Recycling Program FAQ's

QuestionmarkMandatory recycling has been in effect in Connecticut since 1991.  What follows are some of the more common questions and answers about our state's recycling program and the laws that have been passed which clarify or expand it.  If the explanations on this page do not answer your questions, first please visit our Reduce/Reuse/Recycle  main webpage or contact your local recycling coordinator for more information.  If you still have technical questions concerning recycling, please contact the DEEP Recycling Program at 860-424-3366.

Who is required to recycle?

Everyone! The Mandatory Recycling Act went into effect in Connecticut on January 1, 1991. It applies to every business, every household, every institution and every government agency.

What items do I have to recycle?

Everyone in the state is required to recycle the following items: glass food and beverage containers; metal food and beverage containers; newspapers; corrugated cardboard; boxboard; magazines; leaves; scrap metal; used motor oil; lead-acid batteries; white office paper (households exempt); mixed colored paper/junk mail; grass clippings and nickel-cadmium batteries.


Who is responsible for providing recycling services to apartment buildings, condominium complexes and small businesses?

Although some towns provide trash and recycling service to small multi-family residences (2 or 3 apartments), most apartment buildings, condo associations and businesses contract directly with a trash hauler to provide trash and recycling service. The law requires "source separation". This means that you must separate the recyclables from the trash where they are generated. Your hauler cannot separate them later if they have been mixed with trash.

Are schools required to recycle?

Yes! Both public and private schools are required to recycle all of the items listed in #2 above. Schools also have a special obligation as educational institutions to practice the environmental ethics they teach and enable students to recycle at school just as they do at home.

Why do different towns collect different items in their recycling programs?

In Connecticut, most of our recyclables are sent to one of six intermediate processing centers where they are prepared for marketing to businesses that will transform them into new products. Some of these centers accept non-mandated items because they have found a suitable market. For example, the Hartford recycling center accepts magazines and catalogues along with newsprint because the newspaper mill that they ship to uses this mix to produce new newsprint. Some of the other centers have contracts with older mills that are only designed to use pure newsprint to produce their product.

What happens to my trash?

Most of Connecticut’s residentially-generated trash is sent to one of five Connecticut resource recovery facilities. These plants burn the trash as a fuel to generate electricity. The resulting ash is buried in specially designed lined landfills. All of these plants have modern pollution controls to reduce air emissions produced from the combustion process.

Why aren’t all plastics recyclable, after all, they are all stamped with the chasing arrows symbol?

The plastic container code identifies the seven thermoplastic resins by a number & an abbreviation. The code does not denote recyclability; it merely identifies each resin by its chemical composition. The plastic industry designed the code, hoping that all plastics would ultimately be recycled.  For more information, please see "plastics 3-7" in our What Do I Do With...? page.

Who do I call to get a recycling bin and find out what is recycled in my town?

Contact your municipal recycling coordinator, town hall or local Department of Public Works. Many towns also have web sites that can provide you with this information.

How do we enforce proper recycling in my town?

All municipalities have local ordinances requiring recycling of the mandatory recyclables.  Local communities have the power to enforce these local ordinances about recycling, litter and illegal dumping.  Sample Recycling Enforcement Letters are provided in the on-line Municipal Resource Recycling Center.


How much trash does a typical household generate?

In Connecticut we dispose of about 4 pounds of trash per resident, per day, and recycle the rest. That means that each of us is sending about ¾ ton of trash to be burned or buried each year.  Learn more about waste generation and recycling rates from our Solid Waste and Recycling Data.

I’m moving and I need to get rid of my household hazardous waste. What should I do?

Most communities in Connecticut offer at least one opportunity a year to their residents to dispose of hazardous items that they have in their home. These collections usually take place in the spring or fall. Some communities share the cost of providing a permanent site that offers weekly collection in the spring and fall to residents of participating towns. Because the material is hazardous, a licensed contractor must be hired to collect and dispose of this material properly. This is expensive, so municipalities cannot provide unlimited opportunities for collection. Check the Household Hazardous Waste Collection Schedule to find out the next available opportunity to properly dispose of this material in your area. Don’t wait until a few days before you move as there may not be service available at that time.

Why can’t I throw grass clippings in the trash?

The best thing to do with grass clippings is to leave them on the lawn. Grass clippings are mostly water and can provide needed moisture to your lawn. Other options are composting clippings along with other organics such as leaves or using them as garden mulch to keep down weeds. Because grass clippings are heavy and wet, they are expensive to collect and are unsuitable for disposal at a resource recovery facility because they compromise the combustion process. Some towns are allowed to compost grass with leaves, but collecting and managing grass this way is very expensive for your town.

What do I do with plastic bags/plastic film?

Plastic bags and plastic film, also known as shrink wrap, should never be put in curbside or transfer station single stream recycling bins because they can jam equipment at the Intermediate Processing Centers that prepare recyclables to be marketed.  However, a number of participating retailers do have collection bins for plastic bags at their stores.  Most of these bags are sent to the manufacturer of a recycled composite lumber that is used for outdoor decking.  Better yet, bring reusable cloth bags with you when you go shopping.

What should I do if I see my trash hauler mixing trash with recyclables?

Unless your hauler has a split truck (most do not) your trash and recyclables should be picked up separately. Learn more about Separating Recyclables from the Waste Stream.  If you see someone mixing trash and recyclables, call your town hall and ask to speak to your local recycling coordinator or call DEEP at (860) 424-3366 and file a complaint.

Why does recycling cost money?

Recyclables must be collected and then processed and shipped to companies that can use them as raw materials to make new products. Each step of the process has an associated cost. Revenues for recycled materials, which fluctuate like the price of any other raw material, do not always cover the processing costs. Landfilling and resource recovery also have associated costs, which are often higher than the cost to recycle. These other methods of managing our waste do not provide any of the environmental benefits that recycling provides. When we make new products from recycled material, we save energy, prevent pollution, reduce air emissions, save natural resources and reduce the emissions of greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change. However you look at it, recycling is quite a bargain.

How can I help promote recycling?

Get involved in Connecticut Recycles Day by coordinating an event in your town. Connecticut Recycles Day takes place every year on November 15. For more information visit the Connecticut Recycles Day website.

Public Act 10-87 Q&A

What is Public Act 10-87?

  This is a law, passed in 2010, that strengthens many of the existing recycling laws that preceded it, while also adding new designated recyclables and clarifying other rules.  PA 10-87 impacts and calls on everyone in Connecticut to participate in recycling activities. An overview of PA 10-87 is provided on our website.

What are the new designated recyclables and when do I have to start recycling them?

The list of current designated recyclable items include: glass food and beverage containers; polyethylene terephthalate (PET or PETE, #1) plastic containers of three gallons or less; high density polyethylene (HDPE, #2) plastic containers of three gallons or less; metal food and beverage containers; newspapers; corrugated cardboard; boxboard; magazines; leaves; scrap metal; used motor oil; lead-acid batteries; white office paper (households exempt); residential white and colored paper/junk mail; grass clippings and nickel-cadmium batteries. 

What is the definition of public common gathering venue?

A “common gathering venue” is any area or building, or portion thereof, that is open to the public, including but not limited to any (A) building that provides facilities or shelter for public assembly, (B) inn, hotel, motel, sports arena, supermarket, transportation terminal, retail store, restaurant or other commercial establishment that provides services or retails merchandise, or (C) museum, hospital, auditorium, move theater or university building.

Does every public street corner in my town need a recycling bin?

No.  Where your town offers trash collection AND it’s an area where a lot of mandated/designated recyclables are generated, meaning they are sold or given away at these common gathering venues.  Not all street corners have trash cans placed on them or have a lot of traffic where recyclables are generated.  Your down town area, however, might be a great site where you’re drawing in the community, where you offer trash cans, and where many businesses are selling newspapers, beverages etc.  These downtown locations should be sure to place recycling bins adjacent to trash receptacles.

I coordinate an annual festival, do I have to plan for recycling or is that the responsibility of the town?

If designated recyclables are generated at the festival (a common gathering venue) and your group contracts with a collector to provide trash collection your group is also required to contract for recycling collection services.  If the town provides the trash collection, then they must also provide recycling collection.  Recycling containers should be at the same location as the trash containers making it easy and accessible for to the public.  DEEP offers a lot of resources about Managing Waste & Recycling at Special Events and Other Venues.

Do municipalities have to provide recycling containers in their parks, municipal buildings, and other common gathering places where they already have trash containers?

The town needs to offer recycling collection where trash collection is offered AND at the same time mandated/designated recyclables are sold or given away.  Example 1: If you have a town park and there are no trash cans provided (i.e. you expect carry in/carry out), then no recycling receptacles are required.  Example 2:   At a ball field, the school has a concession stand and sells beverages in recyclable containers.  If the town offers trash cans – they will need to offer recycling receptacles.  Will you need a recycling receptacle for every trash can?  Focus where recyclables are generated.  If  you have a couple of trash cans on the far end of the ball field but it’s not where recyclables would end up or the public goes, a recycling can in this location is not required. Example 3: There are 5 employees who work at the town garage.  You have an office in the building as well as a break room where employees eat their lunch.  Recycling collection should be offered in this municipal building, just like the town hall, schools and library.

My trash hauler collects my garbage once a week, but only picks up recyclables once a month - is this reasonable?

This part of the law is intended to ensure equitable convenience for curbside collection of trash and recycling.  Collectors and municipalities must ensure that if trash is collected curbside that recyclables are collected curbside as well. It sounds as if your situation will probably need to be adjusted so that the collection systems are more equitable, since the frequency and provision of the containers are not equal—that doesn’t mean they need to be identical, it simply means that setting out recyclables must be as convenient as setting out trash, and it doesn’t sound like it is at this time.

My town has an ordinance that makes it difficult for my business to put out a recycling dumpster – what can I do?

This law ensures that local zoning ordinances do not prevent businesses from collecting recyclables.  In a nutshell, Section 4(a) of the law states that no zoning regulation can prohibit the use of recycling receptacles or unreasonably restrict their size or access to them.  There can be requirements for screening or buffering recycling receptacles for aesthetic reasons, and provisions for side, rear and front yards.

I am a trash hauler and I have a business customer that refuses recycling services because they have some other type of recycling arrangement.  How can I prove or document that I offered them recycling and trash services?

The best way to protect yourself is to provide a receipt that your customer signs that shows they were offered your recycling services and that they are opting out.  Keep these receipts in your records.  This sample "Documentation of Existing Recycling Contract" form (Word, pdf) can be used as-is by collectors, or used as a basis upon which to create their own form.

I am a trash hauler and I provide trash pick-up in more than one town.  Do I have to register my hauling company with all of them?

Each municipality is required to register all waste collectors/haulers working in their community.  Any collector hauling solid waste, including recyclables, shall register annually and disclose  (1) the name and address of the collector and owner of the company; (2)whether hauling is for residential, commercial or other solid waste; (3) the types of solid waste hauled; (4) anticipated disposal facilities and end markets used; and (5) any additional information the municipality requires to ensure the health and safety of its residents.

Are companies that haul loaded trailers of MSW from regional transfer stations to waste-to-energy plants required to register with each municipality in which they collect MSW?

The changes regarding collector registration and reporting were meant to target those collectors that collect solid waste and recyclables directly from the generators, not from waste facilities.  So the answer to that question is no.  However, if a municipality decides they want those collectors to register it does not appear that the statute necessarily precludes them from requiring them to register.

Who, specifically, is considered a solid waste collector; and which ones need to register with municipalities?  For example, do C&D, yard waste or septage haulers need to register?

The revised definition of "collector" for CGS Section 22a-220a provides a clarification regarding which collectors are required to register.  A collector is defined as any person who holds himself out for hire to collect solid waste on a regular basis from residential, business, commercial or other establishments.
  • Companies that routinely collect MSW and commodity recyclables from a client curbside or from commercial entities would be considered a collector that must register.
  • A collector that only picks up C&D waste would not likely collect solid waste on a regular basis and therefore would not be required to register with the municipality.
  • Collectors which collect yard waste on a regular basis as a business i.e. their business is hauling yard waste for hire on a regular basis could be required to register. 
  • Landscape companies and landscapers whose primary business is landscaping and not hauling, would not be required to register.
  • Septage collectors are already licensed or permitted by the State Department of Public Health (DPH) and the information regarding the destination of the septage is already reported to that department.  Therefore those collectors would not be required to register or report.  The key is that they were not a focus of this section of the statutes or the legislative focus on registration improvements.  However, if the municipality wants those collectors to register, then we note that the statutes don’t appear to preclude a municipality from requiring them to do so, since the hauler puts him/herself out for hire for the primary purpose of hauling a type of solid waste and generally have a clientele that they service on a regular basis.


Content last updated November 2023