By Kathy Ross.

Plastic that escapes into the environment is simply not good for birds or wildlife (as well as humans). We now know that plastic breaks down to tiny micro-plastics that are transported by water to lakes, rivers, and oceans where they are consumed by animals and enter the food web. Micro-plastics can interfere with animal physiology. Plastic pieces such as lids or plastic bags are often consumed by birds and wildlife causing injuries or death. Recycling and reusing paper, cardboard, metals and plastics reduces our carbon footprint. When it comes to recycling for the Birds and for our environment, the best thing you can do is BUY AS IF NOTHING GETS RECYCLED.

With the recent changes in recycling in the USA, recycling is getting harder. We find ourselves struggling once again to come to terms with our waste and how to live with less, especially plastic – especially in Montana, where it is costly to ship recyclables out of the state. Unfortunately, you occasionally need to buy products packaged in plastic. But you can REDUCE how much plastic you buy by, for example, using canvas bags when shopping. IF YOU CARE ABOUT BIRDS AND THEIR HABITAT, YOU NEED TO CHOOSE CAREFULLY.

When you must buy plastic, REUSE everything you can. Buying in bulk will reduce packaging, and reuse is often possible – think reusable water bottles and shopping bags.

The last resort after REDUCE and REUSE is, of course, RECYCLE.

GOOD NEWS!! Plastic recycling is still available in the Flathead Valley – at least for some #1 and #2 plastics, and this can make a dent, especially when you see the detailed list below.

The places listed below are really making an effort by offering recycling of CLEAN #1 and #2 plastic. Choosing what to accept is not easy because the recycling industry is very complicated. A recycling business is limited by the different criteria of the markets they are shipping to. We need to appreciate the service they are offering, and do our best to follow the criteria they specify. If you have questions about anything not listed, call the numbers listed for the recycling near you.

Clean is very important. It is the one criterion everyone agrees on. Please make sure the containers you recycle are clean. Otherwise everything that is recycled is contaminated, and mice and other pests are attracted to the recycling work area.

We all need to avoid clamshell containers (such as used for lettuce). No one in the Flathead Valley can take them, and that is true generally across the US. Why? The material in a #1 clamshell is not the same as in a #1 bottle. The plastics in the two need to be reheated at different temperatures, and cannot be used for the same industries. So clamshells create a significant contamination problem if they are mixed in with other plastics, even with the same number. Your effort to recycle is wasted if you contaminate loads. This is one reason we lost recycling earlier. Because we currently cannot recycle clamshells, we should stop buying them. Companies depend on consumers to buy their products. If we stop, they stop. This is also true of plastics other than #1 and #2, which we can’t recycle either.


These places take #1 & #2 CLEAN plastic as of 1/10/20. Separate #1 & #2. Call if you have questions.

  • VALLEY RECYCLING (406-257-2574,1410 Hwy 2 W, Kalispell) – for drop off by anyone in the Flathead,
  • THE GREEN MACHINE (406-755-8112) – for curb pick-up service
    • #1 and #2 plastic, clear and opaque milk jugs, other jugs and water bottles
    • #1 and #2 colored pop bottles that you can see through
    • #1 and #2 clear or opaque color (no solid color). Hand soap, dish soap, shampoo
    • #1 and #2 clear plastic jars (like peanut butter or nuts) with screw on lids (but NOT the lids)
    • #1 and #2 plastic juice containers
  • CITY OF WHITEFISH (406-862-4281, corner of Columbia Ave and Railway St) – drop off for ONLY Whitefish residents. Call for specific details on #1 and #2. There may have been recent changes.


Watch for glass recycling events to be announced starting again in May 2020. We will announce this on our website and in the Pileated Post when information becomes available.

One thought on “Recycling – for the Birds

  1. […] Recycling – for the Birds, by Kathy Ross. This article is revised frequently to provide up-to-date information on what recyclables can be recycled where in Flathead Valley. […]

Comments are closed.