The Ultimate Guide to Recycling in Chicago

Photo courtesy of the  Waste Management Facebook page.

Photo courtesy of the Waste Management Facebook page.

At Mirepoix, we pride ourselves in creating a studio space committed to creating minimal waste. Our recent post detailing our favorite sustainable brands outlines our commitment to reducing our carbon footprint by working with brands who are mindful of their impact on our plant.

While we are always looking for more ways to reduce and reuse, sometimes the best we can do is recycle. But recycling can be confusing. What can you recycle? And in Chicago, if your landlord doesn’t offer a recycling service, where can you recycle?

We reached out to the experts at Waste Management and they supplied resources that outlined the benefits of recycling, broke down what you are and are not allowed to recycle and how to locate the nearest drop-off location near your home.

Why recycle?

In a lifetime, the average American will throw away 600 times his or her adult weight in garbage – leaving a legacy of 90,000 pounds of trash for his or her children.

Recycling is one step we can take in order to conserve natural resources, save energy and help clear out landfills.

It’s important to know that every little bit helps.

What can I recycle?


  • Aluminum, steel and tin cans: Aluminum cans are 100% recyclable and recycling steel and tin cans saves 74% of the energy used to produce them. All cans should be completely clean when discarded.

  • Aluminum foil and bakeware: Consider buying an alternative, such as Bee’s Wraps, but if you use aluminum foil, simply wipe clean before placing in the recycling bin. Some particles are okay to be left on the foil.


  • Corrugated cardboard: All boxes can be recycled when they are broken down. If they are greasy (i.e. pizza boxes), have food particles or are wet they are not able to be recycled.

  • Magazines: A common misconception is that glossy paper cannot be recycled, that was true in the early days of recycling, but now nearly all community recycling programs accept glossy magazines and catalogs for recycling.

  • Office Paper: All office paper is recyclable. If your office uses a lot of paper, talk to your local recycling company about whether or not you should sort high-grade papers from lower-grade.

  • Newspaper: Be sure to toss it in the recycling bin after reading!

  • Paper Board: This is generally what is used for cereal boxes. Like glossy magazines, recycled paperboard often includes a coating to improve its printing surface and provide protection from fingerprints. It's still perfectly recyclable.

  • Paper Dairy and Juice Cartons: Waste Management, Tropicana Products, Dean Foods and select carton manufacturers have launched a program in which residents can recycle these containers in regular recycling bins at no additional charge!

  • Direct Mail: Be sure to toss your junk mail directly into the recycling bin.

  • Phone Books: These are 100% recyclable! Simply drop them in your recycling bin.


  • Clear, brown, green and amber glass: All glass can be recycled in Chicago as long as it’s not broken and does not contain food.


  • Bottles, jars and jugs can all be recycled as long as they are 100% clean. One dirty plastic bottle can contaminate an entire bin. DO NOT recycle plastic bags.

Call 311 for Pick Up

  • Leaves

  • Yard Clippings

  • Furniture

  • Non-Working Major Appliances (donate those that work)

  • Mattresses

Hazardous! Do Not Dispose

  • Rechargeable batteries: drop off at Best Buy or Lowes

  • Broken electronics: drop off at Best Buy or Lowes

  • Pharmaceuticals: drop off at any Chicago Police Station - look for the blue bin in the lobby

  • Household chemicals: HCCRF

  • Metal tanks: HCCRF

  • Oil-based paints and stains: HCCRF

  • Fluorescent light bulbs: HCCRF, Home Depot or Lowes

  • Motor Oil: HCCRF, Jiffy Lube, O'Reilly Auto

If your building does not offer free recycling, enter your zip code into this facility locator to find a recycling drop off near you!

If you have any additional questions about recycling in Chicago, you can visit the Waste Management website or check out the Recycle By City Chicago guide.

Thank you for joining us in the fight to protect the future of our planet!