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Can I Recycle It?


The green movement has caught our planet by a storm, and everyone is recycling like their products are on fire!  However, many people add things to their recycling willy nilly, not really knowing whether or not it is accepted at the recycling facility.   If they are not, it will get tossed right in the trash, otherwise known as a really expensive way to put something in the landfill.  The recycling symbol also isn’t regulated, so many companies put it on their products, even if something is technically not recyclable. Oftimes, cities or other organizations can only take certain plastics, so even if there is the recycling symbol and number on it, you may not be able to recycle it anywhere nearby.  Read on to learn more about what can and can’t be recycled.


Things You Can Recycle:

Scrap Metal
You can recycle scrap metal lying around the house such as pans, small appliances, staples, small paper clips, copper wires, etc.  Some places will even pay for recycled metal.

Metal Cans
Metal soup or fruit cans are recyclable, just make sure that you thoroughly wash and dry them before you put them in your recycling.  While the metal cans are rinsed in the facility, food can get on the paper inside your bins, contaminating them, making it impossible to recycle it.

Paper
Paper is recyclable, as long as it hasn’t come in contact with food.  Shredded paper is still recyclable, but it does change it from high grade paper to mixed grade paper.  Not all recycling facilities take mixed grade paper, so check with your city before you toss it in the recycling.  Excessive amounts of wrapping paper can also gum up the machines, so while it is ok to recycle gift wrap around birthdays, you should avoid recycling it around Christmas.


Plastics Numbered 1-7
The higher the number, the harder it is to recycle, so check with your city to see what plastics they are able to recycle.  They may also only take certain sizes of plastics, ie they take large containers and lids, but they won’t take irregularly sized objects such as eye drop containers.

Cardboard
Cardboard, like paper, is recyclable.  Make sure you flatten your boxes before throwing them into your bin.

Glass
Some facilities will accept glass bottles and jars, while others will not. Check with your city to see if yours is one that accepts glass.

Textiles
Whenever possible, you should donate used clothes to a local charity, but if they are unusable (or small scraps), you can put your textiles into the recycling.  However, if rags or clothes are soiled with motor oil, chemicals, or paint, they cannot be recycled.


Things You Cannot Recycle:

Paper
You cannot recycle paper that has touched food — including pizza boxes, paper cups, plates, etc.  Most facilities will assume that these items have touched food (even if they are clean, they cannot tell for sure) and throw them out.  Paper towels and tissues also cannot be recycled as their fibers are too thin to withstand the recycling process.   However, many paper products can be used in your compost pile.

Hazardous Waste
Anything that is toxic, poisonous, flammable, etc. cannot be recycled and they must be disposed of carefully.  This includes motor oil, batteries, paint, pesticides, etc.

Plastic toys
Many plastic toys are made of mixed plastics, so they cannot be recycled.  If they are in good condition, donate them to a local charity instead.

Binder Clips
Unfortunately binder clips cannot be recycled, but you can repurpose them for a number of projects around your house.

Polystyrene aka Styrofoam
While most styrofoam products are made up of polystyrene, or #6 plastic, styrofoam doesn’t weigh enough to be recycled.  You’re better off repurposing it or throwing it in the trash.


Pottery
Ceramics and pottery (including coffee mugs) should not be recycled.  You’re better off donating these items.

Window Glass and Light Bulbs
Most light bulbs cannot be recycled, and some states make it illegal to throw out CFL and fluorescent bulbs! However if you have LED bulbs, they might be recyclable.  Check with your city to find out if you can.


If you have some of the items above, you can still reduce your carbon footprint by repurposing them, putting (some) of them in the compost pile, or being careful not to purchase them in the first place.  If you would like to learn a little more about material recovery facilities, or MRFs, check out this blog.

Let's discuss: Were you aware of the products that you could and could not recycle? 

Annmarie John
28 Comments
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28 comments:

  1. I truly appreciate the list here and there are times I have been not sure, especially with plastic toys. So, now I do know and won't be forgetting anytime soon ;)

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    1. I'm in the same boat Janine. I have totally placed items in the recycling container that aren't meant to be recycled. When you know better however, you do better.

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  2. Thank you for the information. I did not know about some of these (like shredded paper and cardboard or paper that has been in contact with food). I will do as you have advised, and check our local facility. Maybe they have flyers/guidelines to help us sort out our recyclables.

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    1. You're very welcome Annemarie and we want to protect our planet earth for as long as we can.

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  3. Oh, this is helpful! The majority of what we recycle are bottles, but I didn't know some of these "don'ts". Thank you!

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    1. A lot might be new to others too, it's always good to be informed.

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  4. We have a recycling center near us and this is a great list to print up. It's not always easy to remember what can and can't be recycled because not everything has those recycle labels on it.

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    1. That's a great idea! That way you know and remember what you can and cannot recycle.

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  5. Thanks for the great information. I didn't know that there was numbered plastic 1-7.

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    1. Yes there are and I'm happy I was able to inform you of that.

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  6. We have a place where we can drop off anything metal and get money for it. It's usually not very much though!

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    1. We have a few places like that too but I usually just check online because there are people willing to pick them up for free.

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  7. This is a great guide. I need to start separating some of these things out. We probably toss too many plastics.

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    1. Our recycling day was today and I tossed a few as well since our recycling bin was a little full.

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  8. There are so many products I had no idea about recycling. I absolutely had no idea about glass. Great list!

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    1. Well now you know and knowing is half the battle. :)

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  9. We have a great recycling program where we live. My kids love to find things to recycle.

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    1. It's not mandated to recycle here in Colorado but because I grew up in a city (NYC) that demands it, I do it with my kids.

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  10. I actually wasn't aware of the one about paper that has touched food. Oops! I will definitely consult this list for the next big recycling center dropoff weekend we have.

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    1. Yes you shouldn't and now you know, you won't do it again. :)

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  11. Bentley is adorable! I hate to say it, but our family needs to do better at recycling. Great tips to get us going!

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    1. I'm assuming you saw Bentley in another post since he's not in this one, but yes he is. :) I think that recycling is something that everyone needs to get better at.

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  12. Ahhhhh honestly I wish I recycled more! The only thing I recycle thes days is soda cans and bottles.

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    1. Well that's a start CourtneyLynne and maybe you'll get better at it one of these days with these tips on what you can and can't recycle.

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  13. Very informative! For some reason I think we are under the assumption that more things are recyclable that aren't.

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    1. That is true because I used to think that I could recycle stuff that contained food as long as it was plastic or paper.

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  14. I was not really aware of some of these. My son is huge into recycling. He lives to take everything downstairs to the recycling bin.

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    1. Make sure that what he is taking actually should be recycled and not just thrown in the trash.

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