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. You can also call this number for specifics: 336-747-6970.

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?


About The Author:

Alex has lived in Winston-Salem since 2004. He has seen the city grow up from a time when almost no one gathered downtown, to today's thriving and bustling city with great selections of restaurants, events, concerts, and more. He's proud to be part of the Arts and Innovation movement.

When he's not sipping a draft at Foothills brewery, chowing down on a tomato pie at Mozelle's for lunch, or dancing to bluegrass at the Ramkat, you'll catch him hitting balls at Miller Park, or hiking Pilot Mountain with his wife and two pups.

We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to and affiliated sites.

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Patrick McGraw
December 8, 2020 8:28 pm

I was told that one of these recycling centers will pay you for your cardboard that is the question?

Michelle Schenker
January 11, 2021 1:43 pm
Reply to  Patrick McGraw

Hi Patrick, We are not sure whether any locations pay for recyclables. We recommend that you call the county recycling center to find out. Please let us know if you learn anything of interest so we can update this community resource.

September 23, 2020 11:15 am

I have a Rubbermaid HDPE #2 plastic picnic cooler that I was hoping to recycle – any advice? Thanks!

Michelle Schenker
September 28, 2020 12:28 pm
Reply to  Scott

Hi Scott, #2 HDPE tends to be one of the most recyclable materials around, but I am not sure about a cooler. We would suggest that you call the city to ask (336-727-8000).

Another option would be to reach out to Rubbermaid, since they have a great recycling program:

If you cannot find a sufficient solution, I would go with the old adage: When in doubt, throw it out. This is the only way to be sure you don’t contaminate your entire recycle bin.

April 19, 2020 9:42 am


Philip Epperson
April 8, 2020 10:07 am

My Blue cart didn’t get picked up today (04/08/2020), was it just an oversight? Everyone on my street had theirs picked up, as did my neighbor, across the street!

Debbie G
March 2, 2020 11:02 am

Can I recycle post-it notes? They’re mostly paper, but they do have that sticky portion at the top of each note which I’m not sure the recycling machines can handle?

Michelle Schenker
March 5, 2020 12:39 pm
Reply to  Debbie G

Yes, per 3Ms website, the adhesive “does not interfere with paper recycling because the adhesive is substantially removed in the paper deinking process” that occurs during recycling at the paper mill.

January 23, 2020 10:23 am

Can we recycle tetra paks? (Tetra Pak®Aseptic brand)

Michelle Schenker
February 10, 2020 4:49 pm
Reply to  Catherine

We believe the answer to this is yes but please call the city or consult this website to learn more:

January 1, 2020 1:18 pm

What about detached lids from cat food cans? Are they recyclable?

Michelle Schenker
January 2, 2020 1:50 pm
Reply to  Carol

If you are unsure about anything, please call 336-747-6970 to request additional information and please keep us posted. Thanks!

Nicole Gonzales
November 8, 2019 10:51 am

Where can I take my non-plastic bottle plastics? Is there a drop off location in town that takes “clamshell” plastic containers #1 plastic (what some produce comes in). I’m having a hard time finding anywhere that takes them. Same issue with plastic bags that aren’t films, but more sturdy plastic (#4, some are unmarked, etc). Thanks for the great article!

Michelle Schenker
November 14, 2019 1:25 pm

Hi Nicole, Unfortunately I have not info to share on those specific questions because I cannot find anywhere to drop them either. It makes me sad. If you find an answer, please let us know so that we can update our article. Take care.

September 6, 2019 1:04 pm

Do you need a special cart for recycling?

Michelle Schenker
September 9, 2019 4:50 pm
Reply to  Louise

Yes, you can get it for free from the city. You can request one and learn more here:

September 4, 2019 1:34 pm

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
August 27, 2019 9:54 pm

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
December 12, 2018 4:38 pm

Anyone know what the trash/recycling schedule is this week given the snow storm?

May 1, 2018 10:32 am

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.

February 26, 2017 1:56 pm

I know I can’t recycle old pots and pans but can I put them in my regular trash container? Thanks!

Michelle Schenker
April 10, 2017 4:42 pm
Reply to  Kim

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
January 11, 2017 7:21 pm

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.

January 18, 2018 8:21 pm
Reply to  Pissed Off

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.

Kristi Marion
January 16, 2017 2:56 pm
Reply to  Pissed Off

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!

My Winston-Salem
January 5, 2010 9:13 am

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.

My Winston-Salem
February 19, 2010 11:25 am

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
June 21, 2010 4:40 pm

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
November 19, 2010 3:38 pm

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
May 15, 2012 4:31 pm

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

May 6, 2012 4:13 am

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.

May 3, 2012 7:51 pm

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.

April 30, 2012 7:00 pm

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
January 6, 2011 3:36 pm

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!


My Winston-Salem
February 15, 2011 3:35 pm

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.