Below are a few frequently asked questions from residents. If you have additional questions or comments, please go to the Contact page.
Is it the law to recycle in South Carolina?
Sort of. Certain items are illegal to put in landfills. These items include: large appliances (refrigerators, stoves, washers, dryers, ovens), electronics (computers, computer monitors, TVs, printers), lead-acid batteries, tires, and used motor oil. Visit www.scdhec.gov/recycling-hard-manage-items for more information.
Remember: there are different laws in place for different entities (state government agencies are required to recycle some things that private businesses are not required to recycle). For more information, see the S.C. Solid Waste Policy and Management Act of 1991.
I don’t have curbside recycling available in my area, where can I take my recyclables?
Every county in South Carolina has a recycling program with drop-off locations available to county residents. Some cities and towns have separate programs that offer curbside. To find the nearest recycling drop-off location and what is accepted there, visit www.scdhec.gov/recycleheresc. Also remember to check your local government’s website and/or social media pages for up-to-date information.
Why do accepted items differ from place to place?
Local programs can only accept materials from residents that are accepted at their nearest Material Recovery Facility (MRF). Some material is difficult to process and there may be few or no markets in which MRFs can sell this material. Always check on what your local recycling program accepts. When in doubt, throw it out.
What happens during the recycling process?
The recycling process consists of three steps: 1) collection and transportation, 2) processing and manufacturing, and 3) buying recycled. All three steps must be completed in order for recycling to work and succeed. See the informational graphic on the homepage for more details.
What is a Material Processing Facility (MRF)?
After recyclables are collected, they are sent to a material recovery facility (MRF) for processing. At the MRF, a series of screens, blowers, magnets, optical sorters (using lasers to identify different material) and hand-sorting techniques are frequently used to sort each material, such as paper, glass and plastic. The material is then baled for sale to companies to be made into new products. Click here for a closer look at the MRF at the Horry County Solid Waste Authority.
This item has a recycling logo on it, does that mean I can recycle it?
The presence of the recycling logo – a.k.a. the “chasing arrows” – (♻) on an item does not necessarily mean that the item is recyclable in your area. Different items are accepted for recycling in different programs. Find out what your county or municipality program accepts in order to avoid contamination.
What do the numbers on plastics mean?
There are seven types of consumer plastic or resin, each with unique characteristics. The numbers on plastic products are an identification code communicating what type of plastic resin the item is made from. To learn more about plastics, visit the American Chemistry Council’s plastics page. A recycling symbol with or without a number doesn’t necessarily indicate that an item is accepted for recycling.
I’ve heard that recyclables are sent to the landfill; is this true?
Some waste collection trucks have divided sections for recycling and trash. If you see your recycling going into what looks like a garbage truck, it is possible that it is one of these split-container trucks. In other cases, your local government may use one truck for collecting trash, disposing of the trash, then use the same truck to pick up recyclables.
If the recyclables collected are too contaminated they will not be accepted at the Material Recovery Facility (MRF). This material must then be sent to the landfill. This is one of the reasons why understanding what’s accepted for recycling in your area is so important!
Do South Carolina schools or colleges recycle?
Many K-12 schools and colleges/universities in South Carolina have recycling programs. The Take Action SC Partnership encourages and promotes environmental education across the state. The Recycle U program provides assistance in establishing and enhancing on recycling at college and university campuses in S.C.
How can I reduce my food waste?
Food is the number one item wasted in South Carolina and in the United States. For more information on how to reduce wasted food through donation, prevention, and composting, check out the Don’t Waste Food SC campaign.
What does contamination mean in recycling?
Contamination in recycling is when the wrong items are placed in the recycling container (Styrofoam, plastic bags) OR the right items are prepared incorrectly (food left in containers). Contamination can be expensive to clean and correct and can lead to entire loads of recyclable material being thrown away. Always check on what your local recycling program accepts and prepare recyclables properly. Never put items in the bin that you hope are recyclable but are not specifically asked for — called “wishful recycling.” When in doubt, throw it out.
Why can’t I bag my recyclables?
Plastic bags, even clean ones, get tangled in recycling equipment. Removing tanglers from equipment takes time and can cause the need for expensive repairs. Keep recyclables loose in your curbside bin and in drop-off site containers. Plastic grocery bags can be taken back to grocery stores or other retailers for recycling or donated to local food banks for reuse.