By now, you know you should recycle – either because you feel guilty about the 251 million tons of waste that Americans produce each year, or you want to avoid paying Pittsburgh’s fines for failing to recycle, ranging from $50 for initial offenses to $500 for multiple violations. But are you even recycling right?

With dozens of options to dispose of an array of recyclable materials, it can get a little tricky to figure out what goes where. We’ve scoured the resources available to put together this comprehensive guide to Pittsburgh recycling.

The City of Pittsburgh offers two options for recycling: a biweekly curbside pickup program and local drop-off centers. Both accept the same basic items, while some drop-off centers also accept additional hard-to-recycle items.

Pittsburgh’s Curbside Recycling Program

The City of Pittsburgh runs its curbside recycling service once every two weeks for homes and apartment buildings with less than six units. You can find your neighborhood’s recycling schedule for 2015 here. You can also find out your collection day by calling Environmental Services at 412-255-2773. Though “not affiliated with anything official,” this site, designed by Pittsburgh person Caleb Brown, simply answers the question its URL poses: “Is it Pittsburgh recycling week?” Surely, worth a bookmark.

Is it Recycling Week in your area? Click here to find out.

Items destined for curbside pick-up should be placed in small blue plastic bags (like the ones used to bag your groceries at Giant Eagle) or large ones (like trash bag-sized). There’s no need to separate items. You can also place the big bags in bright blue recycling containers, no bigger than 35 gallons, clearly marked “Recycling,” but you don’t have to. Bags or containers should be placed at the curb, set apart from regular trash, no earlier than 6 p.m. on the night before collection and no later than 6 a.m. on the day of collection.

Pittsburgh’s Recycling Drop-off Centers

Recycling at Pittsburgh’s drop-off centers is free for City residents. Some locations, like the Strip District Drop-off Center also offer recycling to small businesses, bars and restaurants.

Pittsburgh’s drop-off centers are open Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. with the exceptions of the Knoxville and the Strip District locations, which are open 24/7, and Construction Junction, whose hours are listed below. Before visiting a drop-off center, we recommend you call ahead to check their hours as some may offer additional Saturday hours.

East End Drop-off Center
North Dallas Ave. at Hamilton Ave.

Hazelwood Drop-off Center
Melanchton Ave. (off the 5200 block of Second Ave.)

West End Drop-off Center
Next to Herschel Field (from Steuben St., turn on Herschel St., turn right on Hassler St. and pass salt igloo)

Construction Junction
214 N. Lexington St.
Hours: Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Saturday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; and Sunday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.

Knoxville Drop-off Center
414 Bausman St. (off Mathews Ave.)

Strip District Drop-off Center
Railroad St. under 31st St. Bridge

Before you recycle anything, be sure to rinse all containers and discard all plastic caps and lids. Items don’t have to be spotless, but they should be mostly rid of food waste and liquid. Small items under two inches, like bottle caps, must be discarded because they can damage the City’s sorting machines. You can recycle caps if they’re tightly attached to bottles after you’ve crushed them to let the air out.

Items You Can Recycle Curbside or at a Drop-off Center

Plastic bottles and containers (#1-5 and 7), glass bottles and jars (with labels on), metal cans and containers (including empty aerosol cans), dairy and juice containers, newspapers, catalogs, magazines, office paper, junk mail, paperback and hardcover books, phone books, paperboard (like cereal and tissue boxes) and cardboard. Corrugated cardboard should be flattened and tied together or bundled into boxes. You can recycle flattened pizza boxes as long as you remove any greasy bits of cardboard and the wax paper.

Items You Should Never Recycle

Food waste, campaign signs, VHS tapes, garden hoses, extension cords, wine corks, aluminum foil, plastic straws and coffee stirs, large plastic items (e.g. – furniture, toys or 5 gallon buckets), as well as carpeting and bulky items can’t be recycled, but can be placed in the trash (maximum of two bulk items per week). The City will also not accept loose plastic bags, Styrofoam, or extension cords, but we’ll cover other ways to recycle these items later in this article.

Sharp items, like syringes and lancets, should never be recycled. Always place medical waste in a hard container with a fitted lid, labeled “medical waste,” and discard them in the trash. You should wrap other sharp items, like broken glass or metal, in heavy paper before placing them in a box sealed with tape or string, labeled “sharp.”

That covers the basics, but what about everything else? This next section covers hard-to-recycle items.

What Do I Do With…?

Appliances that don’t contain Freon, like dishwashers, ovens, washing machines, dryers and stoves, can be discarded through City of Pittsburgh’s bulky waste collection (along with other weird, large things, like big plastic items mentioned above). You can also bring these items, in working or non-working condition, to Construction Junction. Also see “scrap metal” below.

You can arrange to recycle appliances that contain Freon, like refrigerators, freezers, air conditioners and dehumidifiers, with Appliance Warehouse by calling 1-888-GO-FREON. You can also drop these items off at Construction Junction for a $10 fee.

Art supplies, crafting materials and more can be taken to Pittsburgh Center for Creative Reuse.

You can recycle batteries at collections bins throughout the city, provided by the Pennsylvania Resources Council and the Heinz Endowments.

Bikes can be taken to Free Ride or to the “Donate Here” doors at Construction Junction when Free Ride is closed (they share the same location).

This year, Christmas trees can be dropped off at these locations.

Clothing and household goods can be taken to Goodwill and other local thrift stores. The Carnegie Library has compiled a list of places that accept these items and many others.

Store used cooking oil in a sealed, unbreakable container and take it to GTECH’s ReFuelPGH drop-off bins located in East Liberty and Oakland.

You have a lot of options when it comes to recycling electronics (also called e-waste), including computers, monitors and peripherals, and TVs. Many local and nationwide computer recycling and trade-in programs exist (see Carnegie Library’s list).

Evolution E-Cycling, with a drop-off location in the South Side, accepts many of the electronics listed above and more. eLoop also accepts “just about anything with a cord,” according to their website.

Stores like Best Buy and Target also collect household electronics and accessories, like ink and toner cartridges, rechargeable batteries, and wires, cords and cables, plastic bags and gift cards.

For a list of places where you can recycle light bulbs (CFLs, fluorescent tubes and incandescent bulbs), check out the PRC’s guide to hard-to-recycle items.

Plastic bags can be taken to loose bag recycling boxes outside of local stores including Giant Eagle, Lowe’s and Walmart.

Polystyrene (AKA Styrofoam) packaging materials can be dropped off year-round at Appliance Warehouse in the South Side. The company recommends that you call ahead at 412-381-8800.

Prescription medications can be discarded at locations listed here.

Scrap metal (excluding Freon-containing appliances) can be dropped off at the East End, Hazelwood and West End Drop-off Centers and at Construction Junction (at the “Donate Here” doors, NOT the dumpsters).

You can recycle up to two tires without rims per day at the East End, Hazelwood and West End Centers.

Yard debris, including grass clippings, hedges, tree clippings, shrubs and leaves, can be brought loose or in a paper bag (but NOT in a plastic bag) to the East End, Hazelwood and West End Drop-off Centers. Proof of Pittsburgh residency is required and there’s a fee for trucks and vehicles with trailers. Special curbside collections for yard debris are held twice per year. This year, they’ll be held on Saturday, May 16 and Saturday, Nov. 14.

Other Recycling Resources

Post unwanted reusable items to the free section on Craigslist Pittsburgh or to

The PRC holds hard-to-recycle collection events throughout the year where they accept electronics, light bulbs, batteries, CDs, DVDs, floppy disks, Styrofoam, small Freon-containing appliances (window A/C units, dehumidifiers, etc.) and tires (with and without rims).

Visit the Allegheny County Health Department’s Recycling Resource Directory for information on recycling just about anything you could imagine, including items we haven’t mentioned, like ammunition, asphalt roofing shingles, antifreeze, car batteries, useable building materials, carpet, CDs and DVDs, compressed gas cylinders, fire extinguishers and flares, gently used furniture, household chemicals, industrial/commercial waste, medical supplies, medical waste, items containing mercury, motor oil, paint, pesticides, radioactive materials, smoke detectors, and transmission fluid.

Keep up on Pittsburgh recycling news by visiting the Department of Public Works recycling page.

Hadley is advocate for developing communities. She tells their stories and explores complex social issues we all face and shed light in the nooks and crannies around them.