Recycling Guidelines

Not sure if something is recyclable? Contact our Recycling Hotline at or 425-587-3812.

Recycling is included with your garbage service. Accepted items are collected together in one container. Everything you put in your recycling cart or dumpster should be clean and dry. In addition to curbside recycling, the City offers drop-off recycling and events for other items.


Recycle-Cart.jpgWhat can I recycle in my blue recycle cart or dumpster?

In your blue recycling cart or dumpster at home or at your business, you can recycle accepted paper, glass, plastic, and metal:


  • Paper (including shiny paper, window envelopes, and magazines)
  • Cardboard (flatten boxes; cut down boxes larger than 3'x3')
  • Paperboard (for example, cracker boxes, cereal boxes, dried pasta boxes)
  • Aseptic cartons - for example, milk cartons, soup and broth boxes (must be empty, throw away plastic caps)

recyclable paper in a stack cardboard and paperboard cartons for recycling


  • Glass bottles (no lids)
  • Glass jars (no lids)

glass bottles and jars for recycling


  • Plastic bottles (screw lids back on)
  • Plastic jugs (screw lids back on) - for example, jugs for milk or detergent
  • Plastic tubs (throw away lids) - for example, yogurt and dairy containers
  • Plastic cups

recyclable plastic bottles, jugs, and tubs for recycling


  • Metal cans (aluminum / tin cans, metal lids larger than 3")
  • Scrap metal (larger than 3 inches, less than 2 feet)

metal cans for recycling

Please recycle right!

  • Only recycle items that we accept in your cart. When in doubt, find out or throw it out.
  • Plastics are recycled by shape in Kirkland; only plastic bottles, jugs, tubs and cups are accepted. Plastic clamshells and trays should be thrown away. Plastic lids should be screwed back on to jugs and bottles, or thrown away if loose.
  • Ignore the recycle symbol. The recycling symbol does not always mean you can recycle it in your cart. Please follow our guidelines.

3 simple steps to recycling well

1. Focus on the basics: recycle all paper, cans, bottles, jars, and cardboard
2. Only recycle clean items (dump and rinse, or scrape with a spoon)
3. Put recycling in your cart loose, don’t bag it

No need to overthink it! It's better to recycle right than recycle more. Quality is important!

Next to Your Cart and Drop-Off Recycling

what do I do with...

Many items that can't be recycled in your cart can be dropped off at special locations or events. Items like electronics and fluorescent lights need special disposal to handle the heavy metals and chemicals inside. Single-family residents have access to free next-to-your-cart collection of electronics - see details.

See our beyond-the-cart recycling directory

Recycling Events

We host recycling events for some difficult-to-recycle items, like electronics, batteries, and shredding. Sign up for email reminders to hear about upcoming events, or check our event calendar.

See upcoming recycling events

How can I recycle extra material?

Single-Family Residents

Single-family residents can put out extra recycling at no additional cost.

  • Place extra household recyclables next to your cart in a paper bag, cardboard box, or reusable container labeled "Recycling".
  • Extra cardboard boxes that won't fit in your cart can be flattened and placed next to your cart.
  • Pieces must be smaller than 3x3x3' so please cut it down if any side is longer than 3 feet.
  • Please don't leave extra cardboard or paper out in the rain overnight - soggy cardboard is not able to be recycled.
Apartments and Condos

dumpster enclosure at multifamily property showing recycle and garbage dumpsters side by side Apartments and condos can add more recycling capacity for no additional cost.

If you live in an apartment or condo, we can increase your service levels for no cost if you often find that your recycling carts or dumpsters are overflowing. If there's room, we can upsize your dumpster or add more carts, and if not, we may be able to pick up your recycling more often. Simply email us your request with your property name and address.

Free resources, signage, and assistance are available for multifamily property managers.


employee at business dumping recycling loose into dumpster Businesses can have recycling up to 150% of your trash container for no additional cost.

Contact us to see whether your business qualifies for additional no-cost recycling.

Free resources, signage, and assistance are available for businesses.

Drop Off Extra Recycling

Basic recyclables (cardboard, paper, bottles, and cans) can be recycled for free at King County's Houghton Transfer Station in the Bridle Trails neighborhood of Kirkland. Follow their guidelines, which may be different than Kirkland's.

Common Recycling Questions

Why should I recycle?

  • Cedar-Hills-Landfill.jpg Recycle to save money. By putting recyclables in your blue cart or dumpster, you generate less trash. With less trash, you can opt for a smaller (and cheaper) garbage service level.
  • Recycling makes better use of materials because items are made into new things instead of sitting unused in the landfill for a lifetime. There are finite resources on the planet, so it makes sense to put them to good use. Recycling is part of a circular economy that reduces waste.
  • Our landfill is on pace to fill up in ten years, and once it's full we'll need to either ship our waste somewhere else or build a waste-to-energy facility that harvests energy from burning garbage. These options will likely cost more than using our current landfill, which would make your rates increase. There may be environmental justice considerations to transporting waste to other communities, and material that is burned would never be able to be recovered.
  • Recycling helps the environment. Making recycled materials uses less energy and produces less greenhouse gases, which impact our climate. When items are made with recycled materials, then fewer natural resources need to be mined or extracted from the planet. Mining and logging can pollute water, damage wildlife habitat, and contribute to climate change.
  • We need everyone's help to meet our community's waste reduction and recycling goals. Recycling and reducing how much waste we make contributes to the green, vibrant future that our community envisions.

Is my recycling really getting recycled?

Yes, the recycling you put in your blue cart or dumpster is getting recycled.

You might have heard news stories or rumors that our recycling system is failing. A few years ago, China implemented a new policy to reduce the amount of dirty recycling imported from the US and Europe. The new cleanliness standards are challenging to meet in a system that collects materials in one "commingled" cart, since the sorting machinery is not 100% accurate. Since then, our hauler Waste Management has located new markets domestically and in North America for the recycled material coming from Kirkland.

What happens to my recycling?


Recyclables go to the Cascade Recycling Center in Woodinville where they are sorted and eventually sold to be made into new products. This facility influences what's accepted in your recycling cart at home, because anything that goes in your blue cart needs to be able to be sorted here.

Cascade Recycling Center is a cacophonous maze of efficiency that separates materials so they can be sold and turned into new goods. Recyclables are sorted by a variety of machines plus an astonishing number of people who manually pick out what the machines missed. Spinning wheels float cardboard and newspapers above the stream. Suction conveyor belts separate paper from plastic bottles. Optical sorters identify bottles and cans mixed with paper. Magnets pull out steel, while an eddy current separates aluminum cans from plastic bottles.


I want to recycle more!

Wasting less food, and composting uneaten food, are just as important as recycling. If you aren't composting your food scraps yet, it's an easy and cheap way to lower your household's climate impact.

While recycling is a great way to keep materials in use as long as possible, reusing what already exists and reducing how much waste you make is even better! Check out our reuse and waste reduction ideas for ways to waste less food, celebrate holidays with less waste, and more.

Why not everything is recyclable

Unfortunately, not everything is recyclable. The recycling system is based on economic markets. That means that businesses need to be willing to buy the used material to turn into new products. Some items aren't recyclable because:

  • they cannot be sorted in our facilities,
  • they're made of mixed materials that can't be separated, or
  • there isn't a viable market to buy and use the material to manufacture new products. 

Recycling only the things we accept in your carts is one of the most important things you can do to help the recycling system.

More ways to support a better recycling system
  • Support legislation at the state level that raises recycled content standards, implements producer stewardship and extended producer responsibility (EPR) programs, and limits the use of hard-to-recycle items like StyrofoamTM
  • Buy products made with post-consumer recycled content to support the market for recycled material

My apartment needs help recycling!

We're here to help! We can increase service levels so you have more space to put recycling. We can provide resources like posters and tools to help residents recycle better. We also offer resident education.

See our multifamily recycling toolkit and request assistance

I got a tag on my recycle cart! What does that mean?

"oops" tag used to mark recycling carts with the wrong item in them

If your driver sees plastic bags or other items we don't accept in your recycling cart, they may not collect your recycling. They will leave you an "Oops" tag on your cart explaining the problem. 

After removing the plastic bags or incorrect items, you can put the recycling out on your next pickup day. If you have too much recycling to fit in your cart after missing a week of pickup, you can put out extra for free. Put out extra recycling in your own can or a cardboard box labeled "recycling" so the right driver gets it.

I need more information about my curbside collection service.

Learn more about single family curbside collection service, multifamily service, and business collection service.

Curbside waste collection rates are based on your garbage service level. Find out what the current rates are.