A Brief Overview of What Can and Can’t Be Recycled

A Brief Overview of What Can and Can’t Be Recycled

Environmental consciousness has been a pressing concern for many people in recent years. Many are taking extra measures to live environmentally friendlier lives by adopting plant-based diets or minimalist lifestyles. Another simple way to do this is to recycle as many items as possible. However, not all waste products are recyclable, and even items that may seem safe to recycle actually aren’t. Below is an overview of what can and can’t be recycled to help you better understand the tricky restrictions on recyclables.

What You Can Recycle

Paper products

It may come as a no-brainer, but you can recycle almost all paper products, including newspapers, envelopes, junk mail, and excess paper clutter. Contrary to popular belief, the color of the paper doesn’t alter its eligibility for recycling. Paper products make up the majority of recycled waste, but bear in mind that while most paper products are acceptable for recycling, there are still some exceptions to the rule. You shouldn’t try to recycle paper that’s coated in wax or that has come into contact with food products. Additionally, shredded paper is unfit for recycling; dispose of it through a professional shredding service instead.

Most plastic

As with paper, you can recycle most plastic products. Bottles, product packaging, and food containers are among the plastic items that are acceptable for recycling. If you’re unsure whether or not you can recycle a particular plastic product, simply look at the bottom of the package. All plastic items are printed with a resin identification code, which indicates the type of plastic used. You can safely recycle plastic items that bear a 1, 2, 4, or 5 resin identification code, whereas you should dispose of any items with a 3, 7, or 6 code in a garbage can instead.

What You Can’t Recycle

Hazardous waste

Hazardous waste can come in many different shapes and sizes, all of which are unacceptable for recycling. Understanding the different types of hazardous waste can be tricky, but in general, hazardous waste is characterized as any item that could cause harm to the handling individual or to the environment as a whole. You’ll most commonly find hazardous waste, which includes oil, electronic waste, batteries, and hazardous solvents and chemicals, in industrial settings. You cannot dispose of these items at a general recycling facility—they’ll require special services for proper recycling and disposal.


Styrofoam and polystyrene products are never recyclable. You’ll most commonly find polystyrene in packing materials and single-use food items such as Styrofoam cups or takeout containers. Besides the fact that food waste often contaminates these items, polystyrene products are also very porous. As such, they cannot be cleaned properly, and they’re therefore unfit for recycling.


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