What Can I Recycle?
The following information is a general guide to recycling. Local recycling centers may have different practices for recycling the materials listed. It is important to check with your recycling center to see what materials can be recycled, and where.
Glass is 100% recyclable and saves valuable energy resources. Making products from recycled glass uses less energy than making them from scratch. It also causes 20% less air pollution and 50% less water pollution than when a new bottle is made from raw materials. Recycled glass can be used to make insulation, food jars, bottles and other items.
Clear glass products are typically recycled into other, new clear glass containers, while colored glass products are recycled into new colored glass containers. Because of this, many drop-off recycling programs have separate bins for clear and colored glass. Some curbside programs will collect both types of glass and sort them later, while others may only pick up one type of glass.
Product labels do not need to be removed from the glass prior to recycling, but the container should always be rinsed clean with water to reduce mold growth and pest problems. Some recycling programs also ask that metal lids and neck rings be removed.
Glass recycling does not include window glass, light bulbs or ceramics, all of which can damage machinery in the recycling process. Batches of recyclables contaminated with the wrong type of glass are often thrown out, defeating the whole purpose.
Some products are also sold in returnable containers, which may be brought back to the retailer for a small amount of money.
Both newspaper and other paper products (including office paper, magazines and phone books) can be recycled into numerous other things. This not only saves valuable landfill space, but also saves some of our most precious natural resources – water, trees and energy. In fact, a ton of paper made from recycled products instead of raw materials conserves 7,000 gallons of water, 17 to 31 trees, 4,000 kilowatts of energy and 60 pounds of air pollutants.
Most recycling programs ask that newspaper, magazines and other paper products be placed in paper bags, or tied in bundles for both drop-off and curbside pick-up.
Recycling aluminum is much simpler than recycling other products like paper, glass, or plastic. Aluminum cans are recycled to produce new aluminum cans. By placing these cans in the designated recycling bins instead of the trash, valuable energy is conserved, saving both money and resources. Making new aluminum cans from used cans takes 95% less energy than producing those using virgin ore.
To check if a can is aluminum, use a magnet and see that it does not stick to the sides or top of the can. Before recycling, also rinse the can with water to ensure all food and liquid is cleaned out.
Other common aluminum products can be recycled, including aluminum foil and siding. These items may not be accepted by every recycling program, and may require special pick up or drop-off.
When recycling plastic, it is important to only recycle the types of plastic specified by the recycling program or center. The different types of plastic are identified by a coding system of numbers (to see the coding system click here), which can be found on the bottom of the container. Of the different types of plastics used in products, only plastics 1 and 2 are commonly recycled. Plastics with higher numbers can also be recycled, but special arrangements may need to be made for drop-off or pick-up.
Plastics coded with a 1 are made of polyethylene terephthalate (PET) and range from a variety of products, including plastic soda bottles and plastic shopping bags. These items can be recycled into a number of different items such as sleeping bag insulation, plastic lumber and polar fleece items (jackets, blankets, etc.)
Plastics coded with a 2 are made of high density polyethylene (HDPE) and include products like milk and water jugs as well as laundry detergent bottles. When recycled, these containers can be used to make trash cans and plastic piping.
To recycle these items, rinse clean with water and remove caps and neck rings.
Not all types of cardboard are recyclable. Corrugated cardboard, identified by its multi-layer construction and wavy center, is one of the few types of cardboard that can be recycled because it is not coated with wax or chemicals (like stock cartons, which are used for soft drinks and beer cases).
To recycle corrugated cardboard boxes, all contents need to be removed, including plastic bags and styrofoam. Packing tape, labels and staples can all be left on the cardboard since the pulping process will remove them. Most recycling centers ask that boxes be broken down to save space.
Cardboard is often confused with paperboard, which is usually used for the construction of cereal and shoe boxes. Paperboard is also recyclable, but is a lesser quality of paper and should be recycled in a separate container from corrugated cardboard.
This is another important recyclable, as recycling one ton of corrugated cardboard will conserve 17 trees, 462 gallons of oil, and 3 cubic yards of landfill space.
Other common items that can be recycled include steel, motor oil, car batteries and lawn debris. Some recycling centers may accept one or more of these items, but it is important to check beforehand. Other facilities, such as auto service centers may accept old oil and batteries at no charge.
Recycling is not the only thing that can be done to help conserve resources and the environment. Reducing the amount and toxicity of the waste we produce, as well as reusing products and containers we have will also have an immense impact. The time it takes to recycle these items is well worth the end result: a healthier environment, a growing economy, and peace of mind.