Recycling FAQs from Balcones Recycling

Featured image from Austin Resource Recovery

The City of Austin Zero Waste Block Leaders were fortunate to have Balcones Recycling, the recycling company contracted for curbside recycling in my area of Austin, talk at one of our meetups and answer our questions.

Here I share their Recycle FAQs for curbside recycling carts (blue carts) and some additional recycling information with you.


Don’t bag recyclables.

Bagged recycling is pulled off the sorting line and trashed.

The few humans working the sorting line do not have time to tear these open and dump them out. Opening bags this way would also a safety hazard.

Lids should be kept on bottles.

Keep lids on only if they’re the same material (ex: plastic on plastic).

Separate lids if different (metal on glass).

Pizza boxes: recycle non-greasy parts of the box, usually the lid.

Image from Austin Resource Recovery.

Compost the greasy parts, usually the bottom but may be the whole thing.

Image from Austin Resource Recovery.

Items smaller than your palm won’t be captured in single-stream recycling carts.

These items fall through the single-stream sorting machines.

You can collect small bits for the Hard Plastics and Scrap Metal stations at the Recycle & Reuse Drop-off Center.

Don’t crush cans or bottles.

The sorting machines read the shape, and some even read barcodes, to help sort properly.

Clean, dry, and lids-on if the lid is the same material.

Remove shrink sleeves from containers.

These can be on drinks, laundry products, etc. The product should indicate if it has a sleeve.

This example is from Activia, a yogurt drink. Remove and trash the sleeve, and recycle the bottle with lid on.

Empty containers.

Full or partially full containers are to heavy to sort properly and can contaminate the recycling streams.

When in Doubt

Flow chart courtesy of Balcones Recycling:

Reuse it

Repair it : ARR regularly holds Fix-it Clinics for many items, Austin Shoe Hospital has many locations (they repair leather goods as well as many types of shoes), there are many tailor and bicycle repair shops in town, and you may even find more unique help maybe right in your neighborhood. A neighbor of mine just asked for help refurbishing and repairing some antique ducks her family has and we have an antique dealer in the neighborhood who is going to help her out. We also have several tailors and bicycle repair people who regularly offer their help and knowledge. Don’t forget to check Tik Tok, YouTube and the internet for DIY repairs.

Swap it: Your local Buy Nothing or neighborhood groups are also great ways to keep items local and help your neighbors.

Donate it: I encourage you to find small and/or local groups that will keep donations as local as possible. A few ideas and options are on my page Where Do I Donate/Recycle? Your local Buy Nothing or neighborhood groups are also great ways to keep items local and help your neighbors.

Recycle it at a drop-off center like Austin’s Recycle & Reuse Drop-off Center or your local scrap or recycling facility.

Throw it out

…and look for a more circular option next time!

There is a saying in zero waste and recycling, “When in doubt, throw it out.” which is always a better option than “wish-cycling” which is trying to recycle things that cannot be recycled, either anywhere or in your local system. Wish-cycling contaminates the recycling stream, can cause a poorer quality of items resulting for resell, and if there is too much contamination may even cause fines.


This video is a tour of Balcones Resources. It’s an older video (from 2017), so the COVID and safety measures have changed since it’s publication, but this tour I find more comprehensive than newer videos.

This Balcones Resources tour is from 2022, but again, I prefer the first video. Both are helpful to see the different angles, items, way things are brought in and sorted. Technology changes and improves.

You may also like:

Recycling Bags Not Needed/Prohibited

Myths, Rumors, Confusion: Recycling in Austin

Recycle & Reuse Drop-off Center

The small (plastic and metal) things in life

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