recycling icon

Last Dance Before the Landfill

Recycle Right

Recycling cans, bottles, cardboard, and plastic is helpful for the environment. Less garbage winds up in our landfills and less energy and water is wasted extracting and processing virgin materials. But recycling is not a perfect endless loop as the logo suggests. The most effective way to reduce your trash is to first reduce, reuse, repurpose, and restore what you can, then recycle all you can. We break it down to show you what goes where—what goes in your curbside bin, what can be dropped-off at the store or mailed back to the manufacturer, and what hazardous items need special handling.

Previous Action Next Action
reuse before recycling to maximize conservation efforts

Get Started

Just because something has the recycle symbol on the packaging, doesn’t mean it can be recycled locally. It can end up contaminating the valuable recyclables. About 15% of what we toss in the recycling bin has to be picked out and sent to the landfill anyway.  But there are more options for recycling than just your curbside recycle tote.


Here’s What Goes Where

what can I recycle?

Step 1

Curbside Recycling Tote

Cost: Free


YES: Clean and dry newspapers, magazines, writing paper, envelopes, paperback books, paper bags, paperboard boxes (tissue, soda, cereal, cracker with liner removed), cardboard boxes.

NO: napkins, tissues, paper towels, paper cups, paper plates (these can be composted), coated or shiny paper.



YES: Rinsed aluminum cans, foil trays, steel and tin cans and their lids, empty aerosol cans.

NO: pots and pans, hangers, foil wrap.



YES: Rinsed glass bottles and jars with lids.

NO: dishes, glassware, mirrors, pane glass, light bulbs



YES: Rinsed drink boxes, milk, and juice cartons.



YES: Rinsed plastic bottles, jugs, and containers with lids on.

NO: plastic bags and wrap (store drop-off), Styrofoam (store drop-off), candy wrappers, chip bags, pouches, straws, utensils, hangers, hoses, cords, toys, packing materials, #6 plastics


Download these visual reminders to print and post near your trash and recycle bins.

Recycle By Room (bathroom, kitchen, office)

Step 2

Store Drop-off or Mail-In

Cost: Free

What plastics can I recycle?
What foam products can I recycle?
recycling used electronics

Plastic bags and Styrofoam

While it’s better to refuse plastic bags and Styrofoam and use durable alternatives, these two ubiquitous and problematic plastics are hard to avoid.  They are the nemesis of municipal recycling programs where they jam up equipment and contaminate recovered materials. However, you can sort them out and drop them off where you shop, where they are baled and shipped to specialized recyclers.


YES: clean, dry plastic bags (grocery, produce, newspaper, bread, zip-top, and dry cleaning bags), plastic wrap, bubble wrap, plastic shipping envelopes.

NO: “crinkly” pre-washed salad bags, frozen food bags, candy wrappers, chip bags, six-pack rings

WHERE: Publix, Wal-Mart, Winn Dixie, Target, Lowe’s, Kohl’s. Find a drop-off location.


YES: clean and dry foam egg cartons, takeout containers, meat and produce trays, cups

NO: cups with lids and straws, packing peanuts, foam blocks used in packaging

WHERE: Publix



Most electronic devices, from computers to cell phones to games and gadgets, can be restored and re-sold, or recycled to reclaim valuable resources like precious metals. Some newer models have trade-in value. Rechargeable batteries and cellphones are a fire hazard and should never be tossed into the garbage. Give your cellphone a second life by donating to a charity like 911 Cell Phone Bank, Medic Mobile, and Cell Phones for Soldiers. Or drop-off or mail-in unwanted electronics at these locations.

WHAT: Rechargeable batteries and cellphones
WHERE: Staples, Lowes, Home Depot, uBreakiFix, and more. Find a drop-off location

WHAT: Most electronics
WHERE: Best Buy, Staples, Amazon

WHAT: Printer ink and toner cartridges
WHERE: Best Buy, Staples


Odds and Ends

Many consumer products, like toothbrushes, cigarette butts, and razors, that seem like they should be recycled aren’t accepted anywhere.  Terra Cycle’s free product recycling programs help you recycle items that municipal programs don’t typically accept. Dozens of major brands like Brita, Gillette, Rubbermaid, Swiffer, and Teva will take back their product waste. Sign up for free.


Next Level Recycling

Recycle everything with Terra Cycle. This innovative company sells the Zero Waste Box that allows you to recycle nearly everything not accepted by your municipal recycling program. Fill it up, tape it shut, and mail it back with a pre-paid shipping label.

Step 3

Drop-off at Chemical Collection Center

Cost: Free

how to dispose of hazardous waste

Common household products like those stored in your garage can release toxic propellants, chemicals, and metals into the atmosphere and waterways when they are crushed in garbage trucks or placed in the landfill.  Products labeled flammable, toxic, corrosive, dangerous, warning, or caution are considered hazardous waste and cannot be recycled or thrown in the trash. Instead, drop them off at County collection centers.

WHAT: alkaline batteries, automotive chemicals, cleaning chemicals, lawn and garden chemicals, pool chemicals, paint, fire extinguishers, fluorescent lamps, fuel tanks, tires

WHERE: Chemical Collection Center

  • Manatee County Lena Road Landfill (3333 Lena Road, Bradenton)
  • Sarasota County Chemical Collection Center North (8750 Bee Ridge Road, Sarasota)
  • Sarasota County Chemical Collection Center South (250 S. Jackson Road, Venice)
  • Central Sarasota County Solid Waste Disposal Complex (4000 Knights Trail Road, Nokomis)


What’s My Recycling Footprint?

clean glass bottles about to be recycled

In the U.S. every year 22 million tons of household recyclables go to landfills, become litter, and pollute our waters. Americans recycle only about half of what is possible. What if everyone recycled all they can?

Recycling Calculator

OUTPUT (lbs per year)
0.00 Annual garbage trucks of recyclables 7 tons per truck
0.00 Annual garbage bags of recyclables 16 lbs per bag
0.00 Tons of
0.00 Gallons of water saved per year 2.5 gal/lbs recycled
0.00 Tons GHG avoided per year 3 tons C02-e / ton recycled

One year of 0 people recyling all they can is the GHG equivalent of:

0 ace of forests growing over one year

0 tree seedlings grown for 10 years

0 miles driven in a gas-powered car (22.5mpg)

How are these calculated?
Greenhouse Gases Equivalencies Calculator (
Communities for Recycling (Recycling Partnership)


Get Involved

Help Clean Up

  • Join or host a local trash cleanup to help keep trash out of our waterways. Don’t miss The Great American Cleanup, The Liberty Litter Cleanup, and The International Coastal Cleanup. Sarasota County – Manatee County
  • Get on (and under) the water to help keep wildlife safe and our bays clean with Sarasota Bay Watch and Suncoast Reef Rovers dive cleanups and monofilament cleanups.
  • Adopt a Road to make a difference and generate publicity for your group’s service to the community.
  • Help a friend who smokes keep their butts to themselves. Order free portable pocket ashtrays for stowing cigarette butts on the go and keep our beaches, parks, and waterways clean.

Take a Class, Volunteer, Attend an Event, Speak Up

Find out what’s happening and join in with our comprehensive community events listing.

Look for this class

  • Recycle Right — Take a deeper look at recycling, food waste, challenges and obstacles, and related environmental issues in Florida and beyond. Look for dates for the live webinar, or enroll in the self-paced online course.

Get Involved

Resources and More

Want to Talk to Someone?

  • UF/IFAS Extension Sarasota County 941-861-9900 – Website

Earth 911 Comprehensive Searchable Guide to how and where to recycle over 350 materials.

Keep America Beautiful tool to look up any material, learn if and how to recycle it, and how the recycled material is reused.


Is recycling truly beneficial for the environment?

While it’s better to reduce waste by refusing or reusing, recycling does conserve energy and natural resources and reduces air and water pollution. Extracting raw materials, processing them into components, and manufacturing new items is much more costly than recycling and reusing materials. In fact, recycling a ton of office paper can save the energy equivalent of 322 gallons of gas; recycling a ton of aluminum conserves the equivalent of 1,024 gallons of gas! Recycling just 10 plastic bottles saves enough energy to power a laptop computer for more than 25 hours. Recycling materials avoids emissions and saves water.

Calculate Your Recycling Footprint.


If it looks like it could be recycled, why can’t I just toss it in the recycling tote and let them sort it out?

It’s called “wish-cycling”—dropping things in the curbside recycle tote in hopes they will be recycled. But this can contaminate the recycling stream so that truly recyclables can’t be retrieved. Some items like cords and small metal objects can jam or break machinery. This raises costs and adds an extra sorting step to the recycling stream for items that must be pulled out and sent to the landfill instead. Your wish turns into a recycling nightmare. When in doubt, toss it out. Calculate your household recycling footprint when you recycle all you can.

Find Out What Can Go in the Recycling

Where can I recycle old electronics?

Several retailers, like Best Buy, Staples, and Amazon, offer free recycling programs and/or drop off locations for many types of electronics including cell phones, TVs, computers, cameras, and other equipment. If you are replacing a larger item, like a TV or major appliance, sometimes stores will haul out and recycle the old one for a small charge. If the item still works, consider donating it to a local Goodwill or other charity. For example, groups like 911 Cell Phone Bank, Medic Mobile, and Cell Phones for Soldiers accept cell phone donations.

Recycle Your Electronics

What steps can I take to make my business operations more sustainable and earn Green Certification?

Here are 10 steps you can take to improve the sustainability of your business:

  1. Energy Efficiency: Install programmable thermostats, Energy STAR appliances, and LED lighting throughout your facility and set a goal to reduce energy consumption by 15% within the next year. Consider investing in solar panels to generate renewable energy onsite.
  2. Water Conservation: Upgrade to low-flow faucets and toilets in your bathrooms, install drought-resistant landscaping, and aim to reduce water usage by 20% within the next six months. Implement a rainwater harvesting system to collect water for landscaping purposes.
  3. Waste Reduction and Recycling: Introduce a composting program for organic waste generated in your break rooms and cafeteria, with a goal to divert 50% of organic waste from landfills within the next year. Switch to using recycled paper products and provide reusable water bottles and utensils to employees. Set up a comprehensive recycling program for paper, plastic, glass, and other materials.
  4. Sustainable Procurement: Source office supplies from suppliers that offer eco-friendly options such as recycled paper and non-toxic ink cartridges. Aim to have 50% of your office supplies sourced from sustainable vendors within the next six months.
  5. Green Cleaning Practices: Switch to environmentally friendly cleaning products that are certified by organizations like Green Seal or EcoLogo. Set a goal to eliminate the use of chemical cleaners containing harmful substances within the next three months.
  6. Transportation: Offer incentives such as subsidies for public transportation passes or bike-to-work programs. Install bike racks and designated carpool parking spaces to encourage alternative commuting methods.
  7. Employee Engagement: Launch a sustainability awareness campaign among your staff, offering incentives for eco-friendly behaviors such as carpooling or using reusable containers for lunches. Organize monthly sustainability workshops or lunch-and-learn sessions to educate employees on green practices.
  8. Community Engagement: Partner with local environmental organizations or schools to participate in community clean-up events or tree planting initiatives. Sponsor a local sustainability fair or workshop to engage with the broader community and raise awareness about environmental issues.
  9. Continuous Improvement: Establish a sustainability committee within your organization to regularly assess and improve your green initiatives. Set quarterly goals to track progress and identify areas for further enhancement.
  10. Certification Process: Review the Sarasota County Green Business Partner certification requirements and create a checklist to ensure compliance with all criteria. Set a target to complete the certification process and become officially recognized as a green business partner within the next six months.

By setting specific goals and implementing targeted initiatives, you can make meaningful strides towards sustainability while working towards becoming a Sarasota County Green Business Partner.

Learn more and get certified

Ask the Expert

Submit your waste-related question to local experts. If selected, they will answer and feature your question on our FAQ. Not all questions will be answered.

1Step 1
2Step 2