Disposal (RAD) Program. RAD is a voluntary partnership program to help protect the ozone layer and reduce emissions of greenhouse gases by recovering ozone-depleting chemicals from old refrigerators, freezers, window air conditioners, and dehumidifiers. Using best practices, RAD partners ensure that: refrigerant is recovered and reclaimed or destroyed; foam is recovered and destroyed, or the blowing agent is recovered and reclaimed; metals, plastic, and glass are recycled; and PCBs, mercury, and used oil are recovered and properly disposed.Many appliance retailers will pick up and recycle your old refridgerator or freezer when you purchase a new one. Ask your retailer for assurance that the old unit will be properly recycled and not re-sold as an inefficient, second-hand unit. Some retailers or manufacturers also offer cash rebates when you buy a new refridgerator.Appliances left curbside might be picked up by peddlers who may improperly vent refrigerant or otherwise dispose of the appliance in an unsafe manner.2. Check with Your State Energy Office or Local Electric UtilityLocal utilities and energy-efficiency organizations support a growing number of refrigerator and freezer recycling programs. Some programs offer cash to recycle your old refridgerator; others offer utility bill credits. ComEd3. Ask about Municipal Pick-Up of AppliancesYour community’s waste management service provider may offer heavy trash pick-up and recycling programs for appliances as part of your Village or City contract. Check out details at your respective municipal’s website or call for details.4. Drop-off ProgramsWhite goods can be dropped off at SWANCC’s Transfer Station at 3 Providence Way in Des Plaines during business hours for a fee of $25 per item or taken to area recyclers. For details, visit SWANCC’s Reuse and Recycling Directory.5. Local Scrap Metal RecyclersThousands of local scrap metal recyclers can recycle old refridgerators and freezers. Ask your scrap metal recycler for assurance that your old unit will be properly recycled. Visit SWANCC’s Reuse and Recycling Directory for locations.Small Household AppliancesProducts such as toasters, blenders, coffee makers, microwaves, vacuum cleaners, lamps, etc. can be thrown away in the garbage if they cannot be donated for reuse or recycled through other programs. Additionally, any small item that contains a high percentage of metal, such as a microwave, can be left out on the curb or alley next to the garbage cart for a “scrapper” to pick up and take to a metal recycler. Be mindful of local ordinances.Be sure to visit SWANCC’s Recycling FAQs for information about managing other household materials.