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Program Manager
  •   Caroline Mitchell
Department Contact

 Recycling Updates Newsletter

 Recycling A to Z

Timberline Recycling Center FAQs

Thanks so much for going to the extra effort to divert recyclables from the landfill! Please visit this page often, as we will update the FAQs monthly. It is likely that materials accepted at TRC will expand and evolve as we get established at the new Timberline Recycling Center and pilot more hard-to-recycle-materials projects.

General Questions

What's going on with the new white-colored collection bin that was recently installed at the Timberline Recycling Center?

The City is piloting a special collection bin for separating “white office paper” from the rest of the “mixed paper” materials. Recycling markets have experienced significant changes and most of the demand for mixed paper has dropped. However, the market value for “white office” paper is strong.  The City is inviting TRC customers to voluntarily participate in this pilot project, if they are willing to make the extra effort to separate out these three items!

  1. White office paper
  2. White envelopes
  3. Shredded white paper

Again, the new white bin is intended to be used for the collection of these three items only.

What are the current trends in the recycling industry and how can I best support recycling?

Residents of Fort Collins have long shown support for recycling and waste reduction – 96 percent of households have a recycling bin! And for the most part, the community is doing a fantastic job of putting the correct materials in those bins. However recycling markets are facing challenging times, which makes the role of recyclers even more important. Click here to learn more.

Click here for the latest local changes:



What do those chasing arrows really mean?

The chasing arrows are generally found on plastics, and here's a helpful explanation of their meaning:

Is Styrofoam recyclable? Why can't I bring it to TRC?

Styrofoam is recyclable, but there are inherent problems with recycling it: Re-manufacturing plants for it are located at significant distances from Colorado and because it’s 90% air, “expanded polystyrene” has to be crushed/baled before the economics work for transporting it to those plants. The closest Styrofoam densifier on the Front Range is at the CHARM facility operated by Eco-Cycle  in Boulder.

Remember, Styrofoam peanuts may be dropped off at the locations listed
on our A – Z list here:

What is the expanded cardboard collection pilot program at TRC all about?

The cardboard pilot project has been developed out of recognition that the compacting equipment in the “East Yard” of the TRC for cardboard recycling can be a bit cumbersome. Material must be hand-fed into the slot so that it can be compacted, which can be time-consuming, not to mention going up and down the stairs, sometimes having to wait in line, and the occasional equipment breakdown that occurs. 

The purpose of this new option of taking loads of flattened cardboard to the “West Yard” of the TRC is intended to make it easier than ever for visitors to TRC to recycle, especially those with large loads of cardboard. It allows you to conveniently unload into an open-topped bin that is about tail-gate height – extra easy if you are in a pick-up truck. Remember, though, that the West Yard is only open Tuesday through Saturday from 8:00 – 4:30 (6:30 during the warmer months).

As always, the East Yard, is open seven days per week and the old cardboard compactors will continue to be in use there for visitors’ convenience.

When visiting the West Yard of the TRC, please check in with the gate attendant, who will direct you to unload your flattened cardboard in the special roll-off bin. As an extra bonus, there is no fee if you are only bringing cardboard to the West Yard.  (Sorry, but if any other materials are being dropped off, the $5 gate fee will be applied.)  We especially welcome commercial and business customers to use this new cardboard recycling service.

There's no mulch. When's the next delivery?

The Forestry Division delivers when they have it available and when they can fit the drop-off into their schedule; keep checking because the crews work hard to keep the mulch bin filled, but it can be fairly random. Because the mulch bins are unmanned and mulch is taken on a first-come, first-served basis, staff cannot tell you if there is mulch in the bunker. Mulch dropped in the bunker in the morning could be gone rapidly.  You will need to drop by personally to see.

Why can't I recycle my frozen food boxes? Aren't they the same as cereal boxes?

Although frozen food packaging is technically a type of “paperboard,” just like cereal boxes and most egg cartons, there is one big difference: the manufacturers incorporate a polyethylene material into the paper, designed to help withstand moisture and protect the food inside from freezer-burn. Frozen food paper packaging can include anything from ice cream containers and frozen vegetable packaging to your favorite TV dinner box. Normal cardboard and paper materials are recycled by using water to create a pulp – just like your grade school paper mache-making project, which then gets rolled out and pressed to make new paper products. The plastic-y polyethylene layer in freezer packaging won’t break down in water and thus contaminates the pulp. Frozen food paperboard is not recyclable on the Front Range.

Should caps remain on or should I remove them from bottles and jars?

If you remove the caps from plastic containers, please throw them in the trash. But, as long as beverage containers (juice boxes, plastic water/soda bottles, etc.) are completely empty, you can leave caps “loosely” screwed on and they will end up getting appropriately recycled. Caps on glass bottles and jars tend to be metal, so you can put those in the Commingled bins (#s 6 and 7).

I'm confused about shredded paper recycling. My hauler says not to put it in the curbside recycling bin. How should I deal with this? Does the City provide a shredding service? Or does the City accept shredded paper for recycling?

The issues around shredded paper are tricky for the following reasons: 

  1.  It doesn’t get processed well at the recycling plant) because it literally falls through the cracks in the sorting process.
  2. It blows around and makes a mess for the haulers’ recycling truck-driver. Especially if it’s windy on collection day!  They just don’t want to deal with it. So, if you include shredded paper with your other curbside recyclables it is more likely to take an expensive trip to the landfill than to get recycled.

The City does not provide a shredding service, (for that, go to Shredding Services in Fort Collins, which you will want if you need to get certification that confidential materials have been destroyed (e.g., old files from medical offices).

If you do some shredding at home or the office, you may bring your already shredded paper to Timberline Recycling Center, and place it in bin #4 and #5, along with other office paper.  You can include a paper bag containing shred into the bin, but NO PLASTIC BAGS PLEASE!

Remember that when you shred paper, it decreases the value of the paper fiber significantly, and lessens the number of times it can be recycled. So please consider minimizing the amount of paper you shred.  For example:  Identity theft is unlikely to occur from somebody obtaining your junk mail. For something like a bank statement, you can simply tear off the top third of the page that contains confidential information to be shredded. Here's more information about shredded paper: 

Should I crush or smash containers like aluminum cans, milk jugs and Tetra Pak cartons (aka aseptic packaging) before recycling them in the Commingled bin at TRC?

Please do NOT flatten any of the items that you place in the Commingled bins;  the machinery at the sorting facility might mis-identify them for paper and then things don’t end up in the right place. When that happens, materials might not make it into the correct bale.  This is especially important for aluminum!  If you must do some crushing to make space in your recycling bin, please try not to smash it down too much.

Is TRC profitable?

Bottom line, the TRC is definitely a “non-profit” operation that is supported by local taxpayers’ dollars.  

Sales of materials collected at TRC vary widely, and we are happy when markets are good because the financial rebates help to somewhat offset the costs to run the facility.  However, since markets for recyclable commodities are very unreliable, the full amount it takes to run the facility is submitted in our annual budget proposals for Council’s approval. 

Again, some years there is a bit of revenue from sales of the materials, but more commonly (especially in recent years of uncertainty for international markets) the City only gets nominal “rebates” – and also has to factor in rising costs for transporting the materials.

Is the City now accepting plastic bags at Timberline Recycling Center?

The City has begun recycling plastic bag and film packaging on a trial basis at the TRC. We re-purposed square intermediate bulk containers (IBC totes) that were previously used to transport bulk liquid to be used as collection bins; they are located just west of the mulch area in the free section of TRC.

This pilot program is highly dependent on the good quality of items residents place in the specially labeled bins; if there are too many problems with “contaminants” being placed in the plastic-film recycling bins, it could jeopardize the success of the program.

VERY IMPORTANT!!! Please place ONLY the following clean and dry materials inside these specially-marked bins: 

  • grocery, produce, bread, dry-cleaning, and newspaper bags
  • industrial shrink-wrap, thin-plastic case wrapping (e.g. plastic coverings for bulk paper towels and toilet paper), air pillows and bubble wrap
  • Thin-plastic, or polyethylene, is labeled with a resin identification code as #2 HDPE or #4 LDPE

 “Look-alike” plastic-film materials that are NOT accepted include:

  • Pet food bags (woven plastic material)
  • Packaged/fresh produce bag (breathable plastic that’s non-recyclable)
  • Cereal box liner bags (wax-like appearance)
  • Crinkly chip bags
Is there an easy way to identify which plastic bags are accepted at TRC?

Plastic bags and packaging are tricky because there are several formulas for them, but basically only stretchy types of “film” plastic can be recycled.   The new recycling program at the Timberline Recycling Center accepts the type of plastic bags and films that comply with the following “unscientific test”:

When you try to push your finger through the plastic and it stretches, it generally means it can be recycled. Also check for the correct ID code (#2 HDPE and #4 LDPE are what we are looking for). But, if the bag is “crinkly,” splits open when you push, or has a woven, mesh reinforcement (like pet food bags) it can’t be recycled.

Hard-to-Recycle (West area of TRC) Questions

Why is there a $5 charge?

The West side of the new center offers opportunities to recycle a variety of new things in a “Hard-to-Recycle-Materials” Yard, which is open Tuesday – Saturday from 8 am – 4:30 pm (summer hours are 8 – 6:00). The $5 fee (for recycling batteries, oil, woody debris, and other “non-curbside” recyclables) is intended to offset costs for handling, transporting, and appropriately processing these materials,  since they have little or no market value. 

What are our options for recycling large (aka "bulky-rigid") plastic items?

The short-hand term “bulky-rigid plastics” refers to a variety of products such as 5-gal. buckets, plastic lawn furniture, and children’s play-sets.  They are not accepted in curb-side recycling programs due to their size; at recycling plants these items don’t fit on the conveyer belts, which are designed to fit smaller items. 

These durable materials are made from High Density Polyethylene (#2 HDPE) or Polypropylene (#5 PP) that can be ground up into pellets for making new plastic items. A local company, Waste-Not Recycling, is willing to work with the City of Fort Collins to accept bulky-rigids. Beginning mid-October 2018, the City will introduce a pilot project to collect these at the Hard-to-Recycle-Materials Yard on the west side of Timberline Recycling Center.

This pilot project will allow visitors to the Timberline Recycling Center’s West Yard to bring in any amount of bulky-rigid plastics and only pay the $5.00 entrance fee. It will be critically important to follow recycling guidelines for preparing materials, in the interests of making this pilot project a success!

1.       Accepted bulky-rigid plastics accepted include:

  • Milk/beverage crates
  • Buckets/containers
  • Kids’ slides and forts
  • Laundry baskets
  • Lawn furniture

2.       Please clean off dirt/debris

3.       Remove any non-plastic materials from bulky-rigid plastic items before bringing them to TRC, such as:

  • Metal handles from buckets
  • Axles and wheels

4.       Not accepted:

  • Plant pots
  • Toys
  • 55-gallon poly drums
  • Containers/buckets used for storing or previously containing hazardous materials
Which TVs do you take, and is there a size limit?

There’s no size limit to TVs you can bring. Please check here to learn about extra charges for recycling specific electronic items at the new drop-off center. You may want to compare prices for other places in Fort Collins that accept “e-waste” by going to our A – Z listing for electronics.

Is used cooking oil accepted at TRC now?

Yes!  Starting in early January, the hard-to-recycle-materials yard at the TRC began accepting used cooking oil, which will be collected for remanufacturing into bio-diesel by a Boulder company.  The guidelines are:  bring your used cooking oil in liquid form only (please ensure oil is free of solids, lard, food scraps, or water). Site attendants will help you empty your oil into designated 50-gal barrels; plan to take your containers home with you since they can’t be recycled at the facility. A limit of 25 gallons per visit has been set during this introductory period until we determine whether greater quantities can be accommodated. Remember, there is a $5/visit entry fee to the hard-to-recycle-material yard.


Do you accept vacuum cleaners in the scrap metal bin?

A good guideline to use to determine whether a product is suitable to place in the scrap metal bin is that anything more than 50% metal by weight can be accepted. If a household appliance, like a vacuum cleaner, meets this requirement, it can be recycled (please remove filters before recycling).  

Are leaves accepted at the Timberline Recycling Center?

Yes, the hard-to-recycle materials area accepts leaves. Please remember that no plastic bags are accepted at the center, so you will be asked to empty your leaves into the orange bins (and take your bags home to put them in the trash). Also, there is a limit of about three “cubic yards,” (15 - 20 bags). We encourage residents to take larger quantities of leaves to local composting businesses. For more options on what to do with leaves, go here: