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Recycling Guidelines

Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA), has put together an interactive website to help residents: Recycle Better-Recycle Right. This poster serves as a visual aid to remind individuals what can and cannot be recycled. Post in lunchrooms, break rooms, lobbies or anywhere there is a recycling bin.

pdf Recycling Guidelines 2019 (2.09 MB)
pdf Recycling Guidelines 2019 Spanish (2.10 MB)

Listen to a conversation with SWANCC Recycling Director, Mary Allen and John Williams of WGN Radio.

Our staff receives many calls and email inquiries from residents asking what to do with items that should not be thrown away due to their reusability, recyclability, or need for proper disposal. Answers to the most frequently asked questions are posted below to provide guidance. If the answer to your question is not included, please contact SWANCC staff at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call (847) 724-9205.

What materials are accepted in my curbside recycling program?
Most municipal recycling contracts include the following materials.  However, always check with your Village or City staff for confirmation:


What about #6 Polystyrene plastics?
At this time, municipal curbside recycling programs are not accepting #6 PS plastics, known as polystyrene.  It comes in two forms, expanded (fluffy and white) and rigid (clear).  This plastic is mostly air, often coated with food contaminates, and can cost up to 300% more than other commodities to recycle due to its lightweight nature, lack of market competition and high transportation costs.  For other locations that will accept clean, expanded polystyrene from residents see SWANCC's Green Pages Directory.

What about plastic bags?
Plastic Bags cannot go into your curbside program because they are light in weight and can blow away as well as clog sorting machinery, but are collected at most major grocery and some retail stores for recycling.

If a package states that it is recyclable, why can’t I put it in my cart/bin?
Just because packaging claims to be recyclable doesn’t mean that it can be added to your municipal recycling program.  What it means is the product or packaging is technically able to be recycled, but the key is whether or not there is a market for that material, which dictates your community’s recycling program.

How should recyclables be prepared?

  1. Empty and rinse each container to remove food or beverage residue.
  2. Put plastic lids back on their original containers – put steel lids in the recycling cart/bin.
  3. Flatten large boxes to make room in the cart/bin for more materials.
  4. Remove the inside wax liners of paperboard boxes, such as cereal boxes and throw them away.
  5. Place only approved items in the cart or bin.  Things like tissue, paper towels and disposable paper goods all need to be thrown away.  Cardboard from pizza can only be recycled if there isn’t any grease or food on it.  Glass items, such as window glass, ceramics, pottery, crystal or light bulbs will contaminate recycled bottle glass if mixed together.
  6. Labels no longer have to be removed from containers.

Do different materials need to be separated?
No, all acceptable recyclables can be collected in one container, known as single-stream.

What happens to the recyclables?
Materials collected from municipal curbside programs will be taken to a Materials Recovery Facility (MRF), sorted, baled by material and then sold to a manufacturer who will make new products from the materials for the marketplace.  Watch recyclables being sorted at Groot's Facility here.  

How can I get recycling if I live in a condo or apartment building?
Each condominium association and apartment building landlord contracts with a private hauling company to provide solid waste pick up.  It is up to the managing company or landlord to include a recycling provision in the contract.  Join forces and voices to make this request.  Visit for drop-off locations throughout the Chicagoland area.

Where can Household Chemical Wastes be safely disposed?
Residentially-generated oil-based paint, as well as paint thinners, solvents and assorted household chemicals are considered hazardous waste and should be disposed of at an Illinois Environmental Protection Agency-sponsored (IEPA) one-day event or permanent collection facility. Any Illinois resident can drop off these types of materials at the following locations listed HERE

What do I do with unused latex paint?
First and foremost, think before you buy paint or any household product for that matter!  Do not purchase more paint than you will need and make sure that you have the right color.  Also be sure to ask for “environmentally-friendly” or no/low VOC paint to reduce your exposure to harsh chemical fumes.

Then, use up what you buy – cover areas with a second coat of paint or find something else to paint, for instance - use the paint as a base coat on a basement floor or outdoor fence.  When finished, remove the lid and let the can dry out and dispose of it in your regular garbage.  Be sure to leave the lid off so that your hauler knows the can is empty.

Try to donate good left-over paint to an area high school, local theater troupe, church, etc.

Or, if you have a significant amount of good paint to be reused, see SWANCC's Green Pages Reuse and Recycling Directory for donation locations.

If your latex paint is not usable and you are unable to dry it out yourself, see SWANCC's Green Pages Reuse and Recycling Directory for recycling locations.

In a protected and well-vented area (garage or basement), away from children and pets, remove the lid and allow paint to naturally dry out over a period of time.  This method works best if the can is less than ¼ full.  For fuller cans, mix shredded newspaper, kitty litter or a hardware store-bought waste paint hardener to the paint can and allow it to absorb and dry out over a period of time.

What happens to computers/electronics recycled through SWANCC?
SWANCC contracts with Com2 Recycling Solutions of Carol Stream, Illinois, to process, demanufacture and responsibly recycle the collected computers/electronics.  When the materials go to Com2’s facility, workers tear apart the items by hand and sort the different materials.  Materials will be used to make new products.

COM2 is a premier International electronic recycling company with R2 certifications, located in Carol Stream, Illinois, a western suburb of Chicago.  The company has been in business for over thirteen years.   The operation consists of an 86,000 square foot processing facility.  Their process concentrates on reuse and de-manufacturing electronic equipment for raw material value.   For more information, visit

Green Pages Reuse and Recycling Directory
SWANCC provides an online directory called Green Pages Reuse and Recycling Directory for items and materials that can be reused, recycled (not in curbside program) or provide an environmentally-safe disposal option.  Some of the sections include reuse opportunities for books, clothing, office equipment, sporting goods, and toys. Recycling outlets include companies that take appliances, construction debris, office machine cartridges, metals, motor oil and many other items.


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