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What Can Be Recycled

Updated on December 21, 2013
The standard recycling bin
The standard recycling bin | Source

What Can Be Recycled

The EPA estimates that 70% of our waste is recyclable, yet only 30% is actually recycled. However, this isn't just a sign of some people's indifference; some people just don't know what can and can't be recycled. Because of this confusion, many just choose to throw things away instead. This is a tragedy and a complete waste of valuable resources. Below is a list of items than can be recycled. Some may surprise you, and make you think twice before just tossing them into the garbage.

How Recycling Goes Full Circle

Paper stacks that could be recycled
Paper stacks that could be recycled | Source


Paper is arguably the most well known recyclable product. However, many people believe that the only recyclable paper consists of standard 8 1/2 x 11 sheets, which is just not true. Recyclable paper products include a vast variety of items, including most cardboard. Below is a list of paper items that are fully recyclable. It should be noted, however, that any items previously containing any sort of food products should be properly cleaned before recycling. If food gets into the mixing process for recycled paper, the entire load can become unusable.


  • office paper
  • paper towel
  • newspaper
  • magazines
  • corrugated cardboard
  • pizza boxes
  • cardboard boxes
  • paperboard
  • junk mail
  • paper bags
  • soft-cover books
  • paper cartons
  • paper cups

The classic glass bottle
The classic glass bottle | Source


Glass is another fairly well known recyclable product. In fact, when making new glass products, using recycled glass instead of raw materials has much lower energy costs. To create glass, raw materials must be heated to very high temperatures to get the ingredients to combine. However, if recycled glass is used instead, much lower temperatures can be used to remelt the glass and create new products. As with paper, glass items should be cleaned before recycling to prevent the contamination of entire loads of glass. In addition, there are a few glass items that can't be recycled. These include ceramics, heat-resistant glass, mirrors, windows, crystal, and light bulbs.


  • clear & colored glass from:
    • containers
    • bottles
    • jars

Plastics disposed of in the last place that they should be
Plastics disposed of in the last place that they should be | Source


Plastic can be a challenging item to recycle due to the many different resins used to create the many different varieties. Because of this issue, most plastic products have a resin identification number on the bottom identifying the resins used. Numbers 1 and 2 are the most widely recycled, while 3-7 depend more on each recycling facility. Always check what your local facility is capable of recycling. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, make sure that these products have been cleaned before having them recycled. It would be a terrible waste if an entire load had to be sent to a landfill because someone was too lazy to clean their recyclables properly.


  • soda bottles
  • milk jugs
  • numbers 1 & 2 (check with your municipality if they accept 3-7)
  • plastic bags
  • soap bottles
  • detergent jugs
  • disposable utensils
  • butter tubs
  • yogurt containers
  • plastic jars

An artful display of recyclable cans
An artful display of recyclable cans | Source


Metals are an extremely recyclable resource. It is much easier to melt down a recycled metal product than to mine minerals and ores from the earth. Aluminum and steel are very common metals in consumer products. Aluminum cans are a staple of the soda industry, and fortunately, these cans are completely recyclable. In addition, steel food cans, which are typically also lined with tin, can be recycled as well. As you can easily guess by now, make sure these items are cleaned before being recycled.


  • cans
  • aluminum foil
  • aluminum siding
  • pie tins
  • cookware
  • utensils

Computer parts containing precious metals
Computer parts containing precious metals | Source


Electronics are a frequently forgotten item that can be recycled. In fact, old electronics are an extremely valuable resource. The electrical components and materials can be reused to make new products. Throwing them into the trash is a huge waste. So, if you are planning to get rid of your ancient, ten-year-old computer, don't just throw it away. Electronics typically can't be disposed of by simply tossing them into the nearest blue bin, but they can still be recycled. Keep an eye out for local events which involve electronics drop-offs. These products are worth holding onto for an event. Some materials inside are called rare earth metals, which actually aren't extremely rare, but just are very geographically spread out and challenging to efficiently mine. Ensuring that they are recycled will help limit our reliance upon China, which mines a vast majority of the world's rare earth metals.


  • cell phones
  • computers
  • MP3 players
  • video game systems
  • routers
  • printers
  • televisions
  • pretty much any device that contains electrical circuitry

Food scraps that can be recycled
Food scraps that can be recycled | Source

Organic Waste

Organic waste includes the more natural things that you deal with in life. The biggest part of this type of waste is food products, which many people simply throw in the trash. Beyond the basic idea of not wasting food, a large portion of food waste can be composted alongside other plant waste to create nutrient-rich mulch. This mulch can then be used in landscaping and gardens to provide natural fertilizer.

In addition to composting, there is another thing that can be done with grass. Instead of gathering all of your grass clippings after mowing, just leave it spread out throughout the lawn. It will quickly breakdown and return nutrients back to the soil, helping to fertilize your beautiful lawn.


  • leaves
  • grass
  • trimmings
  • food

Classic can of motor oil
Classic can of motor oil | Source

Chemicals & Hazardous Waste

This is another commonly forgotten group of recyclables. Many products used in our modern world contain chemicals and hazardous waste that is typically just thrown away. This is a dangerous practice that can severely damage the environment. Common items that need to be disposed of through special drop offs include batteries and motor oil. Even if you care little about recycling, these products need to be disposed of properly to avoid severely damaging the environment. Look online to find the nearest locations to your home or business that accept chemicals and hazardous waste.


  • motor oil
  • single-use & rechargeable batteries
  • car batteries
  • printer cartridges
  • light bulbs
  • acids
  • antifreeze
  • brake fluid
  • household cleaners
  • gasoline
  • mercury thermometers
  • paint
  • paint thinner
  • pesticides
  • fertilizer
  • medication
  • aerosol cans

Recycling is an important part of disposing of waste responsibly. Hopefully, by reading this list, you have learned about what surprising items can be recycled, and your overall awareness will be increased. You don't have to change your entire life based on recycling, but little changes can add up to make a big difference.

Surprised by what could be recycled?

How many of these types of items do you currently recycle?

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    • pramodgokhale profile image

      pramodgokhale 4 years ago from Pune( India)

      Hub is informative and igniting ideas of recycling and great efforts to reduce emission and pollution.

      Small recycling plants can be made and to be supplied to developing nations either funding or United nations could do the job of training people and produce . I am an Indian and liked these topics related to Eco-conservation.