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No Stringy Things-‘Tanglers’ in Your Recycling Bin

Updated: Feb 4, 2020

‘Tanglers’ is a term often heard in the recycling industry that refer to string-like things such as plastic bags, clothing, cords, ribbons, bows, ropes, hoses, strings, tinsel, wires, and string lights. After these items are mistakenly recycled they can end up wrapped or tangled in heavy machinery during the recycling sorting process.

You see, during sorting, materials move along an incline made up of large rotating rollers. These rollers have small gaps between them and rotate at a speed that separates paper from containers. The paper floats on top of the rollers while containers fall through the bottom. Tanglers find themselves wrapped around these rollers, which jam and temporarily halt production 1-2 times a shift.

These jams pose danger to recycling workers, who have to get into a harness, crawl into the heavy machinery and spend 20-30 minutes cutting off the wrapped-around material. The biggest culprit? Plastic bags. Remember to always place your recyclables loosely in your bin; there should be no plastic bags - including trash bags - anywhere in your recycling bin.

So how can residents make sure that tanglers are disposed of properly? Stick to these basic guidelines to properly dispose of tanglers:

No plastic film of any kind

For starters, remember that plastic bags and plastic film are only recyclable if you keep them out of your curbside bin. Bring these to a local retail drop-off location such as a department or grocery store for recycling. To find out what other items can be recycled along with your plastic film, or to find a drop-off location near you, visit

Donate, or safely dispose of anything with a bulb

String lights (such as Christmas Lights) if still in working condition should first be considered for donation. Contact the Habitat ReStore, 1967 Allouez Ave, Green Bay, WI 54311 at (920)-593-3921 to see if they are able to accept your lights. If you are unable to donate your lights, they can be brought to the Hazardous Material Recovery Facility on 2561 S. Broadway in Green Bay for safe disposal. View residential drop-off hours on Brown County Resource Recovery’s website at

Always consider donation as a first option

Consider items such as clothing, hoses and cords for donation. If this is not possible, these items along with ribbons, bows, ropes, string, tinsel, wires, etc. should be placed in your curbside trash bin for disposal.

If you are unsure of whether something may or may not be a tangler consider this recycling adage: “When in doubt, throw it out” and always remember to Recycle Right!

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