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How to Separate Your Recyclables & Why It’s Important


How to Separate Your Recyclables & Why It’s Important

Recycle – to treat or process (used or waste materials) so as to make suitable for reuse: recycling paper to save trees – dictionary.com

Recycling isn’t a new thing, it’s been around for decades – so why only 34% of all waste being created is recycled? Is it because people are uneducated on the topic? Don’t have time to recycle? Regardless of the reason, recycling is not difficult, and can offer substantial benefits to the environment, as well as the home owner or renter.

We used to ship our plastics over to China, but let’s face it – they got fed up with how unorganized, and dirty it was, and it wasn’t worth their time or the dollar. Now recycling facilities here in the US are swamped with the overwhelming amounts of recycling items they are getting. It would be a smart choice to limit how much you use and consume, but understand waste can’t be avoided altogether.

“China’s ban covers imports of 24 kinds of solid waste, including unsorted paper and the low-grade polyethylene terephthalate used in plastic bottles, as part of a broad cleanup effort and a campaign against “yang laji,” or “foreign garbage.” It also sets new limits on the levels of impurities in other recyclables. Chinese officials also complained that much of the recyclable material the country received from overseas had not been properly cleaned or was mixed with non-recyclable materials. ” (https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/11/world/china-recyclables-ban.html)


Here are some tips to make recycling more beneficial, and easier for recycling facilities to actually send off to the correct places to RECYCLE the waste!


  • Recycling standards and laws vary from city to city, and county to county. Check up on your city/county recycling laws and make sure you abide by it.

  • Rinse your recyclables. This is an important step. Tainted recyclables can “infect” the rest of what’s in your recycling bin, making it difficult to recycle, and it typically just ends up in landfill if it’s dirty. Rinse glass, plastic containers, aluminum and tin cans – yes, foil can be recycled too – wipe any debris off beforehand. Look to this article here to see what plastics you can actually recycle - Recycling Number on the Bottom of Plastics. Typically, don’t recycle unmarked plastics.

  • Separation time! It’s great to have separate storage bins or containers for these. Plastic, glass, aluminum, tin, aerosol cans, and foil all need to be separated.

Lightbulbs, drinkware, crystal, window and mirror glass, ceramic, and kitchen cookware do not get recycled.



  • Newspapers are a pretty awesome thing to recycle, recycling a 4 foot stack saves the equivalent of one 40 ft fir tree. This should definitely be saved in its own bin because newspaper material goes directly back into newsprint recycling.

  • Junk mail, glossy papers, magazines, those pesky pizza hang tags on your door or car window, envelopes, computer paper, and paper packaging can all go into one bin. Staples are acceptable but any plastic wrap or rubber bands should be removed. Cardboard, stickers, laminated papers or laminated cardboard, or carbon paper (like receipts) should not be included in your paper bin.

  • Corrugated Cardboard is highly valued. A lot of curbside collectors encourage to bale them together and tie with a string. Keep it dry, please keep it dry, wet or greasy cardboard can clog sorting machines.

  • Your plastic lined drink cartons, like your milk carton, your favorite juice carton, etc., are pretty much accepted, make sure to ask with your local recycling center.

  • Food wrappers made of plastic, dirty tissues and napkins CANNOT be recycled. Reduce food wrappers, as these go into landfill, and COMPOST your tissues and napkins.

Recycled cardboard makes cereal boxes, paperboard, paper towels, tissues, printing and writing paper, and more cardboard boxes.



Every piece of plastic ever made, is still here, it does NOT break down in landfill, which is why it’s crucial it’s recycled, and never littered. It can be recycled into so many different products. Please also note that recycling plastic varies by your local recycling center. Call them to check out what they accept.

  • Almost all recycling centers take plastics #1(PET) & #2(HDPE). Typically plastic #4, and plastic #7 is not recyclable, however some plastic #7 is actually compostable; this will usually be stated on the actual packaging or container.

  • Plastic bottles are usually made with #1 and is a high valued recyclable. Tops should be removed before recycling.

  • Plastic grocery store bags and this is not typically picked up curbside. The majority of major grocery stores have a bin out front where you can recycle your plastic bags. Always opt in to bringing your own, so you don’t contribute to the growing plastic bag problem. If you must use a plastic bag, recycle it.

  • Plastic #6 (polystyrene) does not break down either. This includes food trays, like microwavable meals, plastic egg cartons, cups, etc. A few recycling centers do take this material, but again, just give em’ a call and double check. It’s best to try to reduce this material as much as possible.


  • Paper labels can be left on the glass

  • Remember to rinse, and in some counties, dry as well!

  • Clear, green, and brown glass can all be recycled – typically recycling centers like if you separate them/

  • Things like lightbulbs, mirrors, ceramics, sheet glass, etc. should not be recycled in this container.


  • Copper is 100% recyclable, as well as bronze and brass.

  • Food cans should be rinsed and the label removed.

  • Aluminum cans can be recycled indefinitely, so it’s also one of those highly valued recyclables. A recycled can, can appear as a brand new can within of month of the recycling process.

  • Aluminum foil and foil packaging can be recycled, which is a common misunderstanding. Make sure it’s free of food debris. This material can be re-processed into aluminum mechanical components, like engine parts.

  • Paint cans, aerosol cans are recyclable. These need to be separated from other metals, and keep all labels on since these are known as a hazardous waste.

Americans, on average, drink one beverage from an aluminum can each day, but we only recycle just over 49% of the cans we use. 2.7 million tons of aluminum is discarded each year, and of that, only 50% is recycled.



  • Recycle or donate printers, computers, cellphones, hardware, and batteries. Often times, there are local E-Waste recycling drives at schools, libraries, churches, etc.

  • Get out and about in your neighborhood to see if an E-Waste drive is common in your community. If not, call your city to see where you can donate these items.


 Related Posts:

Things You Can & Cannot Recycle - An information Guide

Recycle Numbers On The Bottom of Plastics

Recycling Basics

Pollution From Plastics & How You Can Help


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