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Because You Asked

Should I Set Out My Recycling Bin in the Rain?

By Recyclebank |

If all recyclables should be clean and dry, what should you do on rainy pickup days?

Dear Recyclebank,

I understand that recyclables need to be clean and dry, but when it rains everything gets wet. Are all these wet things still recyclable? We aren't supposed to put them in plastic bags, so there's no way to keep them dry.

-Latoya R., Philadelphia, PA

Dear Latoya,

A bit of rain on plastic or metal recyclables will not make them unrecyclable, but moisture poses a problem for paper and cardboard. It’s important to make sure paper and cardboard are as dry as possible to protect their recyclability. But, as you noted, plastic bags aren’t an option for keeping it dry. Fortunately, we can think of a couple of other options.

The best way to protect paper recycling from the elements is to use a recycling bin with a lid, if they’re available. A few cities (like Philadelphia) do allow you to use any rigid household container to put out recyclables as long as it is clearly marked “RECYCLING” (and in Philadelphia, it must be under 32 gallons). You could use a lidded storage bin or lidded 10-gallon bucket as a protected curbside recycling bin. For those outside Philly: Always check with your waste hauler first to see if using alternative bins is allowed.

If none of these bin options are available, try to be mindful of the weather and be strategic on rainy pickup days. This might mean putting your recycling out closer to pickup time — in the morning instead of the night before, for example. Some light rain or dew the morning of pickup might just moisten the top layer, which some haulers can separate from the dry majority of your bundle. Even better, if it’s possible, hold on to your recyclables and wait until the next pickup day to put them out for collection.

Despite best intentions, sometimes the recycling will end up getting rained on. Paper recycling processors know this, and they expect some moisture to get in even as they work to minimize it. Just do your best to keep your recyclables protected, but don’t despair if they get wet. In Philadelphia, which is considering using lidded recycling bins in some areas, wet recyclables will still get recycled. “We recognize that only the most dedicated recyclers are willing to hold their recyclables until the next sunny day,” says Phil Bresee, Recycling Director of Philadelphia. “And many residents may not have the space to hold recyclables until then. So, it is okay to place recyclables out in the rain, even without a lid.”

Montgomery County Sanitation
Green Philly




How do you keep your recyclables from getting rained on? Share your strategies in the comments below!

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  • Duane W. 32 minutes ago
    Here in rainy western Oregon, we have a large recycling bin with a lid.
  • Barbara W. 3 days ago
    A 404 on 6-26-23
  • George J. 8 days ago
    On the good side, our city has recyling bins with covers, so rain should not be a problem. Trash bins have black lids and recyling has yellow lids.

    On the bad side, the private company with the contract to pickup trash and recyling item filed for bankruptcy and is weeks behind on pickups. We had temperatures closse to 100 degrees last week and the smells are less than present around town.
  • Katja Z. 11 days ago
    June 18th 2022 12:14 am Eastern time.

    Of course it is a 404 day.
  • Barbara W. 14 days ago
    The City used to have its own limb trucks. When a homeowner or renter had a bunch of limbs and stacked them at the curb, they called the City and got on a LIST.
    We were told they picked them up in the order they were called in. (Population 16,000) smaller town ways!
    I had cut up a bunch of limbs and called the City to get on the LIST ( I marked it on the calendar). After a month I called back and was told Yes you are still on the list, they had lot a of people waiting. In the meantime, my mother wanted me to cut up limbs for her. I finished at the end of the day, so I told her that she had to call the City in the morning to get on the LIST. I also said , it may be a while before they come because they have not even picked mine up yet.
    Guess what, ( due to her address- rich neighborhood) they picked them up right away! Small town ways!
    They did away with that service years later, well for the rest of us anyway!!!
    • Katja Z. 14 days ago
      Our town has a once a month chipper route for larger limbs.
      You have to sign up for that.
      With the yard waste its every week and you have to either bag it in the large paper bags or put it in a trash can that is labeled with the free stickers from the DPW.
      Up until a few years ago you had to pay $2 for a tag that you put on the large paper bag or a trash can.
      But they stopped charging for yard waste pick up.
      Which is good because I never put out yard waste before they stopped charging for it.
    • Barbara W. 3 days ago
      If we now want the city to pick up a pile of limbs, It's $55.00.
      No way!
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