Daily, SWANCC staff receives inquiries from residents asking how to manage items that should not be thrown away due to reusability, recyclability, or the need for proper disposal.  Here are the answers to the most frequently asked questions.  If you have other questions, please send an email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call 847-724-9205.

All answers pertain to materials from residential households, not from businesses, schools, or institutions.


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.

batteries Facebook Post

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.  To eliminate the risk of generating a spark that can cause a fire, before taking batteries to a recycling drop-off put clear packaging tape around the terminal ends of lithium primary AA, AAA, 9V, and D batteries, place coin cell batteries on clear packaging tape in a line on the top and bottom (like a sandwich), or place individual lithium and coin cell batteries in separate plastic baggies.

tapedterminals                  barrington  

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.

How do I recycle propane and helium tanks?

 propane tank                       Helium

Propane 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.

Chicago HHW
1150 N. North Branch Street
Tues: 7 am to noon
Thurs: 2 pm to 7 pm
First Sat. of each month: 8am to 3 pm

Naperville HHW
156 Fort Hill Drive
Sat: 9 am to 2 pm
Sun: 9 am to 2 pm

  • Contact a local propane specialized recycler, such as AmeriGas.

522 South Vermont St
Palatine, IL 60067
(847) 359-6450

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

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.

Balloon Time Instructions

Balloon Time Video

Graphics and Instructions

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.

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.


Newest Recycling Guidelines 2021 JPEG


To prepare your items for recycling:

  • Empty and rinse bottles, cans and containers to remove food or beverage residue
  • Place only approved items in the cart.
  • Do not “bag” recyclables – put them in the outside cart loose.
  • Put caps back on plastic bottles and jugs – DO NOT crush!
  • Flatten boxes and place inside your cart.
  • Remove wax bags from food boxes (such as cereal or cracker boxes).
  • Labels can remain on jars/bottles and plastic windows on envelopes.
  • Keep the lid on your recycling cart closed at all times to keep materials dry.

There are four very important words to remember:  Empty – Clean – Loose – Dry!

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.


The Cook County Sheriff Department’s Prescription Drug Take Back offers its residents year-round drop-offs at secure Collection Boxes at:

  • Local police departments/public safety buildings
  • District court houses
  • The County Building
  • Metropolitan Water Reclamation District’s locations

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) partners with local Police Departments to host a fall and spring Drug Take-Back Day.

Many Walgreens and CVS pharmacies provide an in-store disposal kiosk that are available during pharmacy hours. The types of medications accepted include prescription medications and other items. 

SWANCC sponsors a program for non-controlled pill medications.  Residents should visit their respective community’s website or call their municipal recycling coordinator for details.


SWANCC sponsors a Sharps Collection Program for member-community residents that administer home injections and provides industry regulation containers to store needles at home.  The Agency contracts with a permitted company to pick up the needles from participating communities for safe disposal.  Residents should visit their respective community’s website or call their municipal recycling coordinator for details.

If you do not live in a SWANCC member community, the US EPA recommends that home sharps users store their needles in a thick-plastic, puncture-proof container with a tight-fitting lid, such as a detergent bottle.  Residents are asked to write on the bottle with a permanent marker, “Sharps” – “Do Not Recycle!”  After filling the bottle with used needles, heavy duty tape should secure the lid and the bottle thrown in the garbage. 

NEVER put sharps into the recycling cart.  Home sharps users need to be mindful to keep the storage container out of the reach of children and pets.

For additional information on US EPA recommendations for disposal of medications and sharps see the US EPA website.

Where can I recycle light bulbs that contain mercury?

Compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) and fluorescent light tubes contain mercury and should not be thrown away in the garbage.  They are accepted at IEPA-sponsored Household Hazardous Waste sites for recycling.  Find other locations on SWANCC's Reuse and Recycling Directory .

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 styrofoam 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 Chicago and Aurora and the Mount Prospect Public Works accepts a variety of Styrofoam products.  Each business is listed in SWANCC’s Reuse and Recycling Directory.

How do I recycle large batteries?

Lead acid batteries such as automotive, marine and sump pump are prohibited by IL State law from being disposed of in the trash.  See options for getting rid of these batteries at gas stations, auto parts stores, and other locations on SWANCC's Reuse and Recycling Directory .

How should recyclables be prepared?


  • Empty and rinse bottles, cans and containers to remove food or beverage residue
  • Place only approved items in the cart.
  • Do not “bag” recyclables – put them in the outside cart loose.
  • Put caps back on plastic bottles and jugs – DO NOT crush!
  • Flatten boxes and place inside your cart.
  • Remove wax bags from food boxes (such as cereal or cracker boxes).
  • Labels can remain on jars/bottles and plastic windows on envelopes.
  • Keep the lid on your recycling cart closed at all times to keep materials dry.

There are four very important words to remember:  Empty – Clean – Loose – Dry!

How do I recycle appliances, large and small?
How do I recycle appliances, large and small?
About White Goods
White 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 Goods
1. Recycle through an Appliance Retailer
Look 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 Utility
Local 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. ComEd
3. Ask about Municipal Pick-Up of Appliances
Your 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 Programs
White 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 Recyclers
Thousands 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 Appliances 
Products 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.
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.

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 do with batteries?

If it lights up, moves, or makes noise, it has a BATTERY! Now what?

Have you noticed that many household items light up, move, or make noise? If so, they contain a battery, and those batteries are likely rechargeable.

Batteries are designed to pack a lot of energy into a tiny space. Many batteries are similar to child who eats to much candy and ends up "exploding" with the energy that is trapped within. Similarly, when batteries become overcharged, discharged to quickly, or damaged, they too can explode - literally. A particular culprit in this category of batteries are the lithium chemistries. From the tiniest buttons to the larger blocks, these batteries come in a variety of sizes, shapes, and colors. This can often make them challenging to identify.

Where do we find these batteries? Everywhere! Cell phones, computers, tablets, radios, power tools, smoke detectors, power banks, remote controls, light up shoes, bikes and scooters, gaming systems, musical cards, electric toothbrushes, e-cigarette and vape devices, watches, ear buds, hobby toys (rc cars, drones, planes, etc), and children's toys are just on the list of common locations for lithium chemistry batteries.

These batteries enhance our lives, but with such convenience comes responsibility. Purchase devices that have been tested and listed by a nationally recognized testing laboratory and batteries from a trusted retailer. Keep lithium chemistry batteries out of direct sunlight, away from sources of heat, and always follow manufacturer protocol.

Most often we can use these batteries over and over again without issue. However, if you notice an odd odor, discoloration, or the battery begins to change shape, that could be a sign of danger. Do not spray a lithium battery with water. Instead, bury the battery in a bucket with sand, kitty litter, or potting soil and dispose of it properly.

While recycling plain old alkaline batteries is preferred (through a special collection - not curbside), they are eligible material for the landfill. However, NO OTHER TYPE OF BATTERY CAN GO INTO THE GARBAGE OR RECYCLING BIN! Putting other chemistries of batteries, especially the lithium batteries into either bin is extremely dangerous. They MUST be packaged appropriately and brought to a special collection point.

The good news? All SWANCC communities are eligible to be part of a battery take-back program that includes all chemistries of batteries, including alkaline! This program has no additional cost to residents. Check with your community to see if this program is available to you. If not, encourage them to take part!

If your community does not participate in SWANCC's battery takeback program, you still have other options. Check out:


Naperville Household Hazardous Waste Facility

Solid Waste Agency of Lake County

Search SWANCC's Reuse and Recycling Directory for more options!

Why can't shredded paper go in my curbside recycle bin?

This is a very common question, and a good one to ask! After all, shredded paper is still paper, and paper can be recycled - right?

Let's look at it this way...Have you ever thrown confetti or done an art project with glitter? If so, then you have experienced first-hand how it gets everywhere, into everything, and you find it hiding away months later!

In a Materials Recovery Facility, shredded paper acts much the same way. The tiny shreds can't be captured in the sorting process, they cling to other objects and flutter around the facility. This causes contamination of other materials. In addition, the small shreddings become embedded in machinery and clog up the sorting equipment.

So, shred at home if needed, but avoid contamination in the recycle stream. Be sure to put shredded paper into the trash, NOT the recycle cart!

How do I dispose of expired fire extinguishers?

Expired fire extinguishers cannot be put in garbage or recycling carts.

Depending on the type of fire extinguisher, most portable fire extinguishers contain powdered CO2 and other chemicals. Here are the best disposal options:

  1. Some local fire departments accept fire extinguishers. Call your local firehouse to get details.
  2. If your local fire department is not accepting drop-offs, you can take the extinguisher to a hazardous waste disposal facility. This option is only for residents of Illinois – not businesses, schools, or institutions.

Chicago Household Chemicals & Computer Recycling Facility
1150 N North Branch St
Chicago, IL 60642
(312) 744-3060

Naperville Household Hazardous Waste Facility
156 Fort Hill Dr
Naperville, IL 60540
(630) 420-6095

3. Contact a company that sells and manages fire extinguishers for a drop-off option. Call for details.

Henrichsen's Fire & Safety Equipment Co.
563 North Wolf Road
Wheeling, Illinois 60090
(847) 459-7877

U.S. Fire & Safety Equipment Company
2412 Millennium Dr
Elgin, IL 60124
(773) 763-4422

Why do we flatten cardboard boxes for curbside recycling?

Boxes, boxes, boxes...Everything we buy, or order, seems to be packaged in boxes!

The good news is that cardboard and paper boxes can be recycled. While you can leave tape and labels on the box, it is important that boxes are CLEAN, DRY....AND FLATTENED!

It’s important to keep your cardboard boxes clean and dry because contaminated or wet items will affect the integrity of the material and may end up thrown away since saturated cardboard is difficult to recycle.

Why do we flatten boxes and not other items?

In single stream recycling, the burden of mechanically sorting accurately is on the materials recovery facility (MRF) and is determined by the composition of each material. Containers should be kept in their original shape for the best chance of proper mechanical sorting. For example, if a container is in an unfamiliar shape, like a crushed can or water bottle, then it may be mistaken as something different, sorted incorrectly, and contaminate other materials.

Cardboard & corrugated boxes not only take up valuable space when not flattened, but they too are identified by their shape and the only consistent shape for boxes of all kinds is FLAT. So, if you care enough to recycle those boxes in the first place, then take the time to flatten them and keep them dry by closing the lid on your cart.

Can I recycle plastic bags and flexible plastic?

Can I recycle plastic bags? Can I recycle plastic shipping packaging? Can I recycle plastic wrap?

Plastic bags and wraps DO NOT go in curbside recycling bins.

Plastic bags and wraps DO go to participating retail store recycling bins.

But why can't it go into the curbside cart? The short answer is that they gum up the works. Stretchy plastic bags and wraps often get stuck in the sorting equipment. Then, workers must shut down the machinery to cut and yank out the contamination. This can be dangerous, and it's a waste of time, money, and material.

Can I put my recyclables in a plastic bag and toss it all into my curbside bin?


Like other plastic bags and wraps, that plastic trash bag holding your recyclables gums up the works (see above). All recyclables must go into your curbside bin loose (i.e., not in a bag). 

Can I put my recyclables in a paper bag and toss it all into my curbside bin?


Even though the paper bag can be recycled too, restraining recyclable items prevents them from being sorted properly. They must be loose to be identified in the sorting process.

If you do collect your recyclables in a plastic or paper bag, dump the recyclables out of the bag into your curbside bin and reuse the bag if you can!

What do we do with all that wrapping paper?

Foil paper, ribbons, bows, and bags...Ooh my! NO, NO, NO!

One of the most common mistakes is tossing garbage bags full of wrapping paper into the recycle bin. While most wrapping paper is recyclable, placing it all in a bag removes it from the stream. Remember, everything that goes into your recycle bin MUST BE LOOSE - NO BAGS!

Think twice when purchasing wrapping paper. In order to qualify for recycling, it must be 100% paper. So, the rolls that sparkle, or have shiny foil mixed in are NOT eligible for the recycle bin.

We also need to watch out for the ribbon and bows that comes along with the wrapping paper, as those are tanglers. They get caught up in the mechanics, bog down the system, and can shut down the entire sorting line.

All paper has the best chance of being sorted properly if it is folded, not crumpled into a ball.

So, when recycling wrapping paper, remember:

  • No foil or sparkly paper in recycling
  • No ribbons, string, or bows in recycling
  • No bags - loose material only in recycling
  • Flatten, don't crumble the paper

SWANCC Newsletter