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Entering holiday shopping season, King County promotes ‘guilt-free garbage’ to ensure collected recyclables can be reused


Natural Resources and Parks
Public Affairs

Entering holiday shopping season, King County promotes ‘guilt-free garbage’ to ensure collected recyclables can be reused


The King County Solid Waste Division wants to remind everyone as we head into the busy holiday shopping, shipping, packaging, and entertaining season that plastic bags, wrap, and other non-recyclable items should not be put in the recycling bin.


While people want to do the right thing and recycle as much as they can, putting non-recyclable plastic and dirty containers in the recycling bin does more harm than good.

Plastic bags are now banned in Washington, but they continue to cause major problems with the machines that sort the mixed recycling from homes and business in King County. 

Plastic bags and film – along with random items like wires, old Christmas lights, diapers, and facemasks – spoil the quality of collected materials. They can foul and damage the equipment at material recycling facilities, where mixed recycling materials from homes and businesses are brought for sorting and bundling before going to factories for manufacturing into new materials.

Soiled and improper items tossed into the recycling bin can spoil an otherwise good load of recycling, which means it all ends up in the landfill, rather than getting new lives as new products.

Heading into the busy holiday buying, packaging, shipping, and entertaining season, the King County Solid Waste Division is sharing the message of “guilt-free garbage.”

Only specific items should be in the recycling bin, and they can only be recycled if they are empty, clean, and dry. Otherwise, those materials should go in the trash. 

Not sure an item can be recycled? When in doubt, throw it out. Not only is it OK to throw those questionable items in the garbage, but it’s also better for the environment and the economy.

If you’ve got leftover, unwanted, or unneeded plastic bags and film, you can reuse these materials, place them in the garbage, or return empty, clean and dry bundled materials to drop-off locations – find the nearest location by visiting

Relevant links

For more information, contact:

Doug Williams, Department of Natural Resources and Parks, 206-477-4345