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What Can You Put In Your Recycling Bin?

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Author: Hai Le

Updated on September 13, 2023 • Estimated read time: 8 minutes

Did you know that not all items can be recycled, and some recycling efforts make a bigger impact than others? Learning what items can and cannot be placed in your recycling bin can help you ensure that your recyclable materials successfully make it through the recycling process and to their next life.

If you are just getting started on your recycling journey, or maybe today is the first day you sign up for a recycling program, then you need to read this blog post.

In this blog post, I'll provide you with a comprehensive guide on what you can and cannot put in your recycling bin to help you recycle your stuff properly and effectively.

Things You Must Know Before Putting Stuff In Your Recycling Bin 

Fun Fact: According to Recycle Across America, recycling is a $200 billion industry in the United States alone, which generates 7-10 more jobs than landfills and waste-to-energy plants combined.

Recycling also depends on your luck. Some local recycling programs accept things like plastic bags or electronic devices, while others don't want to see them. So, to make recycling work effectively, here are some general rules you need to know:

  • Check with your local recycling program to see what can and cannot be recycled.
  • Make sure your recyclables are clean and dry.
  • Keep food and liquid out of your recycling bin.
  • Your recyclable items should not be tied up in a plastic bag (Again, most recycling programs don't accept plastic bags)
  • Flatten all cardboard boxes to save space.

Again, this blog is intended to be a general guide only. For the most accurate information, please check with your local recycling program. And if you have any questionable items that need to be recycled, use this search to find a local recycler.

Summary: Recycling is a great way to reduce waste and conserve resources. However, it's important to do it right. Make sure all your items are clean, dry, and not tied up in a plastic bag to ensure recycling facilities accept and recycle your recyclables.

Person watching man putting his head into the recycling bin - Ecopify

What Not To Put In Your Recycling Bin?

Fun Fact: According to National Geographic, dirty plastics cannot be recycled. Plastic with residue from leftover food and organic waste on (or in) is contaminated and cannot be processed for further recycling.

As you may know, our recycling technology is still not at its peak yet, so not everything can be recycled and put in your recycling bin. Here are some of the items that are typically not accepted in your local recycling program:

Coffee Cups: Coffee cups made the recycling process more difficult and expensive. And because of this, many waste management facilities will end up treating the coffee cups as trash.

Plastic Straws: Plastic Straws are not accepted in curbside recycling programs because they are too lightweight to make it through the mechanical recycling sorter.

Plastic Bags: Curbside recycling programs typically don't accept plastic grocery bags because they're difficult to sort out and often jam the machines at the recycling facilities.

Batteries: Single-use batteries can not be recycled in your curbside bin. Some option where batteries can be recycled is at your community e-waste facility, or you can keep an eye out for e-waste collection events.

Clothes Hangers: Most recycling facilities won't accept plastic and wire clothes hangers because their curved ends can be problematic when sorting. I recommend you donate them to your local thrift store.

Children's Toys: Most toys are difficult to recycle, especially if they're made up of tiny plastic parts that can't be easily separated. You'll unlikely find any recycling programs nearby that accept them.

Plastic Wrap: Plastic wrap is usually not accepted for recycling because the thin film is often tangled, clogged, and wrapped around the equipment, potentially damaging the machinery used in recycling centers.

Used Paper Towels: Paper towels are not accepted in curbside recycling programs because they probably have food and other residues on them that can contaminate other recyclable materials and cannot be made into new paper.

Pizza Boxes: Pizza boxes made out of cardboard is recyclable, however, if the cardboard box is not contaminated with food waste. The food waste made the fiber cannot be separated from the oil.

Plastic Toothbrushes: The combination of nylon bristles and polypropylene handles in plastic toothbrushes makes recycling almost impossible without specialized recycling machines.

Summary: Putting non-recyclable items in your recycling bin can contaminate the recycling stream and cause processing problems. Some items simply aren't recyclable, including coffee cups, plastic straws, plastic bags, batteries, clothes hangers, children's toys, plastic wraps, used paper towels, pizza Boxes, and plastic Toothbrush.

Two girls putting recyclable into recycling bin with their grandparents

What To Put In Your Recycling Bin?

Fun Fact: According to the Container Recycling Institute. In 2018, Americans bought more than 70 billion plastic water bottles, and 3 out of 4 of them ended up in a landfill or incinerator.

Recycling is truly beneficial for our environment by conserving resources, saving energy, reducing landfills, and supporting our environment. So here is the list of 10 recyclable items that can go in your recycling bin:

Plastic Bottles: Most plastic bottles are recyclable because they are made of polyethylene terephthalate (PET). Your curbside recycling programs will most likely accept your plastic bottles.

Brown Paper Bags: They are made from a strong, durable, and 100% recyclable material called kraft paper, so most curbside recycling programs accept them for recycling.

Newspaper And Junk Mail: Most newspapers and junk mail are made of paper, so they can easily be recycled and turned into newsprint and other materials. Almost, if not all curbside recycling programs accept them.

Books: Recycling book helps save trees, water, and energy while reducing many pollution associated with paper manufacturing. Most curbside recycling programs accept them, so if you have old books that you no longer need, please recycle them or even donate them to your local Goodwill.

Cardboard Box: Most, if not all cardboard boxes are designed to be recyclable, so we must take advantage of this opportunity and recycle them. Also, remember to flatten them to save storage space and make the collector's job easier.

Aluminum and Steel Cans: Recycling aluminum cans can save up to 95% of the energy required to make a new one. But remember to clean them first before putting them into your recycling bin.

Glass Containers and Jars: Glass bottles and jars are recyclable, and you can recycle them endlessly because they don't lose their quality after the recycling process.

Electronic Devices: Electronic devices are recyclable, and recycling them not only conserves valuable resources but also protects the environment from hazardous substances.

Clothing: Clothing is recyclable, but I think it is better to just donate your no longer needs to your local Goodwill or anyone who needs it. Another good idea is to resale your old clothes to make some extra money.

Tire: Used tires can be taken to a local recycling facility or tire retailer to recycle, but in most cases, when you buy a new set of tires, the dealer will usually recycle your old tires for you.

Summary: Curbside recycling programs vary from city to city, so as always, check with your local recycling program to make sure all of these items can be placed in your curbside recycling bin: Plastic bottles, brown paper bags, newspaper, old documents, books, cardboard box, aluminum can, glass jars, electronic device, clothing, and tire.

Quick Takeaway

Overall, recycling is a great way to reduce waste and conserve resources. But it's important to do it right. Here are 10 items that you can put in your recycling bin:

  1. Plastic Bottles
  2. Brown Paper Bags
  3. Newspaper And Old Document
  4. Books
  5. Cardboard Box
  6. Aluminum And Steel Can
  7. Glass Container And Jars
  8. Electronic Device
  9. Clothing
  10. Tire

As always, this blog is intended to be a general guide only. For the most accurate information, please check with your local recycling program.

Frequently Asked Questions Relate To This Blog:

Question #1: What can I put in a recycling bin?

Answer: Recycling programs vary from city to city, so it is important to check with your local recycling program to see what materials are recyclable in your area. However, in general, you can put paper, plastic, metal, and glass in a recycling bin.

Question #2: How should I prepare recyclable materials for recycling?

Answer: You don’t need to prepare anything, just simply put your recyclable materials in a recycling bin and your good to go. Flatten all your cardboard boxes or rinse out food and beverage containers can help the collecting process go much smoother.

Question #3: Where can I find out more about recycling in my area?

Answer: You can usually find the contact information for your local recycling program on your city or county government website. Also, Recycling.com and Earth911's Recycling Center can be a good resource if you live in the United States or Canada.

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