With almost 9,000 municipal recycling programs available throughout the United States, one of the easiest ways to contribute to the environment’s health is recycling. These programs and Americans’ individual recycling efforts keep about 87 million tons of waste out of landfills annually.
But not everyone takes advantage of recycling opportunities in their area. One common roadblock is being confused about what goes in the recycling bin and what needs to be tossed into the trash.
With Gexa’s guide to what can be recycled, you can do your part to help conserve natural resources and reduce energy consumption, making your community—and our world—a little greener.
What Can Go in the Recycling Bin?
There are three basic rules of recycling that are easy to remember if you’re ever wondering whether something can go in your recycling bin:
- Bottles, cans, paper, and cardboard are recyclable items
- Make sure to keep liquids and food out of the recycling bin
- Don’t bag recyclables or put loose plastic bags in the recycling
While some recyclable items vary by location, here is a list of things that can be recycled:
- Plastic bottles and plastic containers – Make sure to clean and dry all containers and place the caps back on bottles before recycling
- Food and beverage cans and containers – Clean out all food scraps and liquids before placing them in the recycling bin
- Paper – Remove any staples or paperclips
- Cardboard and paperboard – Be sure to break down and flatten any boxes
- Glass bottles and containers – Check with your local recycling program as not all glass is recyclable in every community
On the other hand, the items below are not recyclable. Instead, try to reuse or reduce your consumption of these materials and if you do use them, put them in the trash:
- Plastic bags – Don’t bag recyclable materials; instead, put them in the bin loose
- Plastic wrap and film
- Flexible packaging – This packaging is made from multiple materials, which makes it impossible to recycle
- Disposable cups with wax or plastic coatings – Purchase a reusable cup for your daily coffee or beverage needs
- Polystyrene foam and plastic
Some waste materials should never be placed in curbside trash or recycling bins. For these items, check with your local recycling company or municipal program for disposal procedures:
- Tangling items like cords and wires – These items can harm recycling workers and shut down entire plants
- Medical waste – This is considered hazardous waste and must be disposed of accordingly
- Household items – Some municipalities have pick-up days for large items like furniture
- Electronics and batteries – Many electronics can be refurbished or reused
- Motor oil – Never dispose of oil into the trash or ground
Why Is Recycling Good for the Environment?
Recycling benefits the environment because it limits the need to create new products from scratch. Manufacturing, extracting, and processing raw materials require a substantial amount of energy and natural resources. With recycled materials, new products can be created with less energy.
Related: Learn all about the benefits of renewable energy.
Recycling also shrinks the space needed for landfills, which can wreak havoc on the environment by releasing greenhouse gases and even contaminating surrounding groundwater.
By understanding what is recyclable, you can help contribute to a healthier environment.
How Much Energy Does Recycling Save?
The energy conserved from the recycling process depends on the material being recycled. For example, aluminum is the most efficient recyclable material because it never degrades and can be reused again and again in new products.
Creating paper from recycled materials uses just 60% of the energy required to manufacture paper from fresh pulp, along with saving thousands of trees. And the production of glass products from recycled materials generates 50% less water pollution and 20% less air pollution, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Plastics are one of the more difficult items to recycle because the material degrades easily with reuse. Fortunately, manufacturers are finding new ways to create higher-quality products from recycled plastics.
Related: Learn ways that you can make your home more energy efficient.
Limiting the amount of trash that goes to landfills is one small way you can change your daily habits to reduce your environmental footprint. By understanding what to recycle and what items can go into curbside recycling, you can choose greener products and reduce your use of products that create more waste.