reusable bags

The Ultimate Guide for Keeping Northern Nevada Green – Tips for Recycling

Spring is a great time to take a fresh look at your household recycling and donation practices. I’ve compiled tips for recycling and sustainable living that you can start using today.

Are you up-to-date with your Washoe County single-stream residential recycling program? Are there items that you know can’t be recycled traditionally that you need a solution for? Can you swap out items in your daily routine that are simple but can make a big impact? Definitely!

makeup skincare recycling

You can attend community events, sort and drop-off household items that need disposal, and educate yourself and your family on the many organizations doing amazing work here in Reno and beyond.

Community Events

Target’s Car Seat Trade-in Event

All locations: now – May 4, 2019

Target will accept and recycle all types of car seats, including infant seats, convertible seats, car seat bases, harness or booster car seats, and car seats that are expired or damaged. Materials from the old car seats will be recycled by Target’s partner, Waste Management.

In addition, car seats in good condition will go to families in need. Receive a 20% discount towards a new car seat! Through May 4th.

Sustainability Series Talks and Workshops

Next lecture: May 11, 2019

Guest presenters offer ideas on how we can build a greener future! Sponsored by NØRDIK, these free events take place at The Basement Reno and are organized in collaboration with Keep Truck Meadows Beautiful, One Truckee River, Nevada Division of Environmental Protection and Envirolution. May 11th, 3pm – 5pm.

Washoe County Household Hazardous Waste Collection Event

May 11, 2019

Waste Management customers in good standing may bring up to 50 lbs. free of charge. Household Hazardous Waste (HHW) is leftover household products that contain corrosive, toxic, ignitable, or reactive ingredients.

This includes materials such as paints, cleaners, oils, antifreeze, batteries, light bulbs, and pesticides. In addition, they accept electronic waste!

Free Community Shred Day in Reno

May 31, 2019

One Nevada Credit Union is hosting a free community shred event at its Damonte Branch on Friday, May 31st from 10am – 2pm. This event is open to all, even if you’re not a customer!

Prescription Drug Round Up

Twice a Year (April and October)

If you missed the April 27th, 2019 Round Up date, Join Together Northern Nevada hosts another date in October. (date to be announced soon) They will take your unneeded prescription drugs (in original containers with patient name marked out), prescription liquids, and pet medications.

They even take over-the-counter medications that are expired! Several drop-off locations in Reno.

Solutions for Recycling and Sustainable Practices for a Busy Mom

Know Waste Management’s Limitations

In Washoe County, you are likely a customer of Waste Management (WM). Reno City Council adopted mandatory recycling in 1991 for residents as a result of a state mandate. They have a comprehensive website with lots of information.

There are four groups of recyclables for your curbside bin that are easy to remember: metals, paper/cardboard, glass, and plastics. Reno’s single stream approach collects items together in one bin. The WM What Can I Recycle page on their website is helpful.

In addition, there are groups of recyclables that require special handling: batteries/bulbs and electronics. For these items, take advantage of free collection events!

Many items are not accepted in the local curbside program. Baby food pouches (plastic pouch and top), baby bottle parts (small plastic parts, rubber tips), baby gear (pacifiers, formula scoops, teethers, etc.), cosmetics containers and tubes, Starbucks cups, and any hard plastic that does not meet the criteria (clear, or labeled #1-7) goes into the landfill.

Even plastic “air pillows” that come in Amazon packaging (has a recycling label, but not applicable to Reno) are not accepted curbside.

If you’re willing to do a little more work to collect and sort your recyclables, you can make sure items are truly getting recycled. For example: clean and rinse all items including aluminum foil (food residue renders the item unrecyclable), remove lids from glass jars, inspect plastics for color and number. Pull plastic film items (grocery, produce, Ziploc bags) and set aside.

An overwhelming amount of baby items are not accepted curbside, unfortunately. Luckily there are organizations that will help with sustainable solutions!

Recycle Baby Food Pouches and Caps

Baby food pouches and caps are not recyclable curbside through residential WM. They will go straight to the landfill. If you haven’t heard of TerraCycle, I will mention it here and in many other instances throughout this article.

Alternatively, an easy solution is to purchase a Baby Food Pouches Zero Waste Envelope from TerraCycle.

This company will separate item by polymer type, clean and extrude into pellets to make new recycled products. Collect your used baby food pouches over time (excess removed) and then ship in bulk. Purchase a recycling envelope.

recycle baby pouches

Our neighbor, Keep Truckee Green, has compiled a list of alternative ways to recycle plastic food pouches and caps. This small list of brands have partnerships with TerraCycle to offer free programs. Before you purchase a Zero Waste Envelope, make sure your brand is not part of a free send-back program.

In addition to TerraCycle, Preserve is doing groundbreaking work. They sort, wash, melt, and pelletize plastics, turning used plastic into raw materials to create new products.

Although minimal, this program, called Gimme 5, has a partnership with Plum to accept caps only from Plum pouches (and other brands too!). On the other hand, Plum does not have a recycling solution for their pouches as of 2019.

Donate or Recycle Baby Gear

This is a tough one. When your little one is growing up fast, what do you with all the gear that they are growing out of so quickly? Items that come to mind are bathtubs, car seats, carriers, bassinets, changing tables, walkers, bottles, pacifiers, teething rings, and play mats to name a few.

Although WM provides customers with access to Lockwood Landfill (one bulky item or appliance, one time, free of charge), that would mean just adding to the landfill. The better answer is of course donation to a friend, family, or community in need.

However, items that have damage are not considered donatable. So what do you do with the rest? For those items that have damage, you can first call the item manufacturer to see if they have an internal recycling program. Unfortunately, they rarely do.

Luckily there are innovative companies like TerraCycle creating responsible programs for hard to recycle items. You can purchase a Baby Gear Zero Waste Box through TerraCycle.

Donate Used Clothing/Shoes (in good condition and not)

Goodwill, Salvation Army, and Catholic Charities are wonderful organizations to donate old clothing and shoes that are clean and in good condition.

tips for recycling clothing

What most people don’t know is that these charities have salvage programs; that means, if there are clothes with damages, you can still drop it off. Separate and label clearly.

Comparatively, H&M accepts donations of textile items in any condition at their stores worldwide! You can drop off your clothing, no matter the brand or condition, in all stores across the globe. The limit is two grocery sized bags/per drop-off. Note: shoes are not accepted.

Donate Used Toys

Donating used toys can be a challenge. If they are still in good condition, you can first try to donate to friends or family. Always check to make sure there are no recalls by the CPSC. Clean them and install new batteries if needed.

You can try donating to charities of your choice to see if they might accept used toys; often policies change so research ahead.

Second Chance Toys has an amazing program to donate plastic toys to children in need. Although they have no drop-off location in Reno, their website states that if a group can collect 50 or more gently used plastic toys, they can facilitate a drop-off for a local organization.

TerraCycle has a partnership with Hasbro. This free program accepts all Hasbro toys and games including board games, electronic toys and games, metal/plastic/wood toys and games, actions figures, dolls and plush toys. The Hasbro parent company also accepts these.

If you have exhausted all means to donate and the toy or electronic toy is not on the Hasbro list, you can always purchase a Toys Zero Waste Box from TerraCycle. They will separate polymer type, clean and extrude into plastic pellets to make new recycled products.

Shop Origins, MAC and Aveda

Not many consumers know that used/empty cosmetics containers and tubes are not recyclable curbside through residential WM. They will go straight to the landfill. Luckily, Origins, MAC and a handful of other brands are leading the way with internal recycle programs that take responsibility for their packaging.

Origins will take cosmetics containers from any brand. Note: only The Summit Reno location Dillard’s has this recycling program in place.

recycle makeup

MAC at The Summit Reno will take containers from their brand only and will reward you with free product depending on the number of containers received. (you can bring in between 6-24 empty containers per drop-off)

If you have a large number of beauty products that need recycling, you can purchase a Beauty Products and Packaging Zero Waste Box through TerraCycle and load the box up to ship to their facility for sustainable recycling and reuse.

Support a Green Circle Salon

Tangerine Aveda Salon Spa at The Summit Reno is the only Green Circle Salon in Reno. This partnership allows the salon sustainable solutions to recover and repurpose beauty waste. You can also drop-off your empty Aveda containers for recycling.

Donate Used Books

Donate books in good condition to Washoe County Libraries.

Bring Your Own Tumbler to Starbucks Drive-Thru

Starbucks cups are not recyclable! Did you know this? Unfortunately, the actual cup part goes to the landfill. Estimates on decomposition range from 20 to 50 years. You can recycle the plastic lid and the cardboard sleeve, but not the actual cup because of the plastic lining inside.

Starbucks is starting trials this year on different types of cups to achieve sustainability goals.

Reno is hoping to be on board with a new environmentally friendly cup at the end of 2020. Compostable and recyclable cups are currently being tested in select markets: London, New York, San Francisco, Seattle and Vancouver.

Insider Tip

Take your own reusable tumbler to the store or drive-thru. Did you know the drive-thru is set up to accommodate your own tumbler? Save 10 cents per drink. Doesn’t seem like much, but you will feel better not adding to the landfill.

Join TerraCycle

Join TerraCycle to participate in free programs with major brands. Simply choose the programs you’d like to join, start collecting, download free shipping labels and send your waste to be recycled. They turn collected recyclables into new products, ranging from recycled park benches to upcycled backpacks.

If you have tricky items to dispose of, purchase a Zero Waste Box for that particular waste stream and ship your items to TerraCycle; they will separate polymer type, clean and extrude into plastic pellets to make new recycled products.

Insider Tip

Try splitting the cost of a Zero Waste Box with a group!

Try Alternatives to Plastic Grocery and Produce Bags

Plastic grocery and produce bags fall into the “film” category and are not recyclable curbside through residential WM. Only two states in our nation have conclusively banned single-use plastic bags: Hawaii and California.

reusable bags for recycling

As mentioned, “air pillows” that come in Amazon packaging are also not recyclable curbside. People mistakenly try to recycle plastic film which can get stuck and damage sorting equipment.

If you do have plastic grocery and produce bags, collect them, make sure they’re clean and dry, and drop-off at Target, Raley’s, or Whole Foods for recycling, to name a few. Note: if you have Ziploc bags you can add them to the bundle at drop-off!

If you have air pillows, bubble wrap or styrofoam, collect them and drop-off at certain local UPS or Postal stores. See KTMB’s recycling guide, under styrofoam.

reusable bags

Choose fabric over plastic to hold your fruits and veggies while shopping. Simple Ecology has great muslin (lightweight cotton) produce bags.

Insider Tip

Take reusable shopping totes and fabric produce bags with you to the grocery store. Always keep them in your car. If you forget, choose paper over plastic.

Try an Alternative to Plastic Wrap

Because plastic wrap is in the “film” category and is not recyclable curbside through residential WM, you can reduce your plastic consumption with reusable food wraps. Bee’s Wraps are washable, reusable and compostable.

beeswax plastic wrap alternative

Insider Tip

Wrap cheese, fruit, vegetables or bread. Cover a bowl or pack a snack for your little one.

Purchase Shopping Totes

Shop these amazing totes made from recycled material in many sizes and patterns. This will be your go-to bag and works perfectly for grocery shopping. What’s more, if you don’t know Boon Supply, it is a fundraising platform that gives 40% of every purchase to a fundraiser of your choice.

Biodegradable Dog Waste Bags

Doggy Do Good has created a compostable dog waste bag. These are biodegradable, unscented, vegetable-based and eco-friendly. The bags are a great alternative to regular polyethylene plastic bags.

Try Composting

If you haven’t tried composting, I am here to encourage you to try! Because being a mom to a toddler, I am constantly making meals and preparing snacks. Not to mention, I am constantly drinking coffee.

Composting means you collect coffee grounds/filters and food scraps (including veggies, fruits, bread, nuts, egg shells). Note: dairy, meat, and oils are not accepted. Full list here.

Equally important, when you compost, you keep valuable resources (food scraps, etc.) out of the landfill. This circular model returns nutrients to the soil; it reduces Greenhouse gasses and you are rewarded with soil for your garden!

fresh produce

Down To Earth Composting is a neighborhood food waste collection service that picks up household composting from customers in the Southwest, Downtown, Midtown, and University neighborhoods of Reno and returns the soil produced from the compost twice a year to their collection service customers.

Event better, they also provide a composting drop-off system for those outside this service area.

Helpful Local Links

Learn more and get involved! Here are some helpful links:

Nationwide Links

Make an Impact

Recycling and sustainable living take some work, but it’s so worth it! When you realize the limitations of standard residential recycling programs in 2019, you realize you have to do better.

Many individuals and organizations take the problem of environmental pollution to heart and want to make an impact for the better. I am excited to join them! I hope you do, too!

What are your tips for recycling? See you out there Northern Nevada Moms!


Maureen Lowe is a Bay Area native that relocated to the high desert mountains of Southwest Reno with her family in 2017. Mama to her active pup and toddler boy, Maureen is a textile designer and graduate of CCA San Francisco. With a lifelong love of nature and the arts, Maureen has made it a mission to explore Reno’s scenic trails and cultural offerings to find kid and dog-friendly outings that work in all seasons. Follow her on Instagram @maureen.lowe.


Maureen Lowe
Maureen Lowe

Maureen Lowe is a Bay Area native that relocated to the high desert mountains of Southwest Reno with her family in 2017. Mama to her active pup and toddler boy, Maureen is a textile designer and graduate of CCA San Francisco. With a lifelong love of nature and the arts, Maureen has made it a mission to explore Reno’s scenic trails and cultural offerings to find kid and dog-friendly outings that work in all seasons.