Curbside Recycle Bin FAQs

If you are trying not to throw an item away, see if there are ways to re-use it, repurpose it, or gift it.

A few common items that do not belong recycle bins:

Paper towels / tissues

  • The good news is these can be composted. If you find yourself with a lot of paper towels, try our compost program!
  • Paper towels and tissues cannot go into the curbside recycling. If you do not have compost, please put them in your trash.


  • o This is not curbside recyclable.
  • o Watertown does offer special events to collect Styrofoam. Check for more information.
  • o If you cannot wait for an event, this goes in the trash.

Plastic bags and plastic wraps

  • Any soft plastic (meaning plastic that does not hold its shape) does not go into curbside recycling.
  • Many grocery stores have soft plastic and plastic bag recycling containers.
  • Check your local store to see if they collect these materials.
    • Soft plastics are detrimental to the sorting machines and cannot be processed.
    • If you cannot recycle at a grocery store, these go in the trash.

Chip bags / wrappers

  • Any wrapper that would come from chips, candy, snack, etc…these are trash.

Amazon packages / shipping envelopes

  • Packing/shipping envelopes go into the trash.


  • We have Helpsy! They take many types of textiles for free from your house. Schedule a collection today:
  • Drop off textiles (clothing, shoes…etc) at the recycle center

Food or containers with food in them

  • All materials need to be rinsed out and free from food
  • Let containers soak with water to loosen and remove residue, before drying and putting in the curbside bin.

General Reminders

  • Watertown does not permit bagging recycling in plastic bags—even clear, or brands that say “recycling bags” are not permitted.
  • Just because it is plastic, does not mean it is recyclable in the curbside bin. SO MUCH of our world is made up of different types of plastic. We are lucky to have accessible curbside recycling, but we must use it for what it is designed for—which is limited to a select number of items.
  • Curbside recycling can only deal with a handful of plastic items, such as bottles, tubs, jugs. If it is plastic, it must be able to hold its own shape!

It can sometimes feel confusing to know what is supposed to go into your curbside recycle bin. The good news is it doesn’t need to be! The recyclopedia is like google for your recycle bin. Try looking up items that you are not sure about, and it will tell you if it should go in the recycle bin, trash bin, or elsewhere. For a basic overview of what should go into your recycle bin, please refer to the MassDEP Recycle Smart guidelines below, which apply to all single stream recycling in Massachusetts.