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Things You Can & Cannot Recycle - Information Guide


Things You Can & Cannot Recycle

An informational guide to things you can, and cannot recycle.

 Recycling Basics

Do Recycle:

  • Aluminum cans – Cans are awesome because it can be returned on the shelf as quickly as 60 days after it’s recycled! Definitely recycle these! Aluminum can be recycled indefinitely.

       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.

  • Aluminum Foil – make sure to wipe clean of any food particles. Foil can also be cleaned off easily and re-used.

Americans discarded about 460,000 tons of foil in 2010

  • Steel Cans or Tin Cans

    • Coffee cans, soup cans, veggie cans, etc.

Americans use about 100 million steel cans every day – that’s 36.5 billion cans a year. About 71% of these are recycled making them one of the most recycled packaging products in America. Recycling steel also saves at least 75% if the energy it would take to create steel from raw materials – this is enough energy to power 18 million homes.

  • Cardboard boxes - with all the online shopping, food meal prep to your doors, we have never had so many boxes in our lifetime.

*REMEMBER – break boxes down before putting them in the recycling bin*

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

  • Magazines – Recycled magazines are used to make newspaper, tissues, writing paper & cardboard

Only about 45% of magazines are being recycled today. Some people think they can’t recycle magazines due to the gloss and high ink – but the times have changed!

  • Chip Bags – but only if done through a special program like the Terra Cycle

  • Office Paper & Paper – computer paper, letterhead paper, and notebook paper can all be turned back into paper if it’s separated from other recyclable paper. This other recyclable paper we are talking about is newsprint, colored paper, file stock and found wood paper – these can be made into cardboard, tissues, newspaper, and toilet paper.

  • Newspaper – recycled newspaper can be made into cereal boxes, egg cartons, pencil barrels, grocery bags, tissue paper, and other products, such as more newspaper.

  • Paperboard – mostly made for food packaging like cereal boxes – one side of paperboard is usually gray in color.

  • Cardboard Dairy & Juice Cartons – made from 80% high quality paper fiber and 20% polyethylene to keep the paper from getting wet. Only a small fraction of these get recycled – so add these to your recycling bin whenever it’s empty.

  • Junk Mail – this includes paper flyers left of your door knob, catalogs for things you’ve never shopped for or heard of before. Recycle these too please!

  • Phone Books – by recycling just 500 books, we can save between 17 and 31 trees, 7,000 gallons of water, 463 gallons of oil, 587 pounds of air pollution, and 3.06 cubic yards of landfill space.

  • Glass bottles – clear, brown (beer bottles), and green (wine bottles), and blue.

  • Glass Jars – coconut oil jars, pasta sauce jars, salsa jars, etc. If you don’t want to upcycle these, recycle them instead.

  • Plastic bottles, jars and jugs – make sure it’s clean! One dirty product, or one with food waste still in it can contaminate an entire bale containing thousands of pounds of collected plastics.

  • Batteries & Bulbs

    • Car Batteries – typically made with 60% lead and about 3 tons of plastic. Go to an automotive retailer to recycle your car battery

    • Household Batteries – Check with your municipality to find out a place near you to recycle batters. Do not throw them in the garbage.

    • Rechargeable Batteries – To help keep toxins out of the environment, check with your municipality to find out where to recycle these.

    • LED & Incandescent Bulbs – This is another where we recommend reaching out to your local municipality on proper recycling, as it varies from city to city.

    • Compact Fluorescent Bulbs (CFL) – These bulbs contain a small amount of mercury and if it’s broken before it’s properly recycled, people can be exposed to the mercury. Some states have even outlawed putting these bulbs in the trash. Look to your municipal or check out this link to an easy disposal Think Green From Home

  • Electronics

    • Computers, monitors, keyboard – These should never be dumped in landfill. Make sure you are working with a reputable e-waste program to properly recycle this.

    • Photocopiers, Printers, Fax Machines – Donate or recycle these. Including printer cartridges. There are many places that will take electronic waste – research an area near you or a curb side pickup.

    • Tv’s, Telephones, Stereos – Research an area near you for e-waste pick up or a curb side pick up

    • Cellphones – Again, this also takes a special e-waste program. Make sure to recycle these as cell phones contain valuable metals such as copper. Recycling these saves resources and energy.


The Following Cannot Be Recycled:

  • K-cups or instant coffee pods for the coffee machine – only 2 parts are recyclable, the aluminum lid, and the paper filter – the paper cup itself, is not.

  • Individual use coffee creamers – opt in for a larger jug, or creamer in a carton, or use good ole’ fashioned milk or nut milk.

  • Plastic Coffee Stirrers – Wooden ones are compostable, but plastic ones cannot be recycled – these are equivalent to plastic straws – they just sit in landfill!

  • Plastic straws

  • Paper Towels – These aren’t able to be “cleaned” before they are recycled, it’s better to compost these instead

  • Tissues

  • Food Wrappers – Candy wrappers, chip bags, sandwich wrappers from delis. There is a new program where you can collect your chip bags and send them in to be recycled, check it out https://www.terracycle.com

  • Zip lock/plastic bags – Refuse these entirely if you can, or reuse them whenever possible. We have a great post about reducing and reusing plastic bags

  • Any plastics with food on it – rinse your containers before tossing them in the recycling, like yogurt containers, salad containers, etc.

  • Styrofoam – of course!

  • Paper insulated cups

  • Food - Food is not Recyclable, it is in fact, compostable though!


Last minute tips

  1. Wash out your plastics before recycling

  2. Put cream in before you add your coffee, the coffee stream will mix it – no need for a stirrer

  3. Be prepared – bring your own shopping bag when shopping

  4. Get a reusable water bottle

Some helpful articles to help you along your sustainable journey:

Recycle Numbers On the Bottom Of Plastics

Recycling Basics

20 Tips To Go Green In The Kitchen

Why Are You Still Using Plastic In Your Kitchen

Pollution From Plastics And How You Can Help


Proper recycling saves energy, resources, and landfill space.


Thanks for doing your part to help our current environment and future generations




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  • Gabriella De Luca