Thankfully, awareness of the environmental need to recycle and shop with reusable tote bags is everywhere. In fact, it's probably the do-gooder in us all that leads some of us to sort our trash incorrectly -- and toss things in the recycling bin that actually can't be recycled.
Something in this picture cannot be recycled. Can you guess what it is? Photo: Corbis
Each local recycling facility is different, so you want to be aware of what you can and can't recycle in your area.
If you sort incorrectly, your entire bag of recyclables ending up in a landfill -- the good along with the bad. For many materials, it's not a question of whether it's recyclable, but whether recycling is practical, cost-effective, or provides an environmental benefit that's greater than the environmental cost of recovery, says the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
Here are some of the items that blur the line for a lots of people. You might think you can recycle these things, but according to the EPA, you actually can't.
Skip the pizza boxes and take-out containers, even though they're often made out of materials that are commonly recycled, like cardboard
. If the container has any grease or food particles at all, it can damage the material meant to be recycled and contaminate the entire batch of recyclables.
The containers that hold lipstick, mascara
, blush, and other cosmetics
are generally not collected for recycling due to the blend of materials the containers are made out of (some recyclable, some not.) Good news: Origins
has its own recycling program
and accepts empty cosmetic tubes, bottles, and jars (regardless of brand). Simply drop off your empties at your nearest Origins store or department store counter. All returned packaging gets sent back to a central location where products will be recycled or used for energy recovery.
Packaging Made of Foiled, Glossy, Glazed, Waxed, Glassine, and Lacquer Coating:
Unfortunately, the coating on candy bar wrappers, pretzel bags, frozen food boxes, and juice boxes -- to name a few -- cannot be recycled due to the blend of materials and tendency for these wrappers to be made out of non-cellulosic materials (not plant-based
), which makes recycling difficult. This lightweight packaging makes collection difficult, because the wrappers can stick to other recyclables and be sorted incorrectly or create litter issues when picked up by the wind. The other problem with these items: there's a lack of demand for the reuse of these materials.
Napkins, Paper Towels, Tissue, and Tissue Paper
This paper is often contaminated, and is typically too low-grade to be recycled. Toss it in the regular trash instead.
Plastic Caps on Bottles
I bet most of us have made this mistake. While the plastic bottles
are recyclable, the caps are usually made of a different type of plastic called polypropylene, or plastic #5, and not accepted in the recycling bin
. These include flip-top and twist-top caps plus laundry detergent and peanut butter lids. But you can still recycle these caps separately. Aveda
has a recycling initiative
that accepts all kinds of rigid plastic bottle caps.
Household Hazardous Waste
This list includes batteries, light bulbs, paint cans
, and aerosol cans. While you shouldn't put these items in your recycling bin, you often can recycle these items through special collection events. And it's especially good to take these items to recycling events, or have them collected, because it prevents harmful materials from entering the environment.
Check out Earth 911
for a few more don'ts when it comes to sorting your recycling bin. Earth 911
also includes a recycling section on its site that lists local locations for the eco-friendly disposal of special items.
Here's a surprising find that you can
recycle (and you probably thought that you can't): sticky notes
. According to the EPA, most sticky notes can be recycled because the adhesive is water-based and dissolves. The same holds true for all those bill-paying envelopes with the plastic windows.
Does This Recycle? What to Do If You're Not Sure (Lifehacker)
Recycle Your Plastic Bags at Whole Foods Markets (Apartment Therapy Boston)