Winston-Salem Recycling: What Can You Really Recycle?

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Winston-Salem recycling support varies from city to city. For those that live in the twin cities, here’s a list of things you can recycle. Anything not on this list should not be recycled at this time unless taken to a specific facility or using an online provider (for which we also provide details).

On this page you’ll find: Curbside Pickup Do’s and Don’ts | Details on Individual Items | Tips & Guidelines | Where to Recycle Hard to Recycle Items | Online Services | Questions?

Curbside Pickup

Here’s the do’s and don’ts for curbside pickup (rollout cart program). The city now offers rollout Winston-Salem recycling carts that are picked up on a bi-weekly basis. These carts hold five-times as much as the green bins and protect materials to be recycled from the weather. Biweekly collection saves fuel, reduces emissions and saves you trips to the curb. Because the pickup is automated, here are some guidelines that will help with collection.

  • No sorting required. All items to be recycled can mingle in the cart.
  • Be sure the lid closes.
  • Put your cart out at the edge of the curb (not in the street) with the front of the cart facing the street.
  • Leave at least three feet of open space around each cart.
  • Do not place the cart under low-lying limbs or power lines.
  • Put your cart out by 6 a.m. and remove by the next day.

List Of Things You Can Recycle Via Curbside Pickup

  • Glass Bottles & Jars – green, brown and clear only (no caps)
  • Corrugated Cardboard – flattened and no larger that 3×3 feet (larger cardboard boxes may be taken to collection sites located throughout the city – see below)
  • Junk mail
  • Office Paper such as envelopes, notebook paper, office paper
  • Chipboard (usually brown or gray on the inside) such as cereal boxes, paper towel cores, facial tissue boxes, etc. Please remove any foil or plastic liners.
  • Newspaper, magazines, catalogs, phone books
  • Plastic bottles and jugs #1 through #7 but only if the neck is smaller than the base of the package
  • Aluminum and Steel food and beverage cans, glass food and beverage jars/bottles, aerosol cans.
  • Cardboard Milk & Juice Cartons – but no bottle caps

List Of Items You Should NOT Recycle In Your Curbside Bin

Again, we repeat – please DO NOT include the following items in your curbside recycle bin!

  • Antifreeze containers
  • Batteries
  • Books – that includes binders and spiral notebooks
  • Ceramic containers or deli containers
  • Herbicide/Pesticides
  • Glass – dishes, drinking glasses, window glass, mirrors, etc.
  • Light Bulbs
  • Mirrors or Window Glass
  • Motor Oil Containers
  • Paint Cans
  • Plastics – bags, newspaper bags, wrap, toys, clamshells, containers, food trays, cups, etc.
  • Pots or Pans
  • Pyrex or Housewares containers or items (glass or ceramic)
  • Styrofoam
  • Wide-Mouth Plastic Containers
  • Boxes with food – pizza boxes or any cardboard boxes that are contaminated with food or grease residue.

More Details On Recycling Items

Ever wonder if a particular piece of cardboard or plastic can be recycled? Can you recycle cereal boxes, for example? Can you recycle plastic or cardboard that doesn’t have the recycling symbol on it? Below is some more detail on what you should, and should not, recycle.


You can recycle cereal boxes, dry food boxes, paper towel rolls, toilet paper rolls, etc. NO Styrofoam egg cartons, waxed aluminum foiled or plastic coated boxes, such as milk, juice cartons, frozen food cartons, etc. If the package has inside chipboard it can be recycled. NO pizza boxes, boxes with grease or food residue, or packing materials.

Glass Bottles

Only clear, green or brown glass bottles are allowed. NO ceramics, dishes, drinking glasses, light bulbs, mirrors, Pyrex, window glass or any glass that is not a container.

Plastic Bottles & Jugs

The neck of the container must be smaller than the base or widest part. NO bottle caps or tops, containers that are not bottles, such as deli or yogurt containers, margarine tubs or wide-mouth prescription bottles (#5s can be taken to Whole Foods for recycling).

Note: Plastic clamshell containers generally used for salad, berries, tomatoes, herbs, etc. cannot be recycled via curbside pickup so do not include them in your bin.

Tips and Guidelines

  • Do not place any recyclables in plastic bags.
  • Empty aerosol cans and remove the lids.
  • Remove caps and lids from glass food and beverage jars and bottles. Rinse the jars and bottles.
  • Rinse and flatten cans. If you use the type of can opener that leaves a sharp edge on the lid, stop before completely removing the lid and then push the lid down inside the can before flattening it.
  • Remove caps from plastic bottles, rinse and flatten. Plastic bottles #1 through #7 are accepted.
  • Remove newspapers from the plastic sleeve. No plastic bags are accepted.
  • Remove the plastic and foil liners from chipboard containers.
  • Shredded office paper may be placed in a clear plastic recycling bag, and placed in the Winston-Salem recycling cart.
  • Flatten corrugated cardboard boxes before placing them in the cart.

You can get the most up-to-date information on our city’s recycling programs on their recycling page.

Where To Recycle #5s, Batteries, Bulbs, Electronics & Other “Hard to Recycle” Items

Cell Phones, Batteries & Printer Cartridges

These can be mailed in to the City of Winston-Salem. Just pick up a pre-labeled bag for mailing in the Lobby of the Bryce A. Stuart Municipal Building (100 East First Street downtown) or call 336-727-8153 for more details. Then put your empty inkjet cartridges and cell phones into the bag and place them into your mailbox for the USPS to deliver safe and sound.

Batteries Plus also offers recycling services for some of these items, so you may want to check with them.

Recycle Electronics At Goodwill

Electronics can also be troublesome in that it is often dangerous to dispose of these items through traditional waste removal routes. So, take your unusable electronics to any of the local Goodwill of Northwest locations around Winston-Salem. This includes computers, printers and monitors. It does not matter where you bought it – just bring it, and they will take care of it properly. And there’s an added bonus: the donation is tax-deductible, so this is a great option to get a little return on your investment while also making our city a better place.

Electronics At Lowes Home Improvement, Best Buy & Home Depot

Lowes Home Improvement, a North Carolina company, offers recycling at the store entrance for customers to recycle cell phones, rechargeable batteries, compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) and plastic shopping bags. They also offer a recycling program for wood pallets and will recycle your old appliances with the purchase of a new one. Lowes Garden Centers also accept plastic plant trays, pots and tags for recycling. More details on the Lowe’s recycling program.

Home Depot also accepts CFLs, rechargeable batteries and cell phones in receptacles near their customer service desks. More details on the Home Depot recycling program.

Best Buy accepts many electronics and appliances. More details on the Best Buy recycling program.

Take Your Plastic Caps To Aveda

Plastic twist-off caps and lids can be recycled at Aveda salons.

#5 Plastics At Whole Foods

Plastic items marked with a recycling #5 and batteries can NOT go into your recycle bins here in Winston-Salem. Our local Whole Foods store on Miller Street accepts your #5 items (by the bakery section). However, alkaline batteries and plastic bags are no longer accepted.

Plastic Bags & Films

Most local grocery stores accept used plastic shopping bags and other plastic bags and films you may collect at home. Some of the plastics they accept include newspaper bags, produce bags, shopping bags, case wraps, plastic wrap from around napkins/paper towels/toilet paper/diapers, bread bags, food storage bags, air pillows from shipping containers, dry cleaning bags, and more.

The collection bins can be found outside the entrance doors at most Harris Teeter, Food Lion and other grocery stores.

Online Services

Three websites we’ve used ourselves and would highly recommend for recycling hard-to-recycle items:

Hazardous Household Item Disposal

If you have hazardous household items like old paint or large electronic items like TVs, computers, etc., please take them to the 3RC EnviroStation for safe disposal. This is not technically recycling but it is important to know about.

Keep Winston-Salem And North Carolina Green!

That’s it! Might seem like a lot at first but you’ll get the hang of it quickly. And if you consider that the people in New York put out enough trash each day to fill the Empire State Building, you start to realize the impact your little recycling efforts have. If everyone recycled and composted instead of throwing everything into the trash, we could cut the amount of trash produced by more than half. You’ll probably notice yourself that once you get into recycling, and especially if you decide to compost as well, that you’re wheeling your trash can to the street less and less.

What have you had difficulty recycling?


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About The Author:

Alex is a Winstonite (and Salemite) and tennis enthusiast. You'll catch him hitting balls at Miller Park, grabing a cold beer at 1st Street Draft House, or chowing down on a tasty tomato pie at Mozelle's just about any day of the week.

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Leave a Reply

newest oldest most voted
Do you need a special cart for recycling?
Michelle Schenker (Admin)
Yes, you can get it for free from the city. You can request one and learn more here:
I have seen the new recycling bins at my local Food Lion for many, many months now. (Other local entities also have them.) It shows pictures of plastic wrap, etc. that can be recycled in the plastic bin. After some research, it seems they are participating in a recycling program. Here is the website:

I can’t get information on exactly what can go in and if it has to be labeled, etc. I have tried contacting them, but apparently they don’t respond to individuals. Many Lidl products have the proper labeling. Do you have any information on this program? It seems to be a great program, but I don’t want to clog the system by putting improper items into the bins.

Beverly G
This message is about recycling. I read that office paper can be shredded and put in a brown paper bag and in the recycling bin. But how about papers at home? Can these be shredded and put in brown paper bags in the recycling bin? Thank you.
Judy H
Anyone know what the trash/recycling schedule is this week given the snow storm?
I have a question about some smaller metal items for recycling. I recently switched to a safety razor and now have dull safety razor blades to dispose of. I know they are recyclable and I know that you can’t just throw them into the recycling for (obvious) safety reasons. I have read most people collect them into a soup can or soda can and then put that into the recycling, or take the full can directly to the recycling facility.

I also have started buying more glass bottles for things rather than plastic, and many of these have metal twist caps. These are often so small that they get lost in the process of transferring recycling loads from place to place. I have read these too can be collected in a soup can and then crimped shut to hold them in place.

Is there a way the city would prefer we handle these razor blades and metal bottle caps for recycling? Thanks in advance.

I know I can’t recycle old pots and pans but can I put them in my regular trash container? Thanks!
Michelle Schenker (Admin)
Hi Kim! We would suggest that you donate your pots and pans to Goodwill rather than throwing them out or call the city to learn the current status for recycling of these items. Thanks!
Pissed Off
I think it’s absolutely stupid that the #5 containers aren’t accepted. I know just our family of two have many yogurt tubs, margarine tubs and the like to recycle each month. Would you rather us put them in the landfill? For the whole city there’s one place that accepts #5 materials. Do you think I’m going to cart a pile of containers across town to Whole Foods every month or two? No, I’m not. And besides, I’m betting they have a limit and/or probably only accept materials from items they sell. What does the city do with the ones that make it into the blue or green bins? Send them off to the landfill? What kind of recycling program is that? If companies still use this material to contain their foods, how is there not a need to recycle the leftover container when nearly everything in the dairy isle is sold in these types of containers? It’s a pile of crap is what I think and I don’t get it.
Kristi Marion (Admin)
Hi “Pissed Off”,
We agree that more options for recycling #5 containers would be a welcome addition. It’s our understanding that the City does not currently have the equipment and processes to recycle this type of plastic, and that Whole Foods ships these to facilities that can. We will inquire and get you a more thorough answer!
Thanks so much for recycling and you care for the environment!
Hi there, you can also mail in your #5s to the same company that has the bin at Whole Foods.

Just google “preserve gimme 5” and they’ll have all the info. I know… pain in the ass. I’ve just now learned that #5s aren’t accepted, and I’ve been throwing them in with the recycling forever so yeah, that pissed me off a little.

If you do choose to mail in, just make sure you buy shipping from an online service as its much cheaper than at the post office.

My Winston-Salem

Not in the curbside recycling bin, but several locations accept them. Checkout the #5 section in the article above for details.


I also hope it is inspirational for the residents of Winston-Salem to start doing their part in recycling waste.  The article focused on curb-side recycling for the most part although it was nice to see the other ways to recycle was mentioned.  Grocery stores have proven themselves as a great help in the fight to save Earth’s resources, since they offer bottle returns and plastic recycling, as well.  Many grocery or supply stores will also accept other materials for recycling, too.  And grocery and other stores are also playing a key role by offering Earth-friendly compostable silverware, cups and dishes in delis, post-consumer recycled paper bags, bulk goods, and alternative products that use less packaging materials.  Choosing these options sends companies the message that you support eco-friendly options, and is an easy way to make less waste so that you will have less recycling and trash to sort through come garbage day.

Of course, this is because recycling is only one part of the cycle.  Reducing waste by reducing consumption, like wherever possible using less packaging materials, only printing out necessary emails or papers, and turning off the water while brushing your teeth.  Reducing is the first part of the cycle.  Re-using things whenever possible is the second half of this cycle, and this is the part where donating your electronics comes in.  Re-use also applies to more everyday things like shopping bags, but can also mean donating clothing, furniture, dishes, and so forth.  The final piece of the puzzle is recycling, and this is where the article comes in.  Recycling simply means to take something old and make it into something new again.  Paper, plastic, and aluminum can all be recycled, as well as everything listed in this article, and even more.  If each person takes part, the world will be a greener place for everyone.

There are a number of ways in which each person and family can do their share to help recycle. An easy way is to buy recycled paper (and other products). Print or use both sides of the paper. Also, you can even cut this up into smaller pieces and use them as scrap paper notebooks or note pads.

Instead of throwing your old computer and technology products into the garbage, recycle them. This will help to put a dent in the two million tons of electronic waste that Americans simply throw away each year.

Try to only buy products which have been made from other recycled products. If this is not possible, then look for recycled product packaging.

Overall, Winston-Salem really does seem like a cool place to live.  I read another article about the new Trader Joe's that is coming there and I thought, Wow, I really need to check into seeing if there is a Trader Joe’s near my hometown!  I personally have never shopped at one, although I have heard of them before and people seem to be pretty enthusiastic in their support of the stores.


Nice post. Plastic items marked with a recycling #5 can NOT go into your recycle bins here in Winston-Salem. But, our local Whole Foods store on Miller Street has started a program to accept your #5 items and recycle them. So, gather them up at home and then make the trip to Whole Foods to make sure these are recycled appropriately. Thanks a lot for posting this article.

My Winston-Salem

Pizza boxes are a no no. Even if you've cleaned out all the pizza, the oils from the cheese permeate the cardboard and make it inadequate for recycling.

My Winston-Salem

Do you mean plastic? What brand are you buying that makes their juice containers out of wax? The milk and OJ, etc. containers you find at your local grocery store (the square, tall, plastic coated paper ones) cannot be recycled.

My Winston-Salem

Check out our section on #5 plastic in the article above for details. You cannot put them in your curbside bin. 

For materials that don't have a number printed on them, it's possible that your plastic container covers are made of recyclable material. Contact the manufacturer to find out. If you can't get a hold of them, try the city to see if they know.

My Winston-Salem

Normally you want to take your yard can, because at least in Winston-Salem, you paid for it and the sticker on it is your license to use it. You can re-order trash and recycling bins for the new house since they're a free, public service. But confirm with your city by calling their sanitation department either way.


I must admit to being surprised that milk cartons are not accepted at this time, since these seem to be a standard for recycled packaging and most cities do accept these. Furthermore, nearly every household has them so this equates to a lot of waste when you add it all up.  Local grocery stores, in addition to recycling centers, are very likely to take these in for recycling, so it is well worth the initial effort to check and see where milk (and juice) cartons can be brought in.

On the other hand, just as surprising is Winston-Salem’s progressive acceptance of aerosol cans.  Although these in and of themselves are quite bad for the environment, it is nice to see that they can be recycled properly.  However, the inner proactive environmentalist in me must of course advise you to avoid aerosol if at all possible, since these cans release harmful chemicals into the air.  Pump sprays are a good alternative, and most of the materials on a pump spray may be recycled.

Finally, the article was great in listing where to take electronics and number five plastics.  Plastic is great to recycle, and it is worth the extra effort to so because of the amount of petroleum saved.  Each new plastic bottle, box, or carton requires our finite supply of petroleum to become more and more depleted.  And electronics that can be re-used or salvages for parts are great treasures to the recipients, so donating them really is giving a gift.  I like to think that giving away things that I do not need or really want anymore is a gift to myself in some ways too, since it frees up space in my home for something else that I will use and enjoy.  The tax deduction part makes this even more enticing, if you need that extra encouragement to recycle and re-use rather than simply tossing something away.

Other things you do to be green will save you money, too.  For instance, recycling not only saves the earth, but it also saves your trash bill– an important point that the authors touched upon right at the end of the article.  The real fact is, if your waste is going into the recycling bin, it is not going into your trash can, and that not only means saving the earth, but saving money as well.  A double bonus for everyone.

I guess I did not realize that they are taking the “Whole Foods” angle but still trying to appeal to the mostly price-based shopper.  I question how they are able to do this, but I suppose some of that has to do with marketing strategy and relationships with food suppliers.  I usually do not tend to be very picky when it comes to my grocery list, I base my decisions mostly on price and nutrition.

My Winston-Salem

Hi there,

Excellent question! You can't technically recycle most Christmas wrapping paper (unless specifically mentioned that it's recyclable, the paper tends to contain elements that can't easily be processed for recycling). However, if you open your presents carefully, you should be able to simply reuse your wrapping paper, which one ups recycling by conserving 100% of the resource!



Can I recycle covers to plastic containers which are marked #5? I recently had some left at the curb when I put them out in my bin.


Thanks for posting the article on recycling items in W-S. May I know what the procedure is for recycling these listed items? Also, can tablet wrappers be recycled?


Can you recycle these?


What about pizza boxes? I've cleaned out all the food, so as far as I can tell all that's left is cardboard…


Can I recycle wrapping paper from Christmas presents?


What are the exact rules for cardboard. I have some no bigger than 3×3 and they don't pick it up, sometimes they do. I don't know what I'm doing wrong.


Recycling is a must. Yes, these days we have to intentionally care for planet Earth. Let's face it folks, health matters!


I flatten my boxes of cardboard and made sure they were smaller than 3×3. When they didn't pick it up I called and asked why they left a voice mail a few days later and said I had too much. I want to know how much I can do at one time so I can put that much out for a few weeks till it's gone.


Where can I recycle old electronics?


Yes, I guess every city is different, but wow, Winston-Salem has quite a bit of rules.  I am not much of a recycler, and I really need to be better.  However, I do reuse many items since I am the creative, artsy type, so even if I cannot find an artistic use for it, I try to figure out a way to clean some things and use them again for something else.  Clothes are great for this, and there are tons of cool, free patterns online to turn t-shirts into dresses and projects like this, fun, fun, fun.

I have to admit, that this article almost makes me not want to recycle…almost.  The list is so long and complicated.  Well, actually, it is not that long, it is just when you think about applying it to your real life, and your real household, then it becomes dizzying and unrealistic.

It almost makes no sense that you cannot recycle some of those various types of chipboard and colored glass bottles.  It also would make you feel bad for throwing away all that un-recyclable stuff.  I mean there is actually a lot of stuff on that list that you cannot recycle, but I guess that over time, many towns get the capability to recycle many more things, so that is always good.  I think this type of thing could reasonably happen in Winston-Salem within the next decade or so.

When it comes to colored glass bottles, you can use them for flower vases or home décor if you fill them with attractive beads or pebbles, but who knows what you can do with the odd chipboard bits and the greasy pizza boxes.


Not being familiar with the city local recycling laws of Winston-Salem, NC myself, this article interested me. It seems that the city has a decent situation as far as what they will accept and not accept at curb-side recycling.  From this list, you can definitely tell that the city is progressive and proactive in what recycling plants are able to work with.

I remember the days many years ago when only certain numbers of plastic were recyclable, and they had to be sorted by number.  The recycling process in general discouraged almost anyone who was not on a specific mission to recycle.  You had to know what you were doing and plan in advance in order to bring everything to the recycling center.  For curbside recycling, you needed a free half hour to an hour to specifically sort through everything that was recyclable, and you had to know what would or would not be taken.  On that note, this article serves nicely as a guide for anyone who is interested in reducing waste and getting into recycling.  You can basically print it out and put it up next to your recycling bin to see what will and will not be recycled.  This kind of guideline encourages anyone to recycle, because it clearly lists what will and will not be taken at pickup.

I was not surprised by reading the list of what is not included in the recycling pickup, but it did make me wonder what could be done to be more green with some of those items.  The first thing I could think of is to reduce consumption of these items, of course.  Using recyclable plastic packing instead of Styrofoam, and glass or re-usable tin pie dishes instead of disposable when baking on your own.  It is unfortunate that pizza boxes or others contaminated with residue are not accepted at this time, since this constitutes a big part of the packaging that we use today.  Since some cities that I know of do accept these types of chipboard even if they have food residue, I wonder whether there are different technologies that those plants have that allow those to be accepted.

My Winston-Salem

As long as the cardboard fits in your recycling bin without completely overflowing, they should take it. If not, I would complain!

Note that you can ask them to deliver more than one recycling bin to your property (we use two).

My Winston-Salem

In general, you want to cut it up so it fits nicely within your recycle bin (they don't like it if you stack it up on the curb beside the bin, or leave whole boxes). Also, generally you can only recycle cardboard that is pure cardboard – ie. not coated in gloss on one side as is typical with packaged consumer goods.

That being said, the rules also vary by district. Call your local recycling authority to find out the specifics for your city.

Let us know how it goes! We're always looking forward to hearing updates on what local recycling programs are and are not accepting.


We're moving, and our new place has a trash can, but no recycling or yard cans. Should we move them from our existing house or order new ones?


I  am the one who sent this question in about looking  for employment at your store in winston-salem n.c.. I must have missed your reply. Would you please send  me a response as to when and where to go to put my application in. Thank You


My Winston-Salem

Hi Tina. 

Thanks for checking back. We've been keeping an eye on all announcements, as well as the Trader Joe's website. So far, no job listings for the Winston-Salem store are posted. We suggest you check their site regularly, under the "Careers" tab, select "Search for a job" and enter Winston-Salem zip code 27103. The application is also available on the site. We suspect they'll be accepting soon, so keep an eye on their site!