Since we recently got our first curbside recycling can(!!!), one of my New Year’s resolutions is to make the most of it by recycling as much as I possibly can. To get started on the right foot, I thought it would be a good idea to brush up on what I can and can’t divert put in my recycling bin this year.
While brushing up on recycling guidelines, I learned about a lot of different things I can recycle, both via my curbside recycling program and through dedicated programs run by businesses and other organizations, as well as some things that I never knew I shouldn’t recycle. I thought I’d share those two lists with you today in hopes that it might be beneficial to you with your own recycling efforts in 2022!
Check out my tips for making curbside recycling a little easier in my video at the end of this post.
9 Things You SHOULD Recycle
1. Milk Cartons
In the past, recycling centers didn’t have the equipment necessary to process these waxy cartons, but now many recycling centers will happily accept milk cartons, broth and soup boxes, and other waxed paper products.
2. Plastic Bags
Plastic bags can cause jams in standard recycling equipment, but that doesn’t mean you can’t recycle them! Just keep them in a a cupboard or drawer until you have a sizable collection, then take them to a local grocery store. Most stores have a dedicated drop-off bins where you can recycle your plastic bags.
3. Water Filters
Your local recycling center might not be equipped to handle spent water filters, but many filter manufacturers have their own recycling programs. For information on recycling Brita filters, see the recycling page on their site.
I put all my used batteries into a small box when I replace them, then when the box is full, I just zip over to the nearest business with a battery recycling box to drop them off (usually the Walgreens in town). Use Earth911’s Recycling Search to find a nearby business or organization that accepts used batteries for recycling.
Instead of sending your old mattress off to sit in a landfill, find out if the manufacturer of your mattress offers a recycling service. Recycled mattresses can be used to make materials for clothing, foam products, and more.
6. Prescription Drugs
Throwing away or flushing your old, unused prescription drugs can have seriously negative effects on the environment. While drug take-back programs don’t necessarily qualify as “recycling,” it’s far more environmentally friendly to have take your medications to one of these programs, who will safely and properly dispose of them on your behalf.
Use the search utility on the DEA website to locate a disposal location near you.
7. Phones, Laptops, Tablets, Etc.
If you have an old iPhone or iPad taking up space in a drawer somewhere, consider returning it to Apple. You can receive Apple Store credit or gift cards for trading in qualified devices, and even if they don’t end up offering you any credit for the device, they’ll still recycle it for free. Get more information about recycling your old Apple devices on their recycling page.
For smartphones, laptop computers, tablets, and other devices generally, most Staples and Best Buy locations offer recycling services—use Earth911’s Recycling Search to find one near you.
8. Christmas Lights
If you’ve been considering upgrading to new Christmas lights, you can send your old ones in to HolidayLEDs or Christmas Light Source to be recycled. In return, you’ll receive a discount coupon so you can get a good deal on new, more energy-efficient lights.
You can take your old eyeglasses to be recycled at many major eyewear retailers, including LensCrafters, Sears Optical, and Pearle Vision.
11 Things You SHOULDN’T Recycle
Unless your recycling center has a program for processing bricks or concrete, they generally won’t be able to accept ceramics like mugs, plates, bowls, etc. If your old ceramics aren’t broken, consider donating them.
2. Glittery Or Metallic Wrapping Paper
Normal wrapping paper can be put in your recycling bin at home, but papers made with foil or glitter may not be accepted. If there is any ribbon or tape left on normal wrapping paper, make sure you remove it before scrunching it up in a ball and putting it in the recycling.
3. Spray Bottle Tops
When it comes to spray bottles, the bottle itself is generally recyclable. However, the sprayer mechanism usually has a metal spring inside that could cause problems. Consult your local recycling guidelines to determine if the sprayer can be recycled, and if not, remove the sprayer from the bottle and either put it in the trash or keep it to use on another bottle.
4. Polystyrene Containers
You probably know these containers by the brand name Styrofoam. A lot of restaurants have switched over to compostable food containers, but a lot of places still use polystyrene containers. These containers are technically recyclable, but the programs that accept them are often hard to find.
5. Small Items
The problem with small items (even when they are recyclable materials) is that they tend to slip right through the recycling machines and end up in the landfill. In order to make sure those items get recycled, bunch them up together or place them inside other items.
6. Aerosol Cans
Unlike normal food and drink cans, aerosol cans may not be accepted for recycling in your area. Whether they contain whipped cream or hazardous liquid like spray paint, the pressurized air inside the cans makes them difficult to recycle.
7. Shrink Sleeves
A lot of store-bought food items have labels called “shrink sleeves” that are perfectly shaped to the bottle or carton. Shrink sleeve labels are not recyclable, so make sure to tear or cut them off your containers before you put them in your recycling bin.
8. Paper Coffee Cups
Even though coffee cups look like paper, they may not be accepted in your recycling bin. Many are made from a combination of paper and plastic to insulate the cups and prevent leaks.
9. Broken Glass
Glass is recyclable (though it may not be allowed in your residential recycling bin—check local guidelines to make sure), but broken glass can pose a danger to those who sort materials at recycling centers. If you have broken glass, put it in a paper bag and toss it out rather than recycling it.
10. Dirty Pizza Boxes
If the top of the box is clean of grease, cheese, sauce, or other food residue, you can tear the top off and recycle it. The bottom should be thrown in the garbage. If you’re in any doubt as to whether the top is clean enough, throw it out.
11. Paper Towels And Napkins
Paper products such as paper towels, napkins, tissue paper and toilet paper are not recyclable. The paper fibers used to create these products are too small to be recycled again, and most are contaminated anyway. However, the cardboard tube at the center of the roll can (and should) be recycled.
Bonus Tip: For even more information on what to recycle and how, How2Recycle is an excellent resource.
Looking For More Information On Recycling?
- For general information on what you can recycle and how, How2Recycle is an excellent resource.
- For specific information about what you can and can’t put into your curbside recycling bin, look them up on your local government website. (If you can’t find your local recycling guidelines online, call your local government offices—they can point you in the right direction.)
- To find locations near you that collect specific materials for recycling, Earth911’s Recycling Search is a great place to start.
Which item on these lists surprised you the most?