NLC News: Nantucket’s New Household Trash and Recycling Guidelines

Where does your Trash go?

Nantucket’s mandatory recycling program was established in July of 1996 and has been updated for 2019. All residential and commercial property owners or occupants are required to recycle. The Material Recovery Facility (MRF) provides a single drop-off area for all source-separated Recyclable, Compostable, and Non-Recyclable/Non-Compostable wastes.

On Nantucket, we have three main waste streams:

  1. Recyclable (R) Waste,
  2. Compostable (C) Waste, and
  3. Non-Recyclable/Non-Compostable (NR/NC) Waste


Recyclable (R) Waste is collected, sorted, baled, and shipped off-island to commodity markets for revenue.  This includes Shipping Boxes, Plastics, and Tin/Aluminum.  Glass is crushed and mixed with soil aggregate and then reused onsite for landfill roadway maintenance.  The recycling streams are the same as they were previously.  The Glass collection container, however, is now located by the other recycling streams at the Recycling Drop-Off Center.

  • Shipping Boxes (clean, corrugated cardboard)
  • Plastics (bottles, cups, jars, jugs, and tubs)
  • Tin/Aluminum (food and beverage cans, bottle and jar lids, aluminum foil items)
  • Glass (bottles and jars)


Compostable (C) Waste is collected and sent through our large industrial composter.  This process turns your food scraps and other compostable waste into nutrient rich soil.  Any non-compostable materials that contaminate this stream are screened off, baled, and landfilled on-island.  As an island, Nantucket has a finite amount of land, and therefore very limited landfill space.  The newly constructed lined landfill cell (3A) became operational in January 2019 and has a forecasted life-expectancy of approximately 10 years based on the island’s current waste production and contaminated compostable stream rates.  Effectively if our compostable stream were 100% clean and free of non-compostable waste, NOTHING would be landfilled on Nantucket.

Compostable waste includes food scraps and mixed paper. This includes, for example, pizza/food boxes, paper towels, paper bags, newspapers, magazines, tissues, coffee grounds, pet waste.

Note: waxed paper items (and all other items made from a mix of materials) go in Non-Recyclable & Non-Compostable Waste.

Nantucket’s Public Works and Health Departments and our partners at Waste Options Nantucket (WON), as well as our island’s Waste Haulers, are working together to continually assess and improve our solid waste and recycling operations to divert non-compostable waste from our industrial composter with the goal of zero waste to our landfill.  Construction of new lined landfill space is extremely expensive on Nantucket so developing programs to reduce, reuse, recycle, and divert non-compostable waste off-island is cost-effective.


The remaining items in your waste stream that are neither recyclable nor compostable are deposited as Non-Recyclable/Non-Compostable (NR/NC) Waste (formerly known as Bulky Waste). This includes plastic bags, shrink wrap, and other film plastics; Styrofoam; protein bar and candy wrappers; chip bags; straws and plastic cutlery; cleaning wipes; incandescent lights, textiles that are not reusable (you can leave your reusable textiles at the Take-It-or-Leave-It), and all items made from a mix of materials including milk cartons, diapers, and Keurig cups.

* All items should be clean and empty, and must be contained in clear plastic bags. 

Thank you for helping our island and helping our planet.  Click here for a printable version of the Waste Streams Guide.

Still have questions?  Contact DPW at (508) 228-7244 or email