Recycling Inside vs. Outside the Curbside Bin

America Recycles Day is November 15!  The staff at Porter County Recycling & Waste Reduction would like to spotlight that often confusing and frustrating ritual that residents try to do for the sake of the environment.

When we talk about recycling, generally people think it’s about the materials they place inside their curbside recycling bins or totes. Aside from the materials that are acceptable for curbside recycling, there is a whole world of materials that are recyclable, but not at the curb. This is why people get confused.

For example, even though Christmas lights are recyclable,
it does not mean they should go into your curbside tote.

All of Northwest Indiana, Lake, Porter and LaPorte Counties, recycles the same materials curbside:

  • cartons (beverage and broth);
  • aluminum and metal cans;
  • glass bottles and jars;
  • paper and cardboard;
  • and plastic containers, bottles, jugs and tubs.

Learn the curbside recycling guidelines

recycling boy

So people who live in St. John, Valparaiso or Michigan City should be recycling these products curbside or in the drop-off containers sponsored by their solid waste management districts. It doesn’t matter who collects the recyclables or whether or not people live in unincorporated areas, the curbside guidelines are the same.

Once placed in curbside bins or drop off containers, these materials go to facilities in Illinois where they are sorted, baled and sold to make new products. A recycling sorting facility is called a MRF (pronounced murf), which stands for material recovery facility. These facilities can only accept items they can process with their state-of-the-art technology and sell.

The guidelines we here at Porter County Recycling advertise are directly from these Illinois sorting facilities.

We hear a lot of complaints on social media about all the curbside recycling “rules.” There have always been recycling guidelines. This is nothing new. There are rules for everything, right? What is new is that we are posting a lot of information on social media to help people learn and be more aware about what they are placing in their curbside bins.

Unfortunately, since we have been doing single stream recycling, which is putting all of the different materials into one bin/tote, there has been a lot of “wishcycling” going on.

“Wishcycling” is the practice of placing items in curbside recycle bins
that people are not sure are recyclable with the hope that someone
will find these items and do the right thing.

This practice adds a lot of wrong materials into the recycling stream causing contamination, a main factor why China, the largest consumer of United States curbside recyclables, no longer wants them, as they are full of trash.

Right now, quality of curbside recyclables is much more important than quantity.

We need everyone to recycle the right items curbside and clean up the recycling stream. Placing items in your bin because you think they ought be recycled is incorrect. If you are unsure if they are recyclable curbside, it’s really best to throw them in the trash.

As far as recycling outside the curbside bin, items such as

  • electronics,
  • household batteries and
  • fluorescent light bulbs,
  • among many other things,

are recyclable in Porter County, because we sponsor programs. Our website lists programs and instructs our residents where they can take those products to be recycled appropriately.plastic bag recycling

Additionally, many businesses and organizations offer recycling services for materials and products that don’t go into curbside recycling. Scrap metal, for example, is recyclable, but should never be placed in your curbside recycle bin. The MRFs are very specific in the metal they will accept: aluminum and metal CANS. They cannot process scrap metal; however, there are many local businesses that will gladly accept your scrap metal.

Single-use plastic bags are another example of items that should never go into your curbside bin/tote. The MRFs cannot process these bags or any type of film, like bread bags, packaging, plastic wrap, baggies, etc. In fact, bags and film pose a huge problem for their state-of-the-art equipment, as the material wraps around the conveyors and jams the machines. Film plastics are recyclable; however, people must bring them to drop-off locations throughout Northwest Indiana.

Use the tool on to find a convenient location.

If you ever have any questions about recycling certain products, staff at your solid waste management district can help guide you in recycling or disposing of products and materials in a way that won’t harm the environment.

For more information, contact the appropriate solid waste district: Lake County Solid Waste Management District: 219-853-2420; LaPorte County Solid Waste Management District: 219-326-0014,; Porter County Recycling & Waste Reduction: 219-465-3694,

Whether you recycle inside or outside the bin,

Happy America Recycles Day to you! 

America Recycles Day

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top