Philadelphia’s recycling program not only helps to keep the city and environment clean, it allows residents to earn rewards when they recycle.

How to Recycle

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According to the Philadelphia Streets Department, Philly residents can pick up a recycling bin at specifically designated locations or they can use their own container as long as it is made of a rigid material, is not larger than 32 gallons and has “RECYCLING” clearly written on it. Recycling bins can go out the same day as regular trash pickup and all recycling in Philadelphia is single stream, which means there is no need to separate recyclable items – all mixed paper, cardboard, glass, cans and most plastic containers can go into the same recycling bin. If you find that you don’t have enough room in one bin, you can just add another. Just remember that bins must be made of rigid material – not cardboard, which can get wet and soggy. For questions about how to recycle or where to pick up containers, residents can reach out to the hotline at (215) 685-7329.

What Can Be Recycled

The list of items that can be recycled in Philadelphia includes:

  • Cartons: Cartons from milk, orange juice, juice boxes, soup boxes, ice cream cartons and more
  • Metal: Tin and aluminum cans as well as emptied aerosol and paint cans 
  • Glass: Jars and bottles made of glass
  • Mixed Paper: Newspaper, magazines, junk mail, phone books and food boxes with plastic lining removed, computer paper, flyers and wrapping paper, as well as soda and beer cartons
  • Cardboard: Must be emptied and flattened.

Plastic Containers

Many household plastic containers can be recycled, including:

  • Those marked #1: Soda and water bottles, condiment and peanut butter jars, etc.
  • Those marked #2: Jugs from milk, water and juice, detergents and shampoo bottles, dairy product containers, flower pots and plastic containers from some household cleaners (check the labels)
  • Those marked #3: Rigid plastic containers and juice bottles
  • Those marked #4: Plastic tubs and lids from butter, margarine or the likes
  • Those marked #5: Yogurt containers and plastic deli trays
  • Those marked #6: Clear, rigid plastic cups, plates and to-go containers (foam materials – even those marked #6 — cannot be included in household recycling bins)
  • Those marked #7: Many mixed plastic containers and plastic products

Items that should not go into recycling bins in Philadelphia, according to the Philadelphia Streets Department, include aluminum foil, pots and pans, paper clips, light bulbs, glass from windows, hard-cover books, tissue paper, napkins, paper towels, cups or containers with a wax coating, styrofoam, wood, recyclable plastic bags like those you get from the grocery store and chemicals.

Foam Pilot Program

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Philadelphia businesses and residents with foam products to recycle, such as those used in shipping and packing, can drop off all foam materials that are marked with a #6 in a blue drop-off bin at the NE Sanitation Convenience Center located on State Road where it crosses Ashburner Street. There is no limit to the amount of foam materials that can be dropped off at one time by either a business or a resident. Hours of operation during which materials can be dropped off are weekdays and Saturdays from 8 p.m. to 6 p.m.

Organic Recycling

While organic waste cannot be included in recycling bins, Philadelphia residents can recycle these items for as little as $15 a month by contracting with businesses to pick up organic waste and recyclables. Residents can also drop off some organic recyclables like grass clippings and leaves at no charge at the Fairmount Park Organic Recycling Center.

Rewards Program

Residents and businesses who recycle in Philadelphia can earn rewards like gift cards, discounts and gift certificates by registering with the Philadelphia Recycling Rewards Program and displaying a specially designed sticker on their recycling containers.

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Christy Ayala covers sports, recreation, the outdoors, and leisure activities in the Philadelphia area. She earned a masters degree in recreation administration from George Williams College and managed programs in the Midwest, Hawaii, and Pennsylvania. Her work can be found on