How to Recycle Better. What you Can and Can’t Recycle.

The basics of recycling. If you’re not doing it right, you’re simply defeating the purpose.

By Julie Brockmeyer Stine

For those of us who make a conscious effort to recycle our trash and do our part for the planet, many of us are still left guessing as to what really can be recycled. For many of us, we want it to be easy to figure out without having to guess. So many times, we end-up throwing the wrong things into the recycling bins provided to us for our convenience.

The single stream method to recycling is by far the most efficient way for people to just put everything into one bin while the recycling centers deal with the more difficult task of separating the actual recyclable materials. For some, labeled bins are provided to place specific types of recyclables in as a presorting method for centers. Many centers these days end-up combing all these items onto one conveyor belt and the separating is done the old fashion way with manual separation paired with technology.

Little do most individuals know, many things we think can be recycled…actually can’t, and end-up in landfills along with all the other waste. Below are three important guidelines to follow.

Three General Guidelines of Recycling

  1. Recycle plastics labeled 1,2 and 5
  2. All containers must be rinsed-out thoroughly before tossing.
  3. NO paper products contaminated with food or oils, including pizza boxes, can be recycled.
  4. Don’t place any recyclable items tied-up in plastic bags.

If you don’t follow these simple guidelines, your efforts to recycle will be merely wasted so to speak.

On average, about 25 percent of the stuff we try to recycle is too contaminated to go anywhere but the landfill, according to the National Waste and Recycling Association, a trade group. Just a decade ago, the contamination rate was closer to 7 percent, according to the association. And that problem has only compounded in the last year, as China stopped importing “dirty” recyclable material that, in many cases, has found no other buyer.

Do Recycle

Rigid Plastics/Bottles

  – Any plastic bottles or containers found in your kitchen

Paper and Cardboard

  – Cereal/snack cardboard boxes

  – Phonebooks, magazines, and mail

  – Office Paper, newspaper, and cardboard


  – Tin, aluminum, and steel cans


  – Food containers or jars

  – Soft drink and beer bottles

  – Wine and liquor bottles

Don’t Recycle

Don't Recycle Items

Loose Plastic Bags

  – Plastic shopping bags

  – Plastic stretch wrap

Polystyrene Foam Cups or Containers

  – Egg cartons

  – Take out containers

  – Drinking cups

Soiled Food Items

  – Food soiled containers  

  – Soiled paper products


  – Broken or sharp glass

  – Fast food packaging

  – Plastic Utensils


Feel free to throw in some newspaper too. It will biodegrade and enrich the soil. Composting also helps reduce waste, so you can do your part right in the comfort of your own home.