Dover reaches out to residents with rules of recycling

DOVER — There are numerous things that many people frequently toss into their household recycling cans, thinking they are a natural fit for single-stream recycling — such as pizza boxes with grease and food in them and plastic bags.

However, those kinds of items can jam up the works when it comes to the material recovery facility where the recycling refuge is collected and separated.

That’s why Sharon Duca, director of the city of Dover’s Public Works Department, is trying her best to reach out and inform the city’s residents about what they can and cannot recycle.

“What we’re trying to do is encourage the public to become more aware of what is and is not allowed to be recycled in our single-stream recycling service,” Ms. Duca said. “One of the issues that is starting to arise overall is the contamination of recycled material with materials that should not be in there.

“I don’t think it’s a matter that (recycling employees) have to sort the material, it’s more of things like the plastic bags that actually get caught up in the machinery and stuff that they’re using. That’s why those can’t be accepted. Then, it also depends upon the market as to the materials that they’re able to accept.”

Single-stream recycling is a system where all traditional recyclables, such as cans, cardboard, cartons, glass bottles and jars, paper, and plastics, can be placed in the same container (cart or Dumpster), separate from a person’s trash.

Recycling helps to conserve valuable natural resources and energy, reduces greenhouse gas emissions and helps people take responsibility for their waste today, as opposed to leaving a burden for future generations.

Ms. Duca points out that not everything can be recycled, even if it seems harmless enough.

“In terms of some of the issues that we’re dealing with as we are talking more to our customers, things like shredded paper are not to be recycled. That’s going to have to go into your trash,” she said. “Plastic bags from the grocery stores, those are an issue and those can’t be recycled, either. Frozen food and refrigerated containers are also issues that people often think can be recycled but they actually can’t.

“A lot of times because of the food waste that can be in a pizza box, they won’t accept them.”

Ms. Duca said if Dover residents have any questions about what can and cannot be recycled, there are a couple of resources available to them.

“There are two locations residents can find out what to recycle – one with DNREC and the Delaware Recycles webpage,” said Ms. Duca. “They go over what is acceptable and what is not acceptable. Another thing that they go over that we want to make sure is staying out of the stream are things like electronics, household hazardous waste, yard waste — those are not recyclable materials as well.

“Also, the city of Dover webpage under Public Works has a section labeled ‘Sanitation and Recycling’ and we provide the materials from DNREC on their flyer what is and what is not acceptable to be put in the waste stream.”

She added that the Public Works Department will be putting out a flyer on the rules of recycling in residents’ utility bills in the future.

“It’s always been an issue for us to deal with the customers in terms of there’s always been some confusion in terms of what is and what isn’t recyclable, because there are certain items that you can consider just because they can be recycled doesn’t mean that we’re able to recycle them right now,” she said.



Acceptable items should be placed loose, empty, clean and dry into a curbside recycling cart.

Paper – Magazines, catalogs, junk mail, envelopes, office paper, newspapers, paperback books, paper bags, phone books, wrapping paper (no foil paper), notebook paper

Paperboard – Cereal boxes, snack food boxes, paper towel rolls, toilet paper rolls, paper egg cartons, paperboard envelopes

Corrugated cardboard – Corrugated shipping boxes and packaging

Cartons (with caps on) – Milk cartons, juice cartons, chicken broth cartons, coconut water cartons, juice boxes, coffee creamer, egg beaters

Plastic containers (with caps/lids on. No need to crush) – Narrow neck bottles (water, juice, and soda bottle; shampoo and mouthwash bottle; detergent bottle; bleach bottle), plastic tubs (yogurt container, butter container), plastic jugs (milk jug), plastic clamshell container (strawberry container)

Cans (no need to crush) – Aluminum beverage cans, “soup” cans, pet food cans, clean aluminum foil and foil pans

Glass bottles and jars (Remove tops from glass jars and recycle both items) – Glass bottles (any color), beer bottles, wine bottles, soda bottles, glass jars


Paper – Shredded paper, paper towels, napkins, tissues, paper plates, paper cups, coffee cups, hardcover books, wax paper, tissue paper, bubble envelopes, Fed-Ex envelopes (ty-vex), receipts

Paperboard – Frozen food packaging, refrigerated packaging (box from butter, etc), ice cream containers

Corrugated cardboard – Greasy pizza boxes

Plastic containers – Plastic bags; bubble wrap; and plastic film packaging from paper towels, toilet paper, water bottles, etc. (take back to retail store), motor oil and chemical containers, potato chip bags, plastic plates, plastic utensils, plastic straws, plastic packaging (blister packaging), plastic toys, plastic furniture, plastic hangers, small pill bottles

Styrofoam – Plates, cups, egg cartons, take out containers, peanuts, packaging material (clean Styrofoam can be droppd off at a DSWA facility)

Metal – Scrap metal, metal hangers, pots, pans, bottle caps, aerosol cans, paint cans, electronics, household batteries, extension cords, string lights

Glass – Mirrors, window glass, glass cookware, glass drinkware, lightbulbs

Food waste – Rinse all containers of food and liquid residue

Yard waste – leaves, grass clippings, branches

Plastic bags and film do not go in your recycle bin, because they get tangled in the machines at the material recovery facility. Return empty bags and film to retail store collection bins. Plastic film includes the plastic that covers cases of water bottles, paper towels, etc.

 — Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control