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Recycling 911: Find Out What You Can (and Can’t) Recycle

POSTED UNDER Recycling & Waste Reduction

Maybe this happens to you. You’re standing in your kitchen, holding an empty container and wondering, “Can I recycle this?” For some things, it’s easy: Aluminum and Steel. Glass. Newspapers. Cardboard (as long as it’s clean, of course.)

From there, it gets complicated. Take plastics, for example. We know some are recyclable, but which ones? Can we recycle the caps? Should the caps be on or off? What about light bulbs? Or batteries? And what about those old VHS tapes? Can they be recycled? How do you find out?

In some ways, recycling has gotten a lot easier – in other ways, it’s more complex.

Easier for Consumers

In many communities across the United States, single-stream recycling (where everything goes into a single bin) is now in place. That’s good news, because it’s boosted recycling rates by making it easier for consumers. But it leads to a lot of confusion about what goes in the bin and what still needs to go in the trash. You might think it’s better to put something you’re not sure about in the recycling bin, but unfortunately, that can be an issue.

Recycling capabilities differ among communities; what’s perfectly acceptable in one doesn’t work at all in another due to the recycling company’s sorting equipment – which varies widely from place to place. When non-recyclable materials get into the equipment, it can contaminate materials that could otherwise be recycled, as well as cause equipment breakdowns and higher costs.

More Complex for Recycling Companies

Recycling companies face major challenges getting non-recyclables out of the mix of materials – items placed there by well-meaning consumers – in fact, it’s one of the biggest issues they face. They report spending a lot of time, money, and resources to remove them before they can clog equipment, contaminate recyclable material, and otherwise slow down productivity, increase costs, and reduce efficiency.

As more and more people recycle, this becomes more of an issue, and it’s more important than ever to ensure that what you’re putting in your recycling bin is, well, recyclable.

We all want to be greener, and certainly don’t want to do harm when we’re trying to do good. So what about those light bulbs, batteries, and VHS tapes?  Can you pitch them in your recycling bin, or not?

Your local recycling company can provide a list of accepted materials (and most provide a list on their website so it’s easy to find).  But what do you do with items your recycling company doesn’t accept? Fortunately, there’s an easy way to find out.

Earth911 Has the Answer

Just because you can’t toss something in your recycling bin doesn’t mean it can’t be recycled – Earth911 offers a free online recycling search engine that lists alternative options for items your local recycling company can’t process (hello, VHS tapes). 

Search by item name as well as ZIP code for a comprehensive list of locations that accept specific items and materials so you can go greener with great peace of mind.


Can I Recycle This? 

Find out!


You Might Also Like…

Recycling and Waste Reduction at Home

The Perfect Green Living Guide to Recycling

Decluttering Your Space: Less is More Sustainable


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