SEBRING — Are you ready to start recycling again? The service returns starting Monday.

Anyone still using their green carts as overflow for garbage will need to stop that, hose them out, and have them on the curb — filled with recyclables — before 7 a.m. on their scheduled collection day.

County officials want residents to do more to help make sure that recyclables picked up from the curb don’t end up in the landfill from contaminated loads.

County Engineer Clinton Howerton Jr. said residents can have the biggest effect in bringing down the county’s 40% contamination rate down to something a little more workable: 20% at least, although 10% or less would be ideal.

That said, have you rinsed out the recyclables?

Have you flattened your boxes, bottles and cans to make sure the lid of the bin will shut?

Have you rinsed all the garbage residue from the last two months out of your recycling bin, since you were told to use it for overflow garbage during the shutdown?

The right way to recycle, Howerton said, is to just recycle clean plastic bottles and plastic jars, steel and aluminum cans, and flattened cardboard.

It’s important to keep food out of the recycling stream and not to try to recycle loose plastic bags or to try to bag-up recyclables.

Highlands County Public Information Officer Gloria Rybinski said plastic bags foul sorting equipment, as does paper when it gets wet.

Napkins and paper towels especially are a problem, but any paper can also clog up equipment.

“It’s no good to us,” Rybinski said.

When asked about composting, Howerton, who also serves as solid waste director, said that certainly could be a great option. Using paper as packing material for shipping or storing items may be another.

“The newspapers themselves were not an issue,” Howerton said about one commonly-gathered paper product, “but the problem is that so many other non-recyclable items were being lumped into that same category. Items like books. Books and other bound paper items are not recyclable both because of the paper and the binder.”

Howerton has a list of items that are and are not recyclable, at least under the county’s contract with Waste Connections LLC and the current market for materials.

Recyclable

To be recyclable, all items must be free of debris and residue — thoroughly washed and cleaned — and to keep loads clean, no unaccepted items can be in the bins.

- Steel cans

- Aluminum cans

- Plastic bottles — Caps may be left on, as with soda bottles and milk jugs, and cleaning supply bottles are OK, as long as you remove and

throw away any nozzles.

- Plastic jars, like peanut butter or mayonnaise jars, but make sure they are completely clean.

- Clean cardboard with no food or chemical residue, like soda boxes, cracker boxes, shipping boxes, and make sure all your boxes have been flattened.

Not-recyclable

Items that are not recyclable would include the list below as well as any acceptable items that have not been properly cleaned of food or chemical residue.

- Plastic bags of any kind

- Glass of any kind

- Paper products, like newspaper, loose sheets of paper, junk mail, books, magazines or bound paper

- Pizza boxes — They have grease and stuck-on food.

- Plastic toys

- Garden hoses

- Rope

- Electric and appliance cords, and Christmas lights

- Appliances — Those are collected on bulk pickup days.

- Wax-coated items, like juice boxes, milk cartons or Florida’s Natural orange juice

- Paper towels, napkins, tissues or toilet paper

- Paper plates or cups of any kind

- Aerosol cans

- Plastic pet food containers or bags

- Animal feed bags

- Styrofoam

- Plastic containers that fruit come in, like strawberries, blueberries, etc.

- Diapers

- Medical waste

- Plastic packing materials, Styrofoam “peanuts,” bubble wrap, and plastic wrap and straps.

- Aluminum foil, and foil trays and pans

- Scrap metal, lawn mower blades, car parts

- Propane tanks and pressurized containers

- Clothing, shoes, blankets or pillows.

- Stuffed animals

“When in doubt, toss it out,” Rybinski said.