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Nevadans only recycle 1 of every 4 eligible items. Experts say increasing that is simple

Plastic piles up at recycling facility in Salem, Oregon.
Laura Sullivan
Plastic piles up at a recycling facility in Salem, Oregon.

For more than 30 years, Nevada has asked households to recycle 25 percent of qualified materials — plastics, paper, aluminum and more. It’s not a mandate. And in 2021, Nevada’s division of environmental protection said 24 percent had been reached.

That means just one out of four recyclable materials are thrown into the light-blue recycle bin in Southern Nevada.

“Right now our recycling centers are taking in anywhere from 800 to 1,000 tons per day,” said Jeremy Walters, the community relations manager for Republic Services. “Last year, we did collectively about 280,000 tons. So, a lot of people are recycling. But when you compare it to the amount that goes to the landfill, it is it [pales] in comparison — we're doing probably about 8,000 to 9,000 tons of material at the landfill every single day.”

Part of the reason our recycling rates might not be more is that people still have questions over what is and what isn’t recyclable.

“We don't want to complicate recycling,” noted Tara Pike, UNLV’s sustainability coordinator, “but we also don't want to contaminate the recycling [with incorrect practices].”

On the heels of Republic Services opening a first-of-its-kind polymer center late last year, which takes plastic containers and turns them into new food-grade plastics for reuse, Vegas’ recycling services are more robust than ever.

So, here’s a quick guide on what the experts say can — and can’t — be recycled in 2024.


  • Republic Services asks people to empty, rinse, and dry plastic and glass containers, because once other paper and cardboard items are contaminated by food or oil, they must be thrown away.
  • If a glass jar is broken, it can be recycled, if the pieces aren’t too small.
  • When in doubt about whether a plastic container can be recycled check the resin identification code, or that little recycling symbol with a number inside it that’s on the bottom of most containers. If it’s a one, two, or five (or if it’s hard and rigid plastic), go ahead and recycle it in Vegas.
  • Flexible plastics, like wrappers or shopping bags, can’t be recycled curbside — they usually have to be taken back to the store. To check, look for the recycling logo.


  • If it’s clean paper, such as magazines or junk mail, go ahead and recycle it.
  • If it’s a food-soiled item, like a pizza box or paper milk jug, throw away or recycle them. They risk contaminating other non-food-soiled items in the recycling process.


  • Don’t throw them into recycling bins with paper, cardboard, and plastic items — that’s a fire waiting to happen!
  • Instead, drop them off at a dedicated e-waste recycling location.

For more information on recycling best practices in Southern Nevada, visit

Guests: Tara Pike, sustainability coordinator, University of Nevada, Las Vegas; Jeremy Walters, community relations, Republic Services

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