How Do You Recycle?

Posted on November 10, 2010 by Courtney


Ask someone what the first step is to going green, and chances are they’ll reply, “Recycle.” That’s pretty much a given, right? Even people who aren’t overly concerned about being green in other facets of their life may toss their plastic bottle into a recycling bin rather than the trash.

But did you know that there’s a right way and a wrong way to recycle? With America Recycles Day coming up on November 15, now is a good time to consider what you throw into the recycling bin. Just because it’s in the bin doesn’t mean it gets recycled, and if you throw stuff in there that shouldn’t be in there, you’re putting unnecessary strain on the system and causing it to lose efficiency.

The first step to being a good recycler is to look up your local recycling facility. They should have a detailed list of what can and can’t be processed there.

With that in mind, here are some pointers to remember when you’re recycling:


  • This is very important: DO NOT put anything in the recycling bin if it has food stuck to it. This goes for pizza boxes, fast food containers, and anything you’ve used to mop up spills. Food particles will clog up the system and force items to be thrown in the garbage when they could otherwise be recycled. If your pizza box has cheese stuck to it, and it probably does, you should throw it in the trash.
  • Same goes for tissues, toilet paper, paper towels, and anything else with any sort of residue stuck to it.
  • Construction paper and wax or coated paper, when mixed in with regular paper, could ruin a batch of recycling. Stick to notebook paper, printer paper, and envelopes. (Don’t worry about tearing the clear plastic window out of an envelope — that small bit of plastic isn’t going to hurt the recycling process.)
  • You can also compost certain types of paper, including newspaper (but not magazines — the ink may be toxic.) Do your research before tossing anything into your compost bin.


  • There are lots of different types of plastic, so check with your local recycling center to see which types are accepted. Each plastic type has a number that you can see within the recycling symbol on the product, the three arrows in a triangle. Don’t toss all plastics into the bin unless they’re all recyclable in your community; otherwise you’re just creating more work for someone else.
  • Remove twist-off caps and rings from plastic bottles. They’re not recyclable.
  • Always rinse out plastic containers before tossing them in. Not only does this remove food particles that can clog the system, it keeps the bin from getting stinky and attracting pests.
  • Plastic grocery bags and produce bags should be recycled at your local grocery store. If there’s not already a bin outside to collect these bags for recycling, ask the store manager to consider putting one out there. Better yet, get some reusable bags and forget about the plastic ones altogether.

Metal, including aluminum:

  • Aluminum and tin cans are pretty much ubiquitously recyclable, so you’re probably good here. Just remember to rinse out the cans and remove any labels if you can.
  • It’s also a good idea to flatten aluminum cans — your bin doesn’t fill up as quickly if you do.


  • Check to see if you need to sort glass by color.
  • Remove tops and labels.
  • Rinse everything out thoroughly.
  • Mirrors and old drinking glasses don’t go in the recycling bin. Neither do light bulbs, which should be taken to Lowe’s or Home Depot for proper recycling.


  • Cardboard is another thing that is recyclable pretty much everywhere. Just flatten the box and make sure there’s no food or grease stuck to it.

Your turn! What are your handy recycling tips?


  1. Taking caps off plastic bottles is an important one. I toured a recycling facility once in the past five or six years, and I distinctly remember them saying that the sorters will just trash the whole bottle if it has a cap on it rather than remove the cap, because they can’t keep up with their sorting if they’re having to remove caps. And yet I see so many people putting bottles in recycling bins with the caps still on them.

    November 10th, 2010 at 10:31 am
    Comment by The Modern Gal
  2. I just want to say that although the bottom of the pizza box might be greasy and have cheese on it, the TOP is usually clean and very easy to cut off and recycle. ;)

    November 10th, 2010 at 12:51 pm
    Comment by Tammy
  3. Thanks for the tips! What do you do with plastics that your facility doesn’t take? Ours only takes 1 & 2, but we know people in another state whose facility takes all types.. is there something we can do with this aside from “don’t consume?”

    November 10th, 2010 at 3:15 pm
    Comment by Christina
  4. I did not know about the plastic caps. I feel horrible!

    November 10th, 2010 at 8:21 pm
    Comment by Lynn
  5. Only CFLs need to be recycled because of the smsall amount of mercury in them. Regular incandescent bulbs can go in the trash.

    November 15th, 2010 at 11:43 am
    Comment by Suzie
  6. thanx for helping me with my homework I really appreciate it

    March 5th, 2012 at 1:50 pm
    Comment by hgjgjgj
  7. should i just throw paper into my recycling bin along with everything else, or should I separate the papers?

    March 13th, 2012 at 11:55 pm
    Comment by tam
  8. I recycled an entire work shop.
    You never know till you step back and say.
    I use a shoe store/and parts of a tailor shop.
    And it is awesome take a look you might see an idea that you can use.

    Nice Website !

    April 17th, 2012 at 9:30 am
    Comment by johnsolar283

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Tip of the Day

If It Doesn’t Smell, Don’t Wash It


According to Real Simple, if every American made an effort to launder less — cutting out just one load of laundry a week per household — we’d save enough water to fill seven million swimming pools each year.

So if it looks clean, and it smells clean, call it clean and wear it again. Consider hanging worn clothes out on your clothesline to freshen them up between wearings.

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