Recycling Dilemma #1006 – Cut Out Contamination

Recycling conserves resources, saves energy, prevents pollution and reduces landfill space. We all have the best intentions to do right by recycling, but did you know that recycling correctly is just as important as deciding to recycle in the first place? 

In The Woodlands, we have a single-stream recycling program that allows all accepted recyclables to be placed in one container. Bottles, cans, paper, cardboard, cartons and glass can all go freely into one container, no sorting or bagging needed (in fact, you should never bag your recyclables). Because materials are commingled, they must be sorted when they get to the recycling center. 

Sorting equipment at the recycling center is designed  to sort only the items accepted in the program. All other items are considered contamination. Contamination damages equipment, creates unsafe work conditions for staff and decreases the value of recyclables. 

Did you know? In extreme cases, too much contamination can send an entire truck load of recyclables to the landfill. 


The most common contaminants to AVOID putting in your recycling cart are: 

  • Plastic Bags & Film – Return these to a local grocery store for proper recycling.  
  • Tanglers – No hoses, hangers, wires, chains or electronics. 
  • Clothing or Linens – Donate usable clothing and linens to local charitable organizations. Recycle items unsuitable for donation using the curbside Simple Recycling Textile Program.  
  • Food and Liquid – Recyclables must be clean; remember to empty and rinse all containers. Greasy pizza boxes, paper plates and towels belong in the trash. 
  • Styrofoam or #6 Plastic – Look for the symbol. Only plastics labelled #1-5 are accepted

When in doubt, throw it out! Even better, call The Woodlands Township Environmental Services Department for help with recycling right, 281-210-3800. 


Please remember to always follow Waste Management guidelines which can be found on the lid of your recycling cart. For more recycling resources, visit the Township’s recycling webpage.  

Recycling Dilemma #1004 – To bag or not to bag

Free your recyclables!

Free your recyclables blog post

To bag or not to bag your recyclables? The answer is simple. Leave them loose! Plastic bags, film and flexible packaging are not accepted in our curbside carts. In fact, they’re the number one contaminant of our curbside recycling. If residents stopped bagging their recyclables our community would cut contamination by 50%. The value of recyclables is directly tied to how clean, or uncontaminated, they are. The success of the recycling industry is dependent on finding buyers for clean, quality recyclable materials.

Why aren’t bags allowed in our program?

In The Woodlands, we enjoy the convenience of a single stream recycling program in which all acceptable materials are deposited in one cart. However, the recyclables – plastic containers and bottles #1-5, cartons (think juice or soup), cardboard, paper, aluminum cans and glass containers – must be sorted once they reach the Materials Recovery Facility (MRF).

During the initial stages of sorting, loose plastic bags and film are separated from the rest of the materials by hand. This takes a great deal of effort, and much of it slips by, wrapping around machinery and damaging equipment further down the line. MRFs have to shut down the processing line several times a day to remove plastic film entangled in the machines. This takes up valuable time and increases costs. It also creates unsafe working conditions for the individuals that must crawl into the machines to remove the film. Check out the video below to see the effects of plastic bags on MRF equipment.

The problem with bagging recyclables

When we bag our recyclables we cause a different problem – workers at the MRF can’t tell if the material inside is trash or recycling – and so the entire bag is often sent to the landfill and all those good recyclables go to waste.

Although plastic bags and films do not belong in our curbside carts they are recyclable and quite valuable. So gather up all forms of plastic film in your house and take it your local grocery store – almost every store has a receptacle at the front. The bags and film are bailed, sold and eventually turned into composite lumber for making decks, benches, and playground sets. Plastic film can also be reprocessed into small pellets, which are turned into new bags, pallets, containers, crates, and pipe.

So let loose and free those recyclables!

Check out our website for more information about recycling and curbside services in The Woodlands.

Recycling Dilemma #1006 – Online Shopping

Shopping from the comfort of your home in your PJs is easy. Deciphering what to do with all the packaging that comes with those fabulous purchases is the hard part. Check out these tips to learn how to dispose of online shopping waste wisely.

Looking for ways to reduce packaging from online purchases? 

  • Try filling your cart throughout the week and combining purchases into one weekly delivery. Choose “Frustration-Free” Packaging to reduce extra boxes. 
  • Consider shopping at stores that use thoughtful packaging materials. As this concept becomes more mainstream, the demand will increase and gain popularity! 
  • Choose ground delivery to reduce air travel. This option can save you a bit of money and also reduces the carbon footprint of your package.  
  • Shop at local businesses and bring your own bag or containers.

Check out these recycling tips from previous blogs:  

Questions or comments? Email enviro@thewoodlandstownship-tx.gov


Recycling Dilemma #1005 – Take-out Containers

Determining if something is recyclable can be harder than deciding what to order for dinner. Before you take out your recycling, use these tips to ensure you’re recycling take out containers correctly. By recycling the accepted items and ONLY the accepted items, you help ensure the success of our curbside program.

Check out these tips from previous blogs: 

Want more ideas on how to reduce waste? Check out this blog for easy steps to take and kick your plastic habit. 


Questions or comments? Email enviro@thewoodlandstownship-tx.gov

Happy 50th Birthday, Earth Day!

Tips for celebrating at home

April 22, 2020 marks 50 years of celebrating Earth Day and the beginning of the modern environmental movement. Although a monumental day such as this is usually celebrated with festivals and mass gatherings, there are still plenty of ways to recognize this milestone and do good for the planet. 

Discover the natural world in your own backyard.

Become a Citizen Scientist by observing wildlife and logging pictures using iNaturalist. Download the app, snap a picture, receive help identifying species and help scientists conducting global research. 

Start a garden to grow your own vegetables or to support pollinators

  • Keep organic waste out of landfills and create rich additive for your garden by starting a compost pile with green food scraps and yard waste. 

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle Right 

  • Reduce the amount of waste you generate by choosing reusable alternatives and purchasing items with less packaging. 
  • Extend the life of products by reusing them; get creative by turning trash into treasure. 
  • Recycle right. Check with your local government about current recycling practices. Remember not to bag your recyclables and only put the specified items in your recycle bin.  

Watch a new documentary, webinar or presentation to learn more about our environment and how to preserve it for future generations. 

Stay Connected  

  • Think globally by subscribing to national and world-wide environmental organizations. This website has compiled a list of several groups that educate on important causes around the world, making it simple to learn how you can support their efforts.  
  • Act locally. Subscribe to The Woodlands Township Environmental Services Blog for ways to get involved in our community. Input your email at the top right of this screen and click the link in the confirmation sent to your email from Wordpress.  

Make Earth Day every day by continuing to practice environmentally friendly habits. If you would like more information on how to be green in the spirit of Earth Day or opportunities to get involved in our community, contact The Woodlands Township Environmental Services Department at 281.210.3800 or enviro@thewoodlandstownship-tx.gov.