What’s Banned in Landfills: A State-by-State Guide

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In some cases, it’s not about whether you should recycle an item, but instead whether you must.

That’s because in the U.S., there are no federal laws regarding recycling. There wasn’t even a law regarding waste generation until the Solid Waste Disposal Act in 1965, which eventually became the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) and set procedures for landfills and collection of household waste.

This means any items banned from landfills are decided at the state (or, in some cases, city) level. Only one U.S. state, Montana, currently does not have any landfill bans.

Importance of Landfill Bans

If an item is banned from landfills, are you required to recycle it? Technically no, as 49 states have landfill bans but only 22 states have mandatory recycling laws. The difference is subtle but significant.

  • Landfill bans prevent you from bringing an item to a municipal solid waste (MSW) landfill
  • Mandatory recycling laws levy fines against you if you put the material in question in the garbage instead of the recycling bin

The good thing is that for any material that has been banned from landfills, the state has created a recycling market. With a minor amount of effort, it will be easy to keep these items out of your garbage so they don’t end up in a landfill, against the law.

Common Landfill Bans

The items usually banned from landfills are ones that will do the most environmental damage. Here are the top 10 most common materials banned from landfills:

  1. Car batteries
  2. Motor oil
  3. Tires
  4. Liquid waste (e.g., non-dried paint, household cleaners)
  5. Untreated medical waste
  6. Cathode ray tube (CRT) screens (tube monitors and TVs)
  7. Products containing mercury
  8. Yard waste
  9. Computers
  10. Nickel-cadmium (NiCad, or rechargeable) batteries

The good news is that none of those materials are disposed of on a daily basis. Aluminum and tin cans check in at No. 15, though, banned from landfills in nearly 10 states.

Where It Comes from Matters

Another distinction to be made is that some materials are only banned from landfills by commercial generators. This means a business must find a diversion alternative (like recycling), but consumers do not.

Items banned for only commercial generators are marked with an asterisk on the list below.

State Breakdown

 

Alabama Alaska Arizona
Arkansas California Colorado
Connecticut Delaware District of Columbia
Florida Georgia Hawaii
Idaho Illinois Indiana
Iowa Kansas Kentucky
Louisiana Maine Maryland
Massachusetts Michigan Minnesota
Mississippi Missouri Montana
Nebraska Nevada New Hampshire
New Jersey New Mexico New York
North Carolina North Dakota Ohio
Oklahoma Oregon Pennsylvania
Rhode Island South Carolina South Dakota
Tennessee Texas Utah
Vermont Virginia Washington
West Virginia Wisconsin Wyoming

Alabama

Photo: Adobe Stock

Landfill Bans

Car batteries
Liquid waste
Medical waste

Mandatory Recyclables

None

Alaska

Landfill Bans

Car batteries
Liquid waste
Medical waste*
Motor oil*

Mandatory Recyclables

None

Arizona

Landfill Bans

Car batteries

Mandatory Recyclables

None

Arkansas

Landfill Bans

Car batteries
Computers
Tires
Yard waste

Mandatory Recyclables

None

California

Landfill Bans

Car batteries
Cars
Computers
CRTs
Electronics
Medical sharps (needles)
Mercury thermostats
Motor oil
NiCad batteries
Paint
Tires
White goods (appliances)

Mandatory Recyclables

Aluminum cans*
Carpet*
Cell phones
CRTs
Glass containers*
Newspaper*
NiCad batteries*
Paint*
Plastic containers*
Steel cans*

Colorado

Photo: Adobe Stock

Landfill Bans

Car batteries
Computers
CRTs
Motor oil
Tires

Mandatory Recyclables

None

Connecticut

Landfill Bans

Asbestos
Car batteries
Computers
CRTs
Electronics
Liquid waste
Medical waste
Mercury oxide batteries
Mercury thermostats
Motor oil
NiCad batteries*
Paint
Tires
Yard waste

Mandatory Recyclables

Aluminum cans
Car batteries
Cardboard
Computers
CRTs
Food waste*
Glass containers
Mixed paper
Motor oil
Newspaper
NiCad batteries
Office paper
Plastic containers
Scrap metal
Steel cans
White goods
Yard waste

Delaware

Photo: Adobe Stock

Landfill Bans

Asbestos
Car batteries*
Computers*
CRTs*
Liquid waste
Medical waste
Mercury*
Motor oil
NiCad batteries*
Paint*
Tires
Yard waste

Mandatory Recyclables

None

District of Columbia

Landfill Bans

Asbestos
Car batteries
Cars
Computers
Construction & demolition (C&D) waste
CRTs
Drywall
Liquid waste
Medical waste
Mercury
Motor oil
NiCad batteries
Paint

Mandatory Recyclables

Aluminum cans
Cardboard
Glass containers
Mixed paper
Newspaper
Office paper
Plastic containers
Steel cans
Steel scrap
Yard waste

Florida

Landfill Bans

Car batteries
Fluorescent bulbs
Liquid waste
Medical waste
Mercury
Motor oil
NiCad batteries
Tires
White goods
Yard waste

Mandatory Recyclables

None

Georgia

Landfill Bans

Car batteries
Computers*
CRTs*
Liquid waste
Medical waste*
Mercury*
Motor oil
Paint
Tires
Yard waste

Mandatory Recyclables

Car batteries
Motor oil

Hawaii

Landfill Bans

Car batteries
Tires

Mandatory Recyclables

None

Idaho

Landfill Bans

Car batteries
Liquid waste*
Medical waste*
Motor oil*
Tires

Mandatory Recyclables

Car batteries

Illinois

Landfill Bans

Car batteries*
Computers
CRTs
Electronics
Medical waste
Mercury thermostats
Motor oil
Tires
White goods (with mercury switches)
Yard waste

Mandatory Recyclables

Mercury thermostats

Indiana

Landfill Bans

Asbestos
Car batteries
Cars
Computers
CRTs
Electronics
Liquid waste
Medical waste
Mercury*
Mercury batteries*
NiCad batteries*
Motor oil*
Paint
Tires
White goods (with Freon)
Yard waste

Mandatory Recyclables

Car batteries
Computers
CRTs
Electronics

Iowa

Photo: Adobe Stock

Landfill Bans

Asbestos
Car batteries
CRTs*
Liquid waste
Medical waste*
Mercury*
Motor oil
NiCad batteries*
Tires
Yard waste

Mandatory Recyclables

Mercury thermostats

Kansas

Landfill Bans

Asbestos
Car batteries
Liquid waste*
Medical waste*
Motor oil*
Tires

Mandatory Recyclables

None

Kentucky

Landfill Bans

Car batteries
Liquid waste
Medical waste
Motor oil
Paint
Tires

Mandatory Recyclables

None

Louisiana

Landfill Bans

Asbestos
Car batteries
Liquid waste
Medical waste
Motor oil
Tires
White goods

Mandatory Recyclables

None

Maine

Landfill Bans

Asbestos
Car batteries
Cars
Cell phones
Computers
CRTs
Medical waste
Mercury
Motor oil
NiCad batteries
Tires

Mandatory Recyclables

Cardboard*
Cell phones*
Computers*
CRTs*
NiCad batteries*
Office paper*

Maryland

Photo: Adobe Stock

Landfill Bans

Car batteries*
Cars
Liquid waste
Medical waste*
NiCad batteries*
Tires
Yard waste

Mandatory Recyclables

None

Massachusetts

Sailboats cruise the Charles River with the Boston skyline in the background. Photo: Adobe Stock

Landfill Bans

Aluminum cans
C&D waste
Car batteries
Cardboard
CRTs
Drywall
Food waste*
Glass containers
NiCad batteries
Mixed paper
Newspaper
Office paper
Plastic containers
Steel cans
Tires
White goods
Yard waste

Mandatory Recyclables

None

Michigan

Landfill Bans

Aluminum cans (deposit law qualified only)
Car batteries
Glass containers (deposit law qualified only)
Liquid waste
Medical waste
Motor oil
Plastic containers (deposit law qualified only)
Tires
Yard waste

Mandatory Recyclables

None

Minnesota

Landfill Bans

Car batteries
Cars
CRTs
Medical waste
Mercury
Motor oil
NiCad batteries
Paint
Tires
White goods
Yard waste

Mandatory Recyclables

Car batteries
CRTs
Mercury
Motor oil
Rechargeable batteries
White goods

Mississippi

Landfill Bans

Car batteries
Computers
CRTs
Tires

Mandatory Recyclables

None

Missouri

Landfill Bans

Car batteries
Medical waste
Motor oil
Tires
White goods

Mandatory Recyclables

None

Montana

Landfill Bans

None

Mandatory Recyclables

None

Nebraska

Scotts Bluff National Monument. Photo: Adobe Stock

Landfill Bans

Car batteries
Motor oil
Tires
White goods
Yard waste (April through November)

Mandatory Recyclables

None

Nevada

Landfill Bans

Liquid waste

Mandatory Recyclables

None

New Hampshire

Landfill Bans

Asbestos
Car batteries
Computers
CRTs
Electronics
Liquid waste
Medical waste
Mercury
Motor oil
NiCad batteries
Wood
Yard waste

Mandatory Recyclables

None

New Jersey

Landfill Bans

Car batteries
Computer monitors
Computers
Drywall
Mercury oxide batteries
Motor oil
NiCad batteries
Televisions
Yard waste

Mandatory Recyclables

Aluminum cans
Cardboard
Glass containers
Mixed paper
Newspaper
Office paper
Plastic containers
Scrap metal
Steel cans
White goods

New Mexico

Photo: Adobe Stock

Landfill Bans

Car batteries
Motor oil

Mandatory Recyclables

Car batteries
Motor oil

New York

Landfill Bans

Aluminum cans
Aluminum scrap
Car batteries
Cardboard
Computers
CRTs
Electronics
Liquid waste
Medical waste
Mercury
Mixed paper
Motor oil
Newspaper
NiCad batteries
Office paper
Paint
Steel cans
Tires
White goods
Yard waste

Mandatory Recyclables

None

North Carolina

Landfill Bans

Aluminum cans
Antifreeze
Car batteries
Computer monitors
Computers
Electronics
Fluorescent bulbs
Glass containers*
Mercury thermostats
Motor oil
Oil filters
Oyster shells
Pallets (wood)
Plastic containers
Televisions
Tires
White goods
Yard waste

Mandatory Recyclables

None

North Dakota

Landfill Bans

Asbestos*
Car batteries
Cars
Liquid waste*
Manure
Medical waste*
Mercury*
Motor oil
Paint*
Scrap metal
White goods

Mandatory Recyclables

Car batteries
Motor oil
Scrap metal
White goods

Ohio

Toledo. Photo: Adobe Stock

Landfill Bans

Car batteries
Liquid waste*
Medical waste*
Tires
Yard waste

Mandatory Recyclables

Car batteries

Oklahoma

Landfill Bans

Antifreeze*
Asbestos
Car batteries*
Liquid waste*
Medical waste*
Mercury*
Motor oil*
Paint*
Pesticides*
Tires

Mandatory Recyclables

None

Oregon

Landfill Bans

Car batteries
Cars
Computer monitors
Computers
Medical waste
Motor oil
Televisions
Tires
White goods

Mandatory Recyclables

None

Pennsylvania

Photo: Adobe Stock

Landfill Bans

Asbestos
Car batteries
Computer monitors
Computers
Glass containers
Leaves
Medical waste*
Mercury oxide batteries*
NiCad batteries*
Televisions
Tires
White goods

Mandatory Recyclables

Aluminum cans
Car batteries
Cardboard
Computer monitors
Computers
Electronics
Glass containers
Leaves
Mixed paper
Newspaper
Office paper
Plastic containers
Scrap metal
Steel cans
Televisions

Rhode Island

Landfill Bans

Car batteries
Cars
Computer monitors
Computers
Mercury
Motor oil
NiCad batteries
Televisions

Mandatory Recyclables

Aluminum cans
Car batteries*
Cardboard
Clothing
Glass containers
Mixed paper
Motor oil*
Newspaper
Office paper
Plastic containers
Steel cans
Yard waste

South Carolina

Landfill Bans

Car batteries
Computer monitors
Computers
Motor oil
Televisions
Tires
White goods
Yard waste

Mandatory Recyclables

None

South Dakota

Landfill Bans

Car batteries
Motor oil
Tires
White goods
Yard waste

Mandatory Recyclables

None

Tennessee

Downtown Memphis. Photo: Adobe Stock

Landfill Bans

Car batteries
Liquid waste
Mercury
Motor oil
Tires

Mandatory Recyclables

None

Texas

Landfill Bans

Car batteries
Liquid waste
Medical waste
Motor oil
Tires

Mandatory Recyclables

None

Utah

Landfill Bans

Car batteries
Motor oil

Mandatory Recyclables

None

Vermont

Landfill Bans

Aluminum cans
Aluminum scrap
C&D waste
Car batteries
Cardboard
Computer monitors
Computers
Drywall
Electronics
Glass containers
Mercury
Mixed paper
Motor oil
Newspaper
NiCad batteries
Office paper
Paint
Plastic containers
Steel cans
Televisions
Tires
White goods
Yard waste

Mandatory Recyclables

Aluminum cans
Aluminum foil/pie plates
Cardboard
Glass containers
Mixed paper
Newspaper
Officer paper
Plastic containers
Steel cans

Virginia

Landfill Bans

Asbestos
Car batteries
Liquid waste*
Medical waste*
Motor oil

Mandatory Recyclables

None

Washington

Landfill Bans

Asbestos*
Car batteries
Fluorescent bulbs
Medical waste*
Mercury*
Motor oil

Mandatory Recyclables

Car batteries
Fluorescent bulbs

West Virginia

Photo: Adobe Stock

Landfill Bans

Aluminum scrap
Asbestos
C&D waste
Car batteries
Cars
Liquid waste
Medical waste
Mercury
Motor oil
NiCad batteries
Paint
Tires
Yard waste

Mandatory Recyclables

None

Wisconsin

Landfill Bans

Aluminum cans
Aluminum scrap
Car batteries
Cardboard
Computer monitors
Computers
Foam plastic packaging
Glass containers
Liquid waste
Medical sharps
Mercury*
Mixed paper
Motor oil
Newspaper
Office paper
Oil filters
Paint
Plastic containers
Propane tanks*
Steel cans
Televisions
Tires
White goods
Yard waste

Mandatory Recyclables

Aluminum cans
Cardboard
Glass containers
Mixed paper
Newspaper
Office paper
Plastic containers
Steel cans

Wyoming

Landfill Bans

Car batteries

Mandatory Recyclables

None

Special thanks to the Northeast Recycling Council for its list of updated landfill bans.

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Trey Granger

Trey Granger

Trey Granger is a former senior waste stream analyst for Earth911.
Trey Granger

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