How to recycle in Lansing

(Photo: Josh Bootsma)
By Quinton R. Arthur

LANSING, Ill. (February 16, 2022) – Recycling can help save landfill space, conserve energy, and protect natural resources, and though many are conscious of the need for it, some do not know the details of what recycling should look like.

According Homewood Disposal — the company that takes care of Lansing’s residential trash and recycling — the average American throws away over four pounds of garbage each day. Of this trash, many items can often be recycled.

Recyclable materials

The many recyclable items can be distilled into five major categories:

  • Paper materials, such as newspapers, magazines, and office paper, as well as paper cartons like those used for juice or milk
  • Cardboard, such as packing boxes, cereal boxes, and paper towel rolls
  • Plastic, like bottles and jugs
  • Aluminum and metal, such as soda cans
  • Glass, like bottles
This graphic from Homewood Disposal shows what items can generally be recycled.

Exceptions to the rule

In general, most of the items listed can be recycled, but there are some exceptions, which are listed below:

  • Shredded paper cannot be recycled due to its size and likelihood to get mixed with other materials.
  • Wet, soiled, or greasy cardboard can not be recycled because it degrades the quality of the rest of the cardboard — this includes pizza boxes with grease stains.
  • Ice cream cartons are also not recyclable.
  • Plastic straws and juice pouches must both be thrown in the trash.
  • Aerosol cans are considered hazardous material and must be disposed of elsewhere.
  • Mirrors, window glass, and glass dinnerware are made differently from other types of glass, so they should be thrown away.
  • Light bulbs contain mercury, so they can taken to a home improvement store for a special recycling process.
  • Bubble wrap, packing peanuts, and hard plastic packaging are also not recyclable.
  • Prescription bottles also do not belong in the recycling bin. Some pharmacies may have a take-back program.
  • Styrofoam is not recyclable.

Residents can find out more details about what can and can’t be recycled by referring to this guide created by Homewood Disposal Service.

Recycling reminders

Residents can help the recycling process by remembering three best practices:

  1. Empty and gently rinse containers so that nothing spoils the other materials. Liquid and food items can make items difficult to recycle and unpleasant for workers.
  2. Do not recycle plastic grocery bags. Plastic bags can be taken back to stores for separate and clean recycling or reused frequently. Another option is to forgo plastic bags and opt for a reusable bag.
  3. Keep all materials loose so that they can be sorted easily at the recycling facility — do not use a trash bag for your recycling.

The recycling process

After being sorted by residents in recycling bins, materials are picked up and driven to a material recovery facility. From there, the materials are separated and loaded into a drum feeder which sends them to the sorting stations.

Workers first remove items like plastic bags, toys, and electronics, which fall into several categories of plastic. On most plastic products, there is a recycling symbol that lets users know if it can be reused.

Next, technology plays an important role in helping to separate materials. A machine with rubber stars rotates to separate paper and cardboard from other materials. Glass is filtered with a fine screen. Tin cans are pulled out using a special magnet called an Eddy Current. Another machine uses bursts of air to further disperse materials by type.

Once the materials are in their proper collection area, they are compacted into large bales. Finally, the bales are loaded onto trucks which transport materials to various facilities to transform into new products.

A visual of this process can be viewed in the video below, which was made by Homewood Disposal:

Through recycling, we can guarantee a sustainable environment for the next generation.

To find out more about the recycling process, visit