Jul 31, 2023

City now accepts some glass, additional plastics for recycling

CHEYENNE – The city of Cheyenne recently announced it is now accepting certain glass and more types of plastic for recycling.

The Sanitation Division can now collect clear, brown and green food-grade glass, and plastics #4 (LDPE) and #5 (PP), on top of other materials.

Not acceptable, however, are #5 clamshell food cartons, commonly used for takeout.

Public Works Director Vicki Nemecek stressed in an interview with the Wyoming Tribune Eagle that only glass packaging used for food or drink is acceptable, and that lids for these items should go in the trash. Things like drinking glasses, lightbulbs, mirrors and any other non-food-grade glass can easily shatter – contaminating other recyclables – and are not recyclable here.

The addition of these materials "is due to changing market conditions that make them economically feasible to recycle," according to a news release.

Nemecek said the city recently signed a new contract with Waste Management, which takes in the city's recycling at its Larimer County, Colorado, facility. The city and Waste Management split money made from selling recyclables 50/50, she said.

The public works director said she wasn't sure how long it had been since the city collected glass for recycling purposes, if ever. WYCO Recycling, which used to have a location in Cheyenne, began accepting glass in early 2016, but ended the service in late 2018. The company eventually shut down.

The city has, in the past, used glass to build drainage layers in its landfill, according to previous reporting.

City sanitation has accepted plastics #1-7 in the past, but at some point began accepting only #1 and #2 because there wasn't enough market demand for the other plastic types.

"It really comes down to, what can our contractor market, and if they can't market it, they won't take it," Nemecek said.

It's important that all material residents toss in their recycling bins is free of food residue, empty, clean and dry, the public works director said.

Residents should also never bag their recyclables before putting them in the bin.

"If you bag your recyclables under any conditions and put it in your recycle container, it will end up in the landfill," Nemecek said.

For one thing, people often mistakenly put trash or non-recyclables into bags with materials that could be recycled. More importantly, though, is that plastic bags themselves are not recyclable, even if they have a number on them.

This is because most recycling facilities use machinery to sort through materials. If plastic bags or sheet plastics are tossed in with recyclables, Nemecek said, "it will end up in the machine, gumming up the machine, stopping the machine, and costing time, money, effort, everything to clean the plastic from that machine."

Plastic bags and sheeting is "the number one reason that our recycling program is in jeopardy in the United States," she said.

Residents may think that if they’re unsure whether something is recyclable in their area, they should toss it in the recycling bin just in case. But Nemecek explained this "wish-cycling" is the worst thing people can do.

"I always like to say that if you put the wrong thing in there thinking that it's going to get recycled anyway, it's not. It's going to become very expensive trash," she said.

The city pays for its recycling per ton, and then pays for it again when it's sorted and non-recyclable items go into a landfill. If the contamination rate of the total amount of what's hauled in is over 20%, Nemecek said, money is deducted from the money the city makes from selling actual recyclables.

The city also advises people to cut cardboard into 2-foot-by-2-foot pieces. This is because large pieces of cardboard can get caught in recycling bins and can block other items from being dumped out during collection, the director said.

People should also be aware that cardboard coated in sleek or waxy material cannot be recycled in Cheyenne. This may include TV or appliance boxes, or frozen food containers. Nemecek said things like cereal boxes are OK.

"If water rolls off, it's probably not recyclable," she said.

When in doubt about what is and isn't recyclable here, an app called Recycle Coach can help. City residents can also use the app to find out what day their trash, recycling and yard waste are picked up, and to set pickup reminders.

The city's Sanitation Division can also be reached at 307-637-6440, and additional information is available at

Although recycling pickup only takes place within the city, both city and county residents can drop off recycling at the Felix Pino Transfer Station, 220 N. College Drive. Dumping hours are between 7 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 7 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. Saturday.

People can bring bags up to 35 gallons, and a maximum of five bags. There is a $1.25 fee for each bag. (Bags must be opened and dumped out at the transfer station.)

If someone has a lot of recycling to dump, up to three cubic yards is $29. More than that, and the city charges per ton, according to Nemecek.

Recycling is expensive, and it's not profitable for the city, the director said.

"But it is a diversion tactic. It saves airspace in our landfill – that is the reason that we do it," Nemecek explained. This is also why the city collects yard waste to turn into composted materials.

Landfill space must be dug out, lined and monitored. The city just added two cells to its landfill that will last five to seven years, and the cost was about $5.5 million, Nemecek said, making it "the most expensive part of the collection and disposal process."

Hannah Black is the Wyoming Tribune Eagle's criminal justice reporter. She can be reached at [email protected] or 307-633-3128. Follow her on Twitter at @hannahcblack.

The following are examples of recyclable material accepted by the city:

Recyclables must be clean, dry and loose (not bagged).

Examples of materials not accepted by the city:

The following are examples of recyclable material accepted by the city: Examples of materials not accepted by the city: