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Recycling dangers: Are you recycling the wrong items?

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – We all know we should do our duty to recycle. But according to one local recycling company, many people are causing a big problem by recycling the wrong items.

It’s a dangerous problem that happens too often, said Republic Services which processes recycled items in Jacksonville, St. Johns, and Clay County. The machines and crews at Republic Services process up to 360 tons of recycled items, 20 hours each day.

The company is urging everyone to think before they toss because too many residents just aren’t doing it right when it comes to recycling.  

Dangerous Items Found

Workers reported aerosol cans and batteries have all been found in recycling bins. These items can break down the machines and cause serious setbacks in processing.

"Belts can get ripped. Pulleys can get jammed up and wrapped up either with chains or plastic bags. When that occurs, all it does is create downtime,” said Jason Graves, the Division Manager at Republic Services.

Even when a machine is broken or backed up, Graves said the materials don’t stop coming in. News4Jax was there as one of these machines hit a snag from plastic wrapped up around it. The problem was fixed in a few minutes, but that's not always the case.

Dangerous items like hypodermic needles, propane tanks, aerosol cans can all cause serious issues- especially if it gets crushed and explodes, warns Graves. 

Two weeks ago, a fire ignited inside one of their machines after a battery was recycled. 

“Over the years, I've seen things like samurai swords, guns, shotguns, handguns. We've seen animal carcasses," said Graves.  These things can all cause damage with the cost of repairs ranging from as little as $100 to as much as $50,000. 

Know these Recycling Guidelines

Along with recycling the right way, remember to keep it clean and keep it empty. A water bottle for instance should be emptied. If it is half-full when it gets loaded on a recycle truck, the water goes everywhere when it’s crushed. This can damage other recycled items, like paper, simply because it got wet.

Graves' recommendation is simple: take the time to learn what can and can't be recycled.

DO recycle:


  • Mail, office and school paper
  • Newspapers, magazines, catalogs and phone books
  • Paperback books
  • Brown paper bags
  • Fiberboard boxes (cracker/cereal)
  • Corrugated cardboard (must be flat and cut 2’ by 3’ or smaller)
  • Steel food containers
  • Aluminum cans
  • Aluminum baking pans


  • Plastics numbered 1-3, 5 or 7
  • Detergent bottles
  • Cleaning solution bottles
  • Plastic food and beverage containers 


  • Milk and creamer containers
  • Juice boxes
  • Soup and broth containers
  • Green, brown or clear bottles and jars (discard lids with garbage)

DON'T recycle: 

  • Any #4 Plastics (LDPE) including items such as cling (Saran) wrap, sandwich bags, plastic garbage or grocery bags
  • Any #6 Plasticts (Polystyrene) including items such as all types of Styrofoam, packing peanuts, plastic cutlery, hangers, and medicine bottles
  • Aerosol cans
  • Shredded paper
  • Weapons
  • Batteries
  • Fireworks or flares
  • Needles
  • Cables or wires
  • Rubber
  • Glass that is not clear, brown or green
  • Food or yard waste

County by County Recycling Guidelines

There are subtle difference to be aware of in each county.

More information can be found on the Republic Services website.

About the Authors:

Ashley Harding joined the Channel 4 news team in March 2013 and reports every weekday for The Morning Show.