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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 Dont’s | 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 space around the 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, 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.

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 brown paper bag in such a way as to reduce litter, and placed in the Winston-Salem recycling cart.
  • Flatten corrugated cardboard boxes before placing them in the cart.

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.

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 Too

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 now accept plastic plant trays, pots and tags to recycle. 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.

Online Services

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

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.

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

What have you had difficulty recycling?

Source: www.cityofws.org/departments/sanitation/collections/recycle-today

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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37 Comments on "Winston-Salem Recycling: What Can You Really Recycle?"

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Pissed Off
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… Read more »
Kristi Marion
Kristi Marion

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
My Winston-Salem

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

My Winston-Salem
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
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
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
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.


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.

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… Read more »
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… Read more »
My Winston-Salem
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!

My Winston-Salem
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… Read more »
My Winston-Salem
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).

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… Read more »

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… Read more »

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?


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