Recycling Changes


What's happening?

Beginning January 1, 2020, the City will no longer be able to accept the following items in your recycling cart:

  • Glass bottles and jars
  • Poly-coated materials (milk/juice cartons, frozen food boxes, etc.)
  • Aseptic containers (soy milk cartons, etc.)

In 2018 China stopped accepting recycling and waste from around the globe. The result is an oversupply of recyclables, driving values down and recycle costs are much higher. The need for maintaining and improving the quality of what is collected is greater than ever.

Glass cannot be effectively separated from paper in the commingled system, contaminates paper and causes damage at paper mills.

Poly-coated papers are a problem at many paper mills. The plastic coating is designed to resist moisture and does not work well in many paper-pulping operations.

How should I dispose of these materials?

Poly-coated and aseptic containers must now be thrown away in your trash bin.

Glass can either be thrown away, or taken to one of these four local glass drop-off sites:

  • Olympia Drop-off Site
    1000 10th Ave SE, Olympia, WA 98501
    Glass-only bin available 24/7
  • Yauger Park
    503 Alta St SW, Olympia, WA 98502
    Glass-only bin available dawn-dusk daily

  • Concrete Recyclers
    2935 Black Lake Blvd SW, Tumwater, WA 98512
    Open Monday-Saturday 8 a.m.-4 p.m.
  • Thurston County Transfer Station
    2418 Hogum Bay Rd, Lacey, WA 98516
    Open 8 a.m.-4:445 p.m. daily

Glass will be taken to Concrete Recyclers, where it will be crushed and used as aggregate material for road and construction base material.

Frequently Asked Questions

Removing glass from recycling benefits the City and customers. Doing so will save the City close to $100,000 dollars annually. This translates directly to customer rates. It greatly improves the quality of what the City does collect for recycle, improving its marketability and potentially the value received.

The City is asking residents to either take glass to a drop off or place it in the garbage. The request comes directly from the City’s recycle processor. The City and processor will be monitoring the amount of glass remaining in recycle.

The City will be working at educating and informing residents where glass is still found in carts. If it continues, we may not be able to empty your cart. We may also remove your recycle cart entirely.

No, not necessarily. Modern landfills are designed to keep our waste materials contained and not contaminate ground water or adjacent soils. Roosevelt landfill where Olympia’s trash goes, also captures the methane gas and uses it to produce electricity.

Glass is inert and does not pose any issues in the landfill. Poly-coated paper is better off going to the landfill directly, instead of potentially being shipped overseas where the waste disposal system is not as advanced as in the United States, or going to a recycle mill where it is a contaminate and ends up in the landfill anyway.

No. Pioneer Recycling Services, the City’s contracted processing facility, is able to find outlets for recyclable materials in the global market. Materials previously recycled by China are now going to other recyclers, both domestically, and in other countries.

Prior to 2018, recycling was around 1/4 of 1/5 the cost of landfill disposal. Because China stopped taking material, resulting in large supplies both nationally and globally, the average value of materials has dropped significantly. Even though the cost to recycle is at or above landfill disposal, it’s still a better option to recycle for the environmental benefits.

Recycling is dynamic with constant changes to packaging, the types of materials used and their thickness and weight. We cannot guarantee that the recycling acceptance list will never change again, however, this change addresses two types of material that have been an industry concern and scrutinized for well over 10 years.

The City does not expect any further reductions in its acceptance list for quite some time.

The term poly-coated refers to packaging made of paper fibers coated in plastic. The plastic coating allows packages to hold and contain liquids (such as milk cartons) and be stored in refrigerated environments (frozen food boxes) without falling apart.

The term aseptic refers to a type of packaging made with layers of paper, plastic and tin foil. Due to the unique package design, the contents are completely sealed from the air and result in a long shelf life. Because of the plastic and tin foil they contain, they cause problems at paper mills.

Common products include soup broth, soy milk, and small drink boxes such as juice and muscle milk.

Yes. These materials are not poly-coated and are still accepted.


Contact Kim Johnson at 360.570.5837 or