Green Guide Library

Waste in Cook County

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

Recycling Drop-Off Centers

Household Hazardous Waste (HHW)

Construction and Demolition Waste

Electronic Waste (E-Waste)

Food Waste


Textile Waste

Medication/Prescription and Sharps Disposal

Recycling and Disposal Tips



Source: Cook County Solid Waste Plan 2018 Update

A Look at Waste in Cook County



Note: Res. is abbreviated for residential. MSW is an acronym for municipal solid waste and HHW stands for household hazardous waste. 

In 2014, Cook County Department of Environment and Sustainability (DES) commissioned a study to evaluate the components of our region’s residential and industrial solid waste stream. The above graphic depicts the percentage of materials found in residential waste destined for the landfill. You will notice that our region’s most prominent materials thrown away include organic materials, paper, plastic as well as construction and demolition debris and textiles.



Everyone knows the 3R’s: reduce, reuse and recycle, but it is important to realize that these three actions are not equal. Instead, the 3R’s should be prioritized in the order above, with reducing waste being the most preferred action and disposal at a landfill being used as a last resort.

  1. Refusing a plastic bag reduces waste and eliminates the need to use any additional energy and resources to recycle and helps keep garbage out of the landfill.
  2. If reducing is not possible, reuse the item for the same purpose or consider a creative new solution like using a dryer sheet as a dust cloth.
  3. If reduce and reuse are not options, recycle the item but make sure to follow local guidelines. If all other actions cannot be taken, then dispose of the item in the trash and consider opportunities in the future where you can either cut out this item or replace with one that can be reused or recycled.

Our Green Guide Library mimics this hierarchy by seeking to provide ideas and options to reduce, reuse, recycle and if necessary, dispose.

To learn more about the waste journey in our County and surrounding areas, explore our Solid Waste Story Map. Click here to access the map.



The Department of Environment and Sustainability does not accept or pick-up recyclable goods or waste. If you have questions on how to recycle or dispose of an item after reviewing our library, contact us at



Interested in ways to reduce plastic consumption in your life? Take our Conserve Cook County pledge 

When you use single-use items, do you ever stop to think about where they go? 






Resource: The Story of Reuse

  • Challenge yourself to find another purpose for a material before you throw it away or place in the recycling bin. Can your egg carton be used as a seed starter for your garden or can your old jars house pens on your desk?
  • Check out the following common household items that can easily be transformed:
    • Milk jugs/plastic bottles => planters
    • Dryer sheets => dust cloths
    • Newspapers => drop cloths for painting
    • Food cans => change holder
    • Old toothbrush => brush for cleaning grout in bathroom and kitchen
    • Empty paper towel rolls => holder for hair bands or form to keep boots upright in closet
    • Coffee pods => container for earrings and jewelry, seed starters or children's crafts

What other creative ways can we discover to save money and divert from the landfill? 


  • If you must purchase a new item, consider the reusability of the product. Ensure that the item can fulfill its function for multiple uses or be reused when no longer in its original form.
  • If you are looking to clean out office or art supplies, consider donating your items to a reuse center. The following reuse centers provide art and office supplies to teachers, non-profits, artists or even art therapists at discounted or free rates:

Disclaimer: These sites are listed for informational purposes only. Cook County does not endorse any of these entities nor their services nor does Cook County make any warranties regarding the reliability or accuracy of this information. This list is not guaranteed to be current or complete.





Learn more about the recycling guidelines here: Recycling Can Be Easy, If You Do It Right



Recycling Guidelines in Spanish

Recycling Guidelines in Polish



Is your item missing from the guidelines above? Always check with your local waste authority, waste hauler or municipality for any additional information concerning specific recycling information for your community. See below for local waste authorities and their member communities.

Solid Waste Agency of Northern Cook County (SWANCC)

(847) 724-9205, Email: 



West Cook Solid Waste Agency

(708) 453-9155, Email:



Recycle by City in Partnership with the City of Chicago

Recycling Drop-off Centers

If you do not have curbside recycling, there are free recycling drop-off sites throughout our region. We suggest calling beforehand to confirm the location's hours and accepted materials.

  • Chicago Drop-Off Centers (Available to all County residents)
    • Far North Side, 6441 N. Ravenswood Ave., Chicago, IL 60626
    • Near South, 1758 S. Clark St., Chicago, IL 60616
      • Blue Cart Recycling Hotline: (312) 744-5702  For more information on accepted materials at these locations, click here.
  • SWANCC Member Communities (Residency Restrictions)

     Click here for permanent drop-off recycling centers in northern Cook County. Please note residency and member restrictions. 

  • Crete Lions Club & Recycling Center* (Available to all County residents)

      1215 Douglas Ln., Crete, IL 60417, (708) 672-4575

      *For more information on this center, click here

  • Grayslake Recycling Center (Available to all County residents)

      585 Berry Ave., Grayslake, IL 60030

      The electronics recycling offered at this location is only available to Solid Waste Agency of Lake County (SWALCO) member communities.

      For questions, please call SWALCO at (847) 336-  9340. For hours and accepted materials, click here


Household Hazardous Waste





Household hazardous waste may be closer than you think. Potentially hazardous materials include:

  • Acids
  • Antifreeze
  • Fertilizers
  • Fire extinguishers
  • Kerosene
  • Oil-based paint
  • Gasoline
  • Motor oil
  • Fungicides
  • Paint stripper
  • Varnish
  • Household cleaners


Permanent Household Hazardous Waste Drop-off Centers

All locations are available to Illinois residents. We suggest calling beforehand to confirm the location's hours and accepted materials.

  • City of Chicago Household Chemicals & Computer Recycling Facility
    • 1150 N. North Branch St., Chicago, IL 60642, (312) 744-3060
    • Hours of Operation: Tuesdays 7am-12pm; Thursdays 2pm-7pm; The first Saturday of each month 8am-3pm
    • For more information on the accepted materials at this location, click here
  • Naperville Household Hazardous Waste Facility
    • 156 Fort Hill Dr., Naperville, IL 60540, (630)-420-6095
    • Hours of operation: Saturdays and Sundays, 9am-2pm, excluding holidays
  • Rockford Household Hazardous Waste Site
    • 3333 Kishwaukee, Rockford, IL 6110
    • Hours of operation: Saturdays 8am-4pm, Sundays 12-4pm, Closed when a major holiday falls on the weekend

Are you a local government or organization interested in co-sponsoring a household hazardous waste collection? The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) hosts collection events in the spring and fall and encourages communities to co-sponsor events. Click here for more on how to partner with IEPA to host a household hazardous waste collection event.

Alternatives to Household Hazardous Waste



Credit: U.S. EPA, Reducing HHW in Your Home

For information about safer and more sustainable products, check out the Safer Choice Program from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA). Products with the Safer Choice Label have been reviewed by the U.S. EPA with strict safety requirements for the ingredients used.

You can find all of this information consolidated on this flyer

Construction & Demolition Waste




REUSE Your Construction & Demolition Materials

For more information on reuse, check out our webpage.

Click here to learn more about sustainable construction and demolition materials management throughout the nation.



Deconstruction is the strategic disassembly of a built structure. Deconstruction allows these materials to be reused on site, saved for future projects or donated to a reuse warehouse.

If you have materials that you cannot reuse on your own project or future projects, consider donating to reuse warehouses. Reuse warehouses are like thrift stores for building materials, appliances, furniture and much more. These warehouses help give items new lives and divert waste from the landfill. Listed below are sites within our region.

Disclaimer: These sites are listed for informational purposes only. Cook County does not endorse any of these entities nor their services nor does Cook County make any warranties regarding the reliability or accuracy of this information. This list is not guaranteed to be current or complete.

Evanston ReBuilding Warehouse in Evanston, IL

Habitat for Humanity in Elgin, IL 

Habitat for Humanity in Chicago, IL 

Habitat for Humanity in Chicago Heights, IL 

Rebuilding Exchange in Chicago, IL

The ReUse People ReUse Depot in Maywood, IL

Electronic Waste (E-Waste)





Source: IEPA, Electronics Recycling

REDUCE Your Electronic Waste

  • Consider repairing broken electronics yourself.
    • Visit for repair guides on many kinds of items, like phones, computers, game consoles and more.

REUSE Your Electronic Waste

  • Contact your local thrift store and see if they will accept your electronics.
    • Many stores will only accept newer electronics. We recommend calling to confirm what is accepted beforehand. 


Permanent Electronic Waste Collection Sites

We suggest calling beforehand to confirm the location's hours and accepted materials. Please consider deleting your personal information off the devices before disposing. 

  • City of Chicago Household Chemicals & Computer Recycling Facility (Available to all County residents)
    • 1150 N. North Branch St., Chicago, IL, 60642, (312) 744-3060
    • Hours of Operation: Tuesdays 7am-12pm; Thursday 2pm-7pm; The first Saturday of each month 8am-3pm
    • For more information on the accepted materials at this location, click here
  • Orland Township Electronics Recycling (Available to all County residents)
    • 16125 S. Wolf Rd., Orland Park, IL 60467, (708) 403-5148
    • Hours of Operation: Monday-Friday 7am-3pm
    • There is a fee associated with dropping off ALL Televisions and ALL computer monitors. This fee can be prepaid online at or paid at the gate at drop-off (credit card only).
      • Costs: Under 21-in screen (measured diagonally): $25; 21-in and over screen (measured diagonally): $35
    • For more information about accepted materials, click here


You can find this information all in one place on this flyer

Do you live in a bordering town of Kane County? Check out their electronic recycling program here.

For other locations, visit Illinois Environmental Protection Agency’s Beyond the Bin Map to find a collection site near you. Select “electronic” as material type.

One-Day Electronic Waste Collection Events

We suggest calling beforehand to confirm the location's hours and accepted materials. This list is updated periodically throughout the year. Last updated: August 4, 2020.

No events at this time.



Battery Disposal



Batteries cannot go into your curbside recycling bin.

  • Single-use batteries can be thrown away, but recycling these at authorized recycling locations can help conserve precious metals. In contrast, rechargeable batteries contain heavy metals and should ALWAYS be recycled at authorized locations. Above all, no batteries can be put into curbside recycling bins.
  • To find a recycling location for batteries (single-use & rechargeable), click here.


Food Waste








Source: U.S. EPA

REDUCE Your Food Waste

According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), reducing food waste could save households on average $370 per person annually. For more about why we should care about food waste from the USDA, click here.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency suggests learning the differences in “sell-by”, “use-by”, “best-by” and expiration dates to reduce food waste. From the Food Safety and Inspection Service of the United States Department of Agriculture:

Examples of commonly used phrases:

  • A "Best if Used By/Before" date indicates when a product will be of best flavor or quality. It is not a purchase or safety date.
  • A "Sell-By" date tells the store how long to display the product for sale for inventory management. It is not a safety date.
  • A  "Use-By" date is the last date recommended for the use of the product while at peak quality. It is not a safety date except for when used on infant formula as described below.
  • A "Freeze-By" date indicates when a product should be frozen to maintain peak quality. It is not a purchase or safety date.

Additional resources for residential reduction in food waste:

Resources for educational institutions, governments and businesses:


Compost 101



Source: Illinois Food Scrap Coalition, Compost 101

Composting at Home



Designer: Karen Brazell

Interested in composting at home? Visit this site by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to explore compost basics, the benefits of compost, and how to get started at home. The DES Composting Services Tool can help decide if Indoor Composting, Outdoor Composting or a service will work best.

Municipal Composting

Are you a municipality interested in bringing curbside composting to your residents?

Check out these guides by the Illinois Food Scrap Coalition:

BOO! Food waste is scary!



As residents of Cook County, we call one of the top pumpkin-producing states home. Many of these pumpkins are carved and discarded once fall festivities cease. Help reduce the associated food waste in landfills by participating in a pumpkin composting event. Click here to find an event near you.

  • To maintain healthy compost, please remove candles/wax/stickers before composting.


Textile Waste





REDUCE Your Textile Waste


REUSE Your Textiles

  • At home:
    • Use old clothing for a new sewing project
    • Make cleaning rags out of old t-shirts & socks
    • Create fabric yarn from old t-shirts
    • Use old t-shirts to create a reusable market bag
  • With others:
    • Host or attend a clothing swap/exchange
    • Donate to:
      • Local homeless shelters
      • Resale shops
      • Non-profit organizations or charitable organizations, such as Goodwill or The Salvation Army

RECYCLE Your Textiles

  • Clothing retailers may collect clothing in stores. Some have even offered discounts towards new clothing items when recycling an old garment.
    • Some retailers that offer discounts or participate in clothing recycling include:
    • This list is not guaranteed to be complete.

For clothing recycler locations, use Earth911's locator tool or donation bins near you

Medication/Prescription Drug Take Backs & Sharps Disposal

Medication/Prescription Drug Disposal



Credit: Al Granberg, Source: The Scientist, Drugging the Environment

As noted in the graphic above, prescription medications, when improperly disposed, negatively impact ecosystems in ways many may fail to realize. Further, the chemicals from these medications infiltrate the water we drink. Because of this, medications and prescription drugs should be disposed of in safe ways.

  • Cook County Sheriff operates the Prescription Drug Take Back Program as a free service for Cook County residents. Many collection sites are local police departments. A mail-in version of this service is offered for elderly or homebound disabled residents. For more information about this program or to find  a collection site near you, click here.
    • ACCEPTED: Medications in any pill dosage form, legally held controlled drugs and narcotics (Schedules II, III, IV and V) except for items listed below.
    • NOT ACCEPTED: Liquids, illicit drugs (Schedule I controlled substances) such as marijuana, cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine, herbal remedies, vitamins, supplements, cosmetics, other personal care products, compressed cylinders, aerosols, inhalers, pet pesticide products, iodine-containing medications, needles, syringes, lancets, injection pens, medical waste, chemo/cytotoxic drugs or contaminated materials such as gloves, tubing, or IV bags, batteries, aerosol spray cans, trash or other hazardous materials.


Sharps Disposal

Sharps are medical devices used to puncture or cut skin, such as needles or syringes. For example, a waste collector may cut themselves when sorting through needles that were disposed of improperly. Sharps can never be put in the curbside recycling bin.

If you need to dispose of needles or other sharps, find out if your doctor or pharmacy has a take back program. For more help on locating a disposal site near you:

Sharps should never be placed loosely in the trash

  • If you cannot access a sharps collection site, fill a hard-plastic container, like a detergent bottle, with your sharps and throw it away in the trash.
  • Do not use soft plastic bottles to contain your sharps. 




Additional Video Resource on Sharps Disposal

Find this information all in one place on this flyer

FAQs: Recycling and Proper Disposal




Credit: Recycle by City

Always replace your cap onto the empty and clean plastic bottle it came from. Then, place into your recycling bin to ensure both plastic components are successfully processed at your local recycling facility.




Before you place your recyclable item into your bin, rinse it clean and allow it to dry. Soap is not necessary. Clean recyclables reduce contamination of recycling batches. Contamination can result in recyclable materials being sent to the landfill.




Shredded paper should not be placed in your curbside recycling bin. The small size of the fragmented pieces does not allow for proper sorting at the recycling facility. Generally, items smaller than a credit card should not be put in the recycling bin as they are difficult to sort at facilities.




Do not bag your recyclables. Keep your items loose in your bin. Unlike garbage where everything in the trash bag goes to the same place: the landfill, the items in the recycling bin must be sorted. To increase the ease of sorting, please place your items directly into your recycling bin.

Recycling Tip: Use paper bags to collect your recycling. Then, pour the contents directly into the recycling bin, fold up the paper bag, and place into the bin, as well. If you do not have paper bags and you need to collect your items in a bag, use a trash bag but dump the contents directly into the recycling bin and reuse the trash bag.




Plastic bags can become tangled in recycling equipment and should never be placed in your curbside recycling bin. Instead, recycle them at participating grocery and retail stores. Click here for locations near you.




Like plastic bags, plastic storage bags and plastic wrap cannot go in curbside recycling.

Following our waste hierarchy, consider:

  1. Reducing your use of these items or switching over to reusable storage bags or containers
  2. Reusing the bag for items like pens and pencils
  3. Recycling the bag or wrap at participating grocery or retail stores; click here for locations near you



Online packaging materials made from plastic film cannot go in your curbside recycling bin. You can recycle these plastic materials at locations accepting plastic film. To find a recycling location near you, click here.

According to the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA), Illinois residents generate more than 14 million used tires per year and none of the tires can go to the landfill as they are banned by state law. If improperly disposed, tires can exacerbate vector-borne diseases by providing habitat for vectors, such as mosquitos. Further, dumping of these tires can pose serious degradation to properties, as pictured below.



Before forced removal by the IEPA in cooperation with Cook County



After the forced removal by the IEPA in cooperation with Cook County

Do you have an old tire you need to get rid of? Visit Earth911’s guide for guidance on recycling used tires.

For a list of used tire processors, visit this page from IEPA.

Want to repurpose your used tire? Consider new items you can make out of your old, clean tires, like a tire swing or a planter. For more fun ideas, check out this video.




Many one-day events or permanent collection sites will only accept residential waste.

If you are a business or organization, please contact the event or site coordinator before dropping off any waste materials.





Motor oil cannot be sent to the landfill and can pose risks to our waterways and wildlife if not disposed of properly.  Instead, you can drop off your oil at the following: Auto parts stores and household hazardous waste facilities. Additionally, all sites listed above in Permanent Household Hazardous Waste Drop-Off Centers accept automotive oil. 




Propane tanks can cause serious dangers to recycling facilities as they have been found to explode. To ensure your own safety and that of the waste haulers, please dispose of tanks in the proper ways:

  • Do not put in recycling bin.
  • Do not put in trash.
  • Some retailers of propane will accept trade-in tanks for new, filled tanks.
  • Contact the manufacturer of the tank for proper disposal.
  • Some household hazardous waste drop-off centers will accept tanks. Please call ahead before.
    • Naperville Household Hazardous Waste Facility takes large grill tanks only.
    • City of Chicago Household Chemicals & Computer Recycling Facility will accept BBQ tanks.
  • Some scrap metal recyclers take tanks. Please call ahead before. 
  • Eliminate the need for disposal by purchasing a refillable tank.





Your cup of joe is a recycling no. Lids, straws, and hot beverage cups should be kept out of your curbside recycling bin. Despite the paper composition of hot beverage cups, they contain a lining that degrades the overall quality of the recycling batch and should not be recycled in your bin. For iced coffee, some uncertainty remains about whether the plastic cup is recyclable. Please check with your local authority to determine whether plastic coffee cups can go in your bin. 

To reduce waste and save resources, use a reusable coffee cup and straw! Some coffee establishments even offer discounts when you bring your own cup/mug. 




Credit: CuBE Plastics

Black plastic should not be placed in curbside recycling. It tends to confuse the recycling technology and cannot always be properly sorted. This can decrease the quality of recycling stocks and cause potential market issues. Please throw black plastic in the trash and consider how you can eliminate future use. One suggestion would be to bring your own container to take home leftovers from a restaurant.




Please keep all pump and nozzles, like those found on lotions and shampoo bottles, out of the recycling bin. Generally, these are made of plastic but also contain metal components, like springs, that cannot be recycled with the plastic of the pump/nozzle nor bottle. Please remove all nozzles and pumps before recycling your plastic bottles.





Biodegradable and compostable items should be kept out of curbside recycling. Even if made from bioplastics, they are not the same as traditional plastics accepted by recycling facilities and should not be placed in your bin. Instead, these items should be sent to an industrial composting facility, checking with the facility to confirm that they accept such products. Industrial facilities are the best option because unfortunately many of these items require much higher temperatures than backyard composting allows. If you do not have access to an industrial composting facility that accepts these products, please place them in the trash.




Even though pizza boxes are cardboard, they can cause contamination due to grease and food particles. Try ripping off the clean top portion of the box and recycling that instead. Ideally, rip off the top of the box even if the pizza box has no food particles or grease. This helps the chances that your box will be recycled because workers at recycling facilities do not have time to check every pizza box that comes down their conveyor and may instinctually pull and throw away pizza boxes that they see.

The Department of Environment and Sustainability does not accept or pick-up recyclable goods or waste. If you have questions on how to recycle or dispose of an item after reviewing our library, contact us at