Bad recycling habits have consequences. Putting things in your recycling can that can’t actually be recycled can contaminate everything else in the can. This contamination is the main reason why countries that used to take America’s trash for recycling – China, India, and the Philippines – have stopped taking it. Here are some common items that you shouldn’t put in your recycling can.
- Padded shipping envelopes. Millions of padded envelopes are shipped every day, mainly from internet retailers. Most
padded envelopes are made out of mixed materials glued together, paper
on the outside and plastic bubble wrap inside. These envelopes should go
in your regular trash can. Like a
lot of other products, padded shipping envelopes are theoretically
recyclable, but from a practical standpoint, they actually aren’t.
- Mixed materials glued together. Coffee
bags, like shipping envelopes, are made from mixed materials, paper on
the outside and plastic inside. Cardboard boxes with metallic foil glued
on the outside is also not recyclable. See photo below.
- Plastic bags and shrink wrap. They
are not recyclable, and they screw up the machinery at recycling
facilities. Shiny plastic bags, like the bags that potato chips come in,
are also not recyclable.
- Anything that can tangle around other things. This includes rope, wire, garden hoses, netting, gift wrap ribbon, and clothes hangers. Even if these things are made out of recyclable materials, put them in your trash can. They create a lot of problems at recycling facilities.
- Anything with food still in it. A
pizza box with the crusts inside or cheese stuck to the box is not
recyclable. The same goes for cans and jars with food still inside them.
Recycling centers don’t want the mice, rats, bugs, and mold that come
with these items.
- Toothpaste tubes. These are also made with mixed materials.
- Styrofoam. Shipping peanuts, molded foam packaging, and foam coffee cups and plates should all go in the trash can.
- Batteries. You can get a fine in California for putting batteries of any kind in your trash or recycling cans.
- Sharps. Don’t put sharp things in your recycling cans. They could injure the people handling it at recycling centers, things like broken glass or ceramics, nails, razor blades, and sharp can lids.