What to do with batteries and other hard-to-recycle items

Text reads: Easy battery and electronics recycling. Learn more

By Michael Taylor

Austin Resource Recovery (ARR) collects the contents of blue, residential recycling carts and hauls them to a local recycling facility, known as a Materials Recovery Facility (MRF). From there, the MRF handles sorting the materials for shipment to an end-user. This relationship between ARR and the MRF means that both have a first-hand account of what is being put into the residential recycling carts to be sorted.

While many Austinites do a great job of putting recyclable items like plastic bottles, cardboard, glass and more into their blue carts, about 20% of items are found not to be recyclable curbside, meaning the MRF can't process the materials (we'll call these items "hard-to-recycle"). Four of the most common hard-to-recycle items are: plastic bags, batteries, electronics and Styrofoam.

When these hard-to-recycle items are put into recycling carts and not disposed of properly, it can cause safety hazards down the road. For example, batteries - when left in a recycling cart and in the heat of summer - can start fires in the collection trucks or at the facilities. Or, plastic bags, because of their flimsy material, can get tangled in the equipment gears at the recycling facility and make it harder for them to process material efficiently.

The good news? There are ways to recycle these items properly! As you continue keeping these items out of your blue recycling carts, find alternative ways to dispose of them the right way with these options:

Austin's Recycle and Reuse Drop-off Center

The best resource in Austin for properly disposing of these items is the Recycle and Reuse Drop-off Center. The Center is open to the public and is available by appointment only. Visiting the Center is a great way to help Austin become more sustainable, as it accepts these hard-to-recycle items and more including household hazardous waste. Not only that, but you can pick up free items at the Center to reuse yourself including paint, cleaning supplies and mulch.

Prepare for your visit and schedule an appointment at the Center!

'What Do I Do With…'

Aptly named and extremely useful, our 'What Do I Do With' tool makes it easy to figure out if an item is recyclable in your blue cart at any time. It's as easy as 1, 2...

Step1: Type in the item you want to dispose of.

Step 2: See one or several options on how to recycle or dispose of it correctly.

Plastic bags disposal

Plastic bags are very common, but not commonly recyclable. Since they are not recyclable curbside, plastic bags can be taken to a participating retail store. Just start a collection at home and, every once and a while, take the plastic bags you've collected to a local, participating retail store (many local grocery stores have bins set up at the entrance to accept the bags, but call ahead to confirm with the store!). In addition to plastic shopping bags, you can also bring used bread bags, produce bags and dry-cleaning bags.

Battery recycling

Batteries should never be thrown into dumpsters or curbside trash, recycling or composting carts. Instead, take them to the Recycle and Reuse Drop-off Center or your closest Austin library branch (many branches around town accept them for proper disposal).

Check out our list of year-round battery recycling locations to find one near you.

Get more recycling info!

  • Download the Austin Recycles app on your smartphone for an easy way to schedule an appointment at the Recycle and Reuse Drop-off Center or search the 'What Do I Do With..." tool for ways to properly dispose of hard-to-recycle items.
  • Follow along as we provide more recycling tips and updates on Facebook and Instagram.