Water Bottle Trash

Disposing of trash is complicated. We all know we need to protect the environment and reduce our carbon footprint. However, determining whether an item belongs in the recycling bin, the trash can, or, in some areas, the organics container can be confusing. Recycling practices can vary according to the community and region in which you live. Therefore, the best way to determine how recycling is handled in your area is to check the website for your own residential recycling services. However, the following items are ones that are typically not permitted in your recycling bin.

15. Certain Glass Objects


Since recycling containers generally call for glass, it seems logical that any item made of glass would be recyclable. However, certain glass objects are manufactured to withstand high temperatures. Because of their heat-resistant nature, these items are not suitable for the recycling process. Examples of these items are Pyrex or heat-resistant glass cookware, drinking glasses, and windows. Furthermore, you should refrain from placing broken glass into your recycling bin, as sharp glass shards can injure recycling employees. Residential Waste Services advises confining broken glass to a sealed container labeled “Broken Glass” before placing it into your trash bin.

14. Light Bulbs

Light Bulb

A light bulb is another household item that contains glass but is not recyclable. In fact, depending on the type of bulb, you may not even be allowed to place it into your trash can. Compact fluorescent light bulbs contain small amounts of mercury. Therefore, many states require that all fluorescent bulbs and tubes be taken to hazardous waste sites for disposal. Check with your local government agency to determine the proper way to dispose of light bulbs in your area, and to learn where to find your local hazardous waste site.

13. Mirrors


While mirrors are made of glass, the coating painted on their backs makes them impossible to recycle. If you are finished with a mirror that is still in good condition, consider donating it to a thrift shop. Broken mirrors should be handled the same as broken glass. First, carefully sweep up the pieces and wrap them in paper or cloth, being careful to avoid cuts. Next, place the wrapped pieces of the mirror into a box, seal the package well with tape, and label it to warn others broken glass is within. Finally, place the box into your trash container.

12. Some Kitchen Paper Products

Paper Towel

Paper towels, napkins, and tissues don’t go into the recycling bin. Soiled paper products retain traces of food or grease that make them unfit for recycling. However, even clean napkins and paper towels aren’t suitable for recycling. Many of these products have been made from other recycled items. Each time they are recycled, their fibers become shorter and less usable. Instead, add soiled kitchen paper products to your compost pile or organics bin.

11. Shredded Paper

Shredded Paper

According to Recycle Nation, some recycling companies are able to recycle shredded paper, but many are not. The small flecks of shredded paper can create a mess if the recycling center is not equipped to handle it. Check with your local recycling service to determine whether shredded paper is accepted in your area. In some locales, shredded paper is accepted if it is sealed in a paper bag.

10. Pizza Boxes

Pizza Boxes

Those sturdy cardboard pizza boxes are great for transporting your favorite pie, but when you are finished feasting, don’t toss them into the recycle bin. Pizza boxes absorb flecks of gooey cheese and grease while your pizza is in transit. The food residue and oils from the pizza are definitely not recyclable. When you are finished with your pizza, either compost the box or toss it into your garbage can.

9. Heavily Dyed or Colored Paper

Colored Paper

Most paper with printing on it will lose its color during the de-inking process of recycling. However, paper that has been heavily dyed can leach color onto other papers during recycling. This can ruin a batch of paper recycling and risk rejection by paper mills or companies who use recycled paper.

8. Plastic Shopping Bags

Plastic Bags

Some recycling programs do accept plastic shopping bags in your blue recycling bin. However, many do not. Before tossing plastic grocery bags into your bin, check with your local recycler. If your recycling company does not accept plastic bags, you may still be able to recycle them by searching out a separate recycling site. Some big box department or grocery stores keep large bins at the entrance where you can deposit used plastic bags. Earth 911 maintains a recycling locator that can help you find a drop-off location for recyclable items such as plastic bags.

7. Aluminum Foil

Aluminum Foil

Aluminum foil is another item that may or may not be allowed in your recycling bin. While clean kitchen foil can be fully recyclable, not all recycling programs are equipped to deal with this material. If your recycling company collects aluminum foil, be sure to clean off any food residue. Next, crumple the foil up into a ball before placing it in the bin. If your recycler does not accept aluminum foil, you can clean off crumbs or wipe off liquids for immediate reuse in your own home.

6. Plastic Bottle Caps

Bottle Caps

Plastic bottle caps are another item that may or may not be accepted by your recycling company. Some companies accept them gladly, even still attached to the bottles. Others will accept them but ask that you first separate the cap from the container. Others do not accept bottle caps at all. Once again, you can check with your recycling company to determine if they accept plastic caps.

5. Clothing Hangers


While many clothing hangers are made from plastic, their plastic content varies and therefore recycling programs are not able to accept them. Broken plastic hangers should be discarded in your trash bin. If your closets have become overrun with plastic hangers, consider donating them to a thrift shop, nursing home, or shelter. Avoid placing wire hangers in your recycling bin as well, as they can create a tangle or jam up recycling machinery. Instead, return gently used wire hangers to your dry cleaner or donate them to a charity where they can be used again.

4. Plastic Straws


Green Living Tips provides a handy, downloadable plastic cheat sheet that can help you make sense of plastic recycling numbers. The most easily recycled plastics are those labeled with a recycle number of 1 or 2. Although plastic straws are made of recyclable plastic, number 5, their size and shape prevent them from being easily recycled. In fact, they are likely to jam recycling equipment. For that reason, recycling programs do not accept plastic straws. To save marine life and avoid contributing to the plastic litter floating in our oceans, consider making the switch to paper straws.

3. Disposable Coffee Cups

Coffee Cups

While disposable coffee cups appear to be made of paper, they are actually lined with a thin layer of plastic to prevent your beverage from leaking. This layer of plastic renders your paper coffee cup non-recyclable. Do slide off and recycle the corrugated paper sleeve that surrounds your cup to prevent burns. Additionally, check with your recycling company to see if they accept the plastic lids from your disposable coffee cup. Toss the little plastic straw or stirring stick into the trash.

2. Aerosol Cans with Liquid Inside


A completely empty metal aerosol can may be accepted by your recycling program. If there is any liquid left inside, the can must be disposed of at a hazardous waste site. In addition to the desired contents of the can, such as hair spray or whipped topping, the can contains propellant chemicals necessary for aerosolizing the product. Your local government agency can direct you to the nearest hazardous waste collection site.

1. Compact Discs

Compact Discs

The discs in your CD collection are made up of a mixture of many materials. As such, they are not recyclable by your local residential recycling program. To address the issue of masses of CDs ending up in landfills, the CD Recycling Center of America offers programs to aid in collecting and properly recycling used or unwanted CDs. The CD Recycling Center accepts discs from individuals and businesses. Furthermore, this recycling agency has programs enabling businesses, schools, libraries, and musicians to participate in their campaign to properly recycle CDs.



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