Evanston residents have questions about recycling, and the Evanston RoundTable is here to provide answers! In response to our recent recycling story, RoundTable readers submitted questions about local recycling. Feel free to submit your own recycling questions and tips to meg@evanstonroundtable.com.

Q: I’ve been crushing aluminum beverage cans for recycling or for the trash (if a recycling bin isn’t available). Is that OK with recyclers?

A: Short answer, no. Groot, the company that sorts recyclable waste for Evanston and other nearby municipalities, explains that cans should be tossed into recycling carts whole. When flattened soda cans enter the recycling stream they become more difficult to sort and can be inadvertently classified as paper. That could result in loads of recyclable paper materials being considered contaminated, so the cans ultimately end up as trash.

Other crushable items such as plastic bottles and tubs, milk cartons and aseptic containers (for milk, juice, broth, etc.) should be left whole as well. When possible, rinse first and leave the cap or lid on.

Q: Our blue wheeled recycling carts have arrows that indicate the handles should be pointing away from the street, yet as I watch the recycling crew they need those handles pointing toward the street. Which way should the wheeled carts face on our curbs?

A: Short answer: handles toward the street. The arrows and instructions on wheeled waste carts are usually tailored for side loading trucks, explains Brian Zimmerman, Evanston’s Solid Waste Coordinator. Since more than 80% of residents’ waste and recycling carts are located in alleys, Evanston uses rear-loading trucks exclusively. Facing the cart handles toward the street helps drivers work through pick-ups more quickly, Zimmerman said, but the carts will be emptied no matter which way they are facing.

Q: Rubber tires used to be picked up by the city in the past. Can they still be recycled in Evanston?

A: Evanston collects rubber tires from residents on request and at no charge. When residents have tires to dispose of they should call the non-emergency 311 number and request a pick-up. Tires are held in a dumpster at Evanston’s Public Works Service Center; once the dumpster is full, the tires are taken to Shred-All Recycling where the material is shredded and sent to be recycled.

spare tires

Whole tires are banned from landfills, and burning tires pollute air, soil and water. Discarded tires also pose hazards when they collect water and become breeding grounds for mosquitos and other disease-carrying insects, including the Asian Tiger Mosquito, which is known to transmit encephalitis. Properly recycled tires can be made into tire-derived fuel as well as surfaces for running tracks and playgrounds.

The Illinois EPA provides more information about tire recycling and SWANCC (the Solid Waste Agency of Northern Cook County) maintains a Reuse and Recycle Directory that can help residents find other used tire collection outlets such as tire and auto shops, junk removers, and area recyclers.

Q: What about styrofoam recycling – can that be done curbside?

A: Evanston does not currently offer curbside pickup or drop-off locations for polystyrene (foam or plastic #6), also known by the brand name Styrofoam. Polystyrene products, indicated by a 6 enclosed in the “chasing arrows,” commonly include grocery store meat and poultry trays, clamshell carryout containers, stiff block-style protective packaging and coolers, packing peanuts and hard plastic ware such as Solo cups and plates.

Abt Electronics at 1200 N. Milwaukee Ave. in Glenview accepts polystyrene, as well as the City of Chicago Recycling Dropoff Center at 6441 N. Ravenswood Ave. Find other polystyrene collection locations using the search tools at SWANCC, Dart Container, Home for Foam and Earth911. Foam packing peanuts often can be dropped off at UPS or other shipping service stores. Call first to confirm.

Evanston Recycles event at ETHS this Saturday: The annual Evanston Recycles Collection Event takes place from 9 a.m. to noon Saturday, July 9, at Evanston Township High School, 1600 Dodge Ave. Bring your old electronics, documents for shredding, and medication for disposal. The event accepts the following electronics for recycling:

  • Cable Receivers
  • Cell Phones
  • Computer monitors
  • Computers (Desktops, Notebooks, Tablets)
  • Converter Boxes
  • Fax Machines
  • Keyboards
  • MP3 Players
  • Portable Digital Assistants (PDAs)
  • Printers (Multi-function Printers)
  • Satellite Receivers
  • Scanners
  • Televisions (All Types)
  • Video Game Consoles
  • Video Recorders/Players
  • Zip Drives
  • Mice

The following documents will be accepted (no magazines, ads or junk mail). Make sure paper is clean and dry, with no plastic sleeves, spines, covers, binders or folders, and no metal or plastic fasteners, clips, paperclips or binder clips (small staples are OK).

  • Bank statements
  • Financial planning statements
  • Medical history forms
  • Retired tax documents
  • Documents with personal information, such as social security numbers

The City of Evanston website has more information on how to enter the drop-off site as well as safety precautions. SWANCC provides more details on electronics recycling.

Meg Evans

Meg Evans has written science stories for the Evanston RoundTable since 2015, covering topics ranging from local crayfish, coyotes and cicadas to gravitational waves, medical cannabis, invasive garden...

Join the Conversation


The RoundTable will try to post comments within a few hours, but there may be a longer delay at times. Comments containing mean-spirited, libelous or ad hominem attacks will not be posted. Your full name and email is required. We do not post anonymous comments. Your e-mail will not be posted.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. Hi Kat, It’s my understanding that you don’t need to clean things until they are sparkling — in fact, you really don’t have to clean them at all. After they are sorted and leave the Groot facility, all recyclables will be washed and their lables removed at some point in their next stops along the way to actually being made into something else. Rinsing out your recyclables — especially any with messy food or liquid residue still inside — might help keep your recycling bags and bins cleaner, so that’s something to keep in mind as well. I think it’s safe to assume that recyclable items will be thoroughly washed during processing. I hope that helps (and I apologize for not seeing your question sooner!) ~~Meg

  2. How clean do recyclables need to be? I try to rinse things off a little, but what about things like toothpaste tubes or hand lotion bottles?