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YOUR TOWN. YOUR RULES.

City of Grand Rapids

We’ve pawed our way through recycling bins all over the state, and we’ve learned that the rules of recycling differ from one community to the next. That’s why we’re here to talk to you about YOUR rules – the rules of recycling for City of Grand Rapids residents. Reduce and reuse first, know it before you throw it when you recycle, and always reach out to City of Grand Rapids Recycling when you have questions.

Grand Rapids’ Essential Rules to Recycling Perfection


Effective January 2020, plastic bags and other flexible plastics are no longer recyclable curbside in GR. The plastic bags and flexible plastics shown above are recyclable locally though – many grocery stores accept clean and dry bags and wraps.

What’s NEVER recyclable are things like potato chip bags and frozen food bags – just throw those out. They often contain multiple types and layers of plastic, making them impossible to recycle.

TIP: Reuse your smaller plastic bags as trash can liners or to pick up pet waste.

No plastic bags

No bread bags

No plastic sandwich baggies

No air pillows used in packaging

No plastic shipping envelopes

No bathroom tissue & paper towel wrapping


Trash in the recycling bin is simply not cool. If there is too much trash in a load of recycling, you risk contaminating the entire truckload of recyclables. Which usually means all of your recyclables (and all of your neighbor’s) end up in a landfill. And you don’t want that, right? Right. Neither do we.

No dirty paper towels, tissues, napkins

No dirty paper plates

No diapers


Plastic bottles, jugs and containers are recyclable – always rinse and empty to avoid getting food waste on the paper and cardboard in your cart.

Smaller plastic items and things made of multiple plastic materials belong in the trash.

Plastic jugs and containers

Water bottles

Clean plastic takeout food containers

No plastic utensils, straws, toothbrushes


Boxboard, paperboard and your typical shipping boxes are all recyclable, and it’s fine if you leave on the tape and labels. But remember to cut down and flatten your boxes prior to placing them in the recycling bin.

There are a few cardboard “no”s though. A good rule to follow is this: If the cardboard container goes into the freezer, it’s best to just throw it away. Those boxes are usually covered in a thin layer of plastic to prevent them from getting soggy.

Additionally, cardboard can’t have any food residue or grease stains – a greasy pizza box is not recyclable, but you can always rip off the clean top of the box and put it in your recycling bin.

Cereal boxes

Shipping boxes

Tissue boxes

No greasy pizza boxes


Keep up the good work, Grand Rapids!

If you still have questions about what’s recyclable and what’s not, Grand Rapids Recycling can help.

Grand Rapids Recycling
300 Monroe Ave. NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49503
616-456-3232

These rules are true of all curbside recycling for residents of the City of Grand Rapids. If you live outside the city, you’ll want to check with your local recycling provider for your specific rules and information.

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