Some stuff is off the recyclable list

Shredded paper, milk and juice cartons, and plastic plant pots are no longer accepted in Pierce County’s recycling program.

This change affects all recycling, whether curbside or at drop-off locations, in the county’s solid-waste system. The county system doesn’t include Tacoma, Ruston, Auburn, Pacific or Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

While paper milk and  juice cartons are now restricted to garbage for disposal, plastic milk and juice jugs are still recyclable.

Recent challenges with recycling in the United States prompted the change in Pierce County. For nearly two decades, most recyclables in the U.S. were baled and exported to mills in China. Many of the bales contained items that weren’t recyclable and had to be sent to landfills. To clean up their environment, the Chinese government banned the import of most categories of recyclable material in 2017. Now that most recyclables are no longer sent overseas, recycling programs and ratepayers must manage the increased costs associated with processing and shipping recyclables to re-manufacturers in the U.S. and Canada.

More information about what’s recyclable and what isn’t is available at

The county is asking the public to “recycle the right things and don’t put things in the cart hoping they’ll be recycled,” said Ryan Dicks, sustainable resources administrator for the county. “We also need to think about ways to reduce waste, such as (using) reusable bottles and mugs and repairing items instead of replacing them.”