Recycle Like A Pro: What's Recyclable & What's Not (That Will Surprise You)

Recycling is the way to go if you want to reduce your environmental footprint! It's an efficient way to reduce land, water, & air pollution, and minimize the amount of waste we produce. 


However, knowing which items can and can't be recycled can be tricky. Certain items can't be recycled due to the harm they can cause to the recycling process, while others are simply too difficult or costly to recycle. 


To make sure you're recycling like a pro, here's the lowdown on what can & can't be recycled.


Things that can be recycled:


  1. Paper:

Paper, mail and newspapers can all be recycled. However, wet or shredded paper can't make it through the recycling process & will probably end up in landfills. So, make sure to compost those wet & shredded paper bits instead!


  1. Plastic bottles & containers

Plastic bottles and containers are a treasure when it comes to recycling. For maximum efficiency, give them a thorough clean and dry, then put the lid back on before popping them in the recycling bin.


  1. Food & beverage cans:

Tin, aluminium, & steel cans can all be recycled. Just make sure to give them a quick rinse before tossing them into the recycling bin. 


  1. Flattened cardboard or paperboard:

From cereal boxes to pantry item boxes, most of your cardboard and paperboard can be recycled. However, it's important to note that any cardboard or paperboard that has been contaminated with food or oil, such as pizza boxes or paper plates, will unfortunately not make the cut. Not only can these items contaminate other items, but they can also damage the recycling equipment.


  1. Glass bottles & containers:

Most glass bottles & jars can be recycled. However, since every recycling program is different, it's important to double-check your local guidelines to make sure your items are accepted. And one last note - never try to recycle broken glass, as it can be dangerous to those handling it during the recycling process.


  1. Food & Beverage Containers:

Milk cartons, juice boxes, and food cartons can all be recycled - but the rules and regulations vary from city to city, county to county, and state to state. So check with your local recycling programs for options to recycle food & beverage containers. 


Things that can't be recycled: 


  1. Food waste: 

Never toss leftovers into the recycling bin. Not only are these food scraps not recyclable, but they can also contaminate other items in the bin. Try composting them instead! 


  1. Plastic bags, wraps, & film:

Bubble wrap, plastic bags, and plastic wrapping don't belong in your curbside recycling bin, since the lightweight material can tangle & potentially damage the recycling machinery. Consider looking into other local options to recycle them! 


  1. Styrofoam:

Styrofoam is made from polystyrene, a material that is sadly not recyclable through most curbside programs, due to its tendency to be contaminated with food and break into tiny pieces. Instead, try to reduce your consumption or find a drop-off location that will accept it. 


  1. Used paper towels, tissues, & diapers:

When it comes to recycling, used toilet paper, diapers, and tissues are out of the question. This is because these items are usually made from mixed materials & contain food, grease, or human waste, which can easily contaminate other items in the bin. So always toss them in the trash or opt for eco-friendly alternatives. 


  1. Household items:

Household items like clothing, fabrics, toys, furniture, kitchenware, or household glass like windows, mirrors, or ceramics, don’t belong in the recycling bin. Instead, take a look at your local programs for reuse and recycling options, or donate these items if you can. If neither option is available, then put them in the trash bin. 


  1. Batteries & electronics:

Batteries & electronic products contain hazardous materials such as mercury, cadmium, and lead, which can be highly dangerous for recycling facilities. If you have electronics that are still working, it’s better to donate them. Otherwise, recycle these at a nearby drop-off location. 


  1. Hazardous materials: 

Never recycle items that contain dangerous substances. Think fuel, motor oil, pesticides, medical waste—basically anything that’s flammable, toxic, or corrosive. Instead, dispose of them in the proper way. 


Learning how to recycle is an important lifestyle choice that can make a huge impact on our planet. By understanding which items can and cannot be recycled, you can make sure that your efforts are going towards reducing waste & helping to conserve our natural resources. Just make sure to always double-check your local guidelines to ensure you are recycling the right way. With a bit of effort & dedication, we can all do our part in keeping our world clean and healthy! 



Recycling 101 (n.d.). WM. Retrieved from

Cramer, Kelly (2018, July 12). Top 18 Things You Should Not Recycle Curbside. How2Recycle. Retrieved from

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