Small pile of food scraps, wheelbarrow full of grass clippings and pile of leaves

Know Before You Throw

Keep waste out of the landfill by knowing which bin it belongs in before you throw it out.

Thoughtful sorting also cleans up our community's compost and recycling streams – making it easier for local facilities to turn plastic, glass, food scraps and other waste into valuable materials that can be resold and recirculated.

Not sure where it goes? Look it up!


Food scraps

Including meat, bones, coffee grounds and dairy.

A pile of food scraps in a bowl

Plant and yard trimmings

Leaves, flowers, twigs, grass and other lawn trimmings.

Wheelbarrow full of grass clippings, a pile of leaves, and three dried sunflowers


  • Remove stickers, tags and rubber bands. These belong in the trash.
  • Keep plastic bags out.
  • Compostable products now belong in the trash. This includes certified compostable cups, plates, utensils and to-go containers.
  • Paper products belong in the trash unless you compost them in your backyard bin. This includes paper towels, napkins and shredded paper.
  • Coffee filters and tea bags are trash too. Dump coffee grounds and tea leaves into your compost bin and trash the filter or bag.
  • Most bags are not allowed, including large certified compostable bags used to line bins. Check out A1 Organics' website for a list of allowed compostable bags.

What about lawn and leaf bags?

Many waste haulers are still collecting large, brown paper bags used for yard trimmings. These bags must be left next to your compost bin. Please check with your waste hauler for more information. Large yard trimmings, like branches, can be taken to Western Disposal’s Yard Waste Drop-Off Center for a reduced fee.

Got bag questions? Reach out to your waste hauler for more information.

Don't compost these items. Put them in the trash.

Do not compost plastic or large compost bags, produce stickers, rubber bands, twist ties, coffee filters, tea bags, greasy pizza boxes, paper products or takeout containers.
Compost Right


Paper and cardboard

Stack of paper, cereal box and a piece of cardboard

Plastic bottles, tubs, jugs and jars

Plastic bottle, jug and tub

Plastic takeout containers, clamshells and lids

No polystyrene foam (Styrofoam™).

Plastic takeout container, clamshell and lid


Like soup, juice and milk boxes.

Three cartons made of paper and plastic

Metal cans, lids and foil

Metal cans, foil, lid and soda cans

Glass bottles and jars

Many glass bottles and jars


Keep plastic bags out of the recycling, don't crush containers, empty and clean recyclables.
  • No plastic bags.
  • Empty and rinse all containers.
  • Keep recyclables loose, don't bag them.
  • Recyclables should be the size of a credit card or larger (two by three inches).
  • Attach plastic screw-top caps but remove metal lids.
  • Ball clean aluminum foil to 2 inches or larger.
  • Not everything with a recycling symbol can be recycled.
  • Don't crush containers.
  • Do flatten cardboard boxes.


Many items not listed as compostable or recyclable, including:

  • Compostable food and drink to-go containers.
  • Plastic bags – unless brought to the CHaRM or a local grocery store.
  • Polystyrene (commonly called Styrofoam™).
  • Plastic cups, wrappers and tubes.
  • Coffee cups and lids.
  • Diapers and menstrual products.
  • Frozen food packaging and plastic-coated paper, like receipts.
  • Animal waste.
  • Paper products, like towels, napkins and tissues.
  • Coffee filters and tea bags.
Put paper products, greasy pizza boxes, compostable products, coffee cups, polystyrene, tubes and more in the trash.

Please see Hazardous and Hard-to-Recycle Materials for more recycling options.

Test Your Knowledge
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(Not-so) Hard-to-Recycle Materials

The Eco-Cycle/City of Boulder Center for Hard-to-Recycle Materials (CHaRM) helps Boulder recycle what is otherwise un-recyclable. The facility collects a variety of items that are not accepted in Boulder’s curbside recycling bins, including electronics and appliances, plastic bags, mattresses, textiles and scrap metal. Once collected and sorted, the facility sells materials to companies who transform them into new products.

Find a full list of accepted materials and recycling fees on Eco-Cycle's website.

Plastic bags, bubble wrap, a pile of electronics, fire extinguisher and a bike wheel.

Plastic bags, bubble wrap, electronics, fire extinguishers and bike parts can all be recycled at the CHaRM.

Hazardous Waste

Boulder County's Hazardous Materials Management Facility (HMMF) safely processes many hazardous household products, including batteries, paint, pool chemicals and drain cleaners.

It is not always easy to tell whether or not a material is hazardous. Look for these warning words: poison, toxic, corrosive, volatile, flammable, inflammable, combustible, explosive, danger, caution, warning or harmful.

Review HMMF's full list of accepted materials.

Pair of batteries, hand holding paint brush above paint bucket and bottle of pool cleaner.
Go Beyond Recycling, Practice Circularity