Recycling is an important part of any green home or business, but the sheer number of products and materials that pass through our hands every day can make it seem like a daunting task. Programs differ from state to state, from city to city, and sometime even from block to block, so how can you know where to start in your neck of the woods? To help you out, we’ve put together all the things you need to know to start recycling: from paper plates to aluminum cans to soda bottles, this is your guide to recycling right.
Paper: Almost all recycling programs accept basic paper products like newspapers, junk mail, cardboard, magazines, and computer paper. A couple of things to keep in mind about paper recycling: whole paper is easier to recycle, so avoid shredding or tearing paper when you can. Also be careful with juice boxes and milk cartons, which are not accepted in most local programs, and try to avoid putting in products like pizza boxes or sandwich wrappers that are contaminated with food: the oil can ruin a whole batch of recycled paper (you can compost this waste instead).
Glass: Glass is one of the most easily recycled materials, but not all glass is made the same. Curbside and drop-off programs will most likely accept clear, brown, and green container glass, but you shouldn’t put in glass from windows, glassware, or cooking dishes – these products usually include additives that will disrupt the recycling process later on.
Plastic: Because there are so many different types of plastic it can be one of the most difficult materials to recycle. Check with your local program to see what types of plastics they accept and learn to spot the resin identification number on plastic products (the #1-7 surrounded by three arrows). Almost all facilities will accept plastics marked #1 – 3 while larger programs will sometimes accept all seven. If you buy compostable plastics like PLA make sure they stay out of the recycling stream.
Aluminum: Like glass, aluminum can easily be recycled again and again. Almost all programs will accept cans, but you should check with your local centers to see if they take other items like foil.
Steel: Steel cans – used for everything from coffee to pet food – are accepted at most local programs.