Recycling can be a little confusing. Can you recycle that mayonnaise container? What about that pile of magazines? There are a ton questions just like these that make recycling a chore.
And, even if you think you're following all the rules, about 20-40 percent of the recycling in your blue bin will be deemed "unrecyclable" for various reasons and sent to the landfill.
To help you get recycling right, here's a quick guide that provides the dos and don'ts of recycling.
Paper and cardboard
Paper products make up about 71 million tons of the municipal waste stream, which is about 29 percent, according to the EPA. To keep that glut of paper from the landfill, here's a list of paper and cardboard items you can and can't recycle:
• Corrugated cardboard
• Office paper
• Paper cardboard dairy and juice cartons
• Phone books
• Unsolicited direct mail
• Pizza box with food waste and wax paper
• Used paper towels and plates
• Shredded paper
• Paper coffee cups
Many metals are recyclable, most commonly aluminum cans. While Americans love to consume soda and juice, just 44 percent of aluminum beverage cans are recycled, according to EcoCycle. Here is a list of items you can and can't send to the curb:
• Aluminum cans
• Aluminum foil and bakeware
• Steel cans
• Tin cans
• Aerosol cans
• Aluminum foil with food particles on it
• Steel and tin cans with food particles in them (rinse out cans)
• Aerosol cans that are not completely empty
A word of caution
Every recycler is different. While most recyclers, including Waste Management, which is one of the largest recyclers in the U.S., generally adhere to the list above, you should still contact your local recycler to learn about specific rules in your area.
Plastic is everywhere. In particular, plastic water bottles, soap bottles and plastic bags have made their way into everyday life. To make sure as much plastic as possible is recycled, here's a list of what can and can't go in the blue bin:
• Water and soda bottles
• Milk and juice jugs
• Detergent bottles
• Butter tubes
• Household cleaners
• Plastic bags
• Bread bags
• Food wraps
• Squeezable bottles
Recycling glass can have a big impact. Recycling just one glass jar saves enough electricity to light an 11-watt bulb for 20 hours. Below is a list of glass items that you can and can't feed your recycling bins:
• Clear glass
• Brown amber glass
• Green glass
• Contaminated glass (dirt, leftover food, etc.)
• Ceramics (dishware, ovenware, decorative items, etc.)
• Mixed colors of broken glass
• Mirror or window glass
• Light bulbs
• CRT Cathode-ray Tubes found in some TV's and computer monitors
If recycling is too confusing
If sorting, washing and tossing is a bit much for you, you can consider refilling your bottles rather than recycling them. Your retailer can install refill stations that allow you to refill your favorite cleaning supplies, detergent or mouthwash.
Tell your retailer, #WeWantRefill, and start changing the way we reduce and reuse in America today.
The time to ACT is NOW!
Sign the Petition
The technology exists to save tons of plastic waste each year by refilling household goods like laundry soap and shampoo. Sign our petition to let big retailers know that you want access to refill technology in your local stores.