Delaware Recycles!

By Greg Williams and Barbara Blaier

A truck lifts and empties a recycling cartAmerica Recycles Day is November 15, which offers us a great reminder to recycle. While we’re doing a good job of recycling in Delaware, we can always do better. Delaware Recycles, a program of the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, is here to help. We’re working on new initiatives and tools to help make it easier to know how to recycle right.

The Law

In 2010, the state legislature passed Delaware’s Universal Recycling Law. It established a single-stream recycling program for the entire state. If your household or business subscribes to waste collection services, your hauler must provide you with both a trash and a recycling container, pick up recyclables at least every other week and provide you a single bill for these services. Contact your hauler if they have not provided you a recycling container and the service to go with it. Please let us know if you still have issues and we can work on getting it fixed.

Know What to Throw – Recyclopedia

What do you do with a pizza box? Old batteries? Frozen food containers? DNREC has launched a new tool to help take the guesswork out of recycling in Delaware, called Recyclopedia, available at

This innovative search tool can be viewed on your phone, tablet or computer and can help you find out right away if something is recyclable and how to properly dispose of it. While Recyclopedia explains what can be recycled curbside, it also provides locations for those items which are drop-off only, like electronics, so that you can find the most convenient solution for you.

Recycle Right

Roughly half of the material coming out of a household consists of plastic/metal/glass containers, cartons, mixed paper and cardboard boxes. All of these items are accepted in the state’s single-stream recycling program. Keep these tips in mind to recycle right:

  • Keep your items loose – NOT in a bag.
  • Make sure containers are empty. Dump out any leftover stuff.
  • Containers must be clean – just a rinse is enough.
  • Material must be dry so the paper doesn’t clump.
  • Never put plastic bags or plastic film wrap in your recycling cart.

Plastic Bags

This year, a statewide ban on single-use plastic bags went into effect. Before the law was put in place, we found that Delawareans were using about 434 plastic bags per person, per year, and that meant nearly 2,400 tons of plastic bags ended up in our landfills annually. Plus, they were ending up in our roadways, waterways and woodlands, harming the animals who live there. And plastic carryout bags are also a problem for Delaware’s recycling facility because the bags wrap around the equipment, causing the entire recycling facility to be shut down while they are removed. This problem is why plastic bags and plastic film should never be placed in your curbside recycling cart.

Bring Your Own Bags

A child place groceries in a carAs alternatives to single-use plastic bags, stores offered either thick, reusable plastic bags or paper bags. But people weren’t reusing the thicker plastic bags, so new legislation banning their use entirely was passed in 2021. The new law encourages residents to bring their own bags when shopping, and to no longer rely on stores to provide bags. Retailers have the option to provide paper bags and charge a fee for them. This fee is optional; revenue is not collected by the state. The law, which does not impact restaurants, will affect all retail stores in Delaware. So as of July 1, 2022, you’ll need to bring your own reusable bags to the store if you are not already doing so.

Using a reusable bag is one way to reduce the amount of waste that ends up in our landfills. Recycling properly allows Delawareans to make sure that material is available to manufactures to produce new goods without having to use up our vital natural resources.

Greg Williams and Barbara Blaier are environmental scientists with the DNREC Division of Waste and Hazardous Substances. They can be reached at or 302-739-9403.