Become an Expert Recycler

You can make a difference! Learn to avoid common mistakes, determine what’s recyclable and what’s not, and use best practices for keeping your recycling clean and simple.

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How to Have an Eco-Friendly Holiday Season

Much of what is thrown away during the holidays can be recycled or repurposed.

The holidays may be the most wonderful time of year, but they’re also the most wasteful.

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Buy it once, use it (at least!) twice

Save gift bags, ribbons, boxes and bows for reuse next year.

With the exception of wrapping paper, most giftwrap materials are often as good as new after just one use.

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Shipping gifts? Get creative with your packing materials

Use old newspapers and magazines, shredded paper, or reuse bubble wrap and foam peanuts.

Reuse is great for the environment, and some of the items can still be recycled after they’re finished with their second life.

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Recycle Wrapping Paper? Yes! Usually!

Basic is Better: The fancier the wrapping paper, the less recyclable it is.

Standard wrapping paper can be recycled, but anything with glitter or foil belongs in the trash.

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The Right Stuff

Know what to throw.

  • Get familiar with the four major categories of recyclables: paper, cardboard, plastic containers and beverage/food cans.
  • There is no need to bag your clean recyclables.
  • Don’t combine different kinds of recycling materials inside another container.
Jeremy explaining the right stuff
Article

Why Recycling Matters

Recycling makes a difference in the health, safety and cleanliness of your community.

It may be hard to believe, but some people think recycling doesn’t make that much of a difference. Nothing could be further from the truth! There are so many reasons recycling matters.

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The Poke Test

If you can poke your finger through the plastic, it doesn't belong in your container.

There’s a sure way to find out if plastic belongs in your recycling container. Take the Poke Test to make sure it doesn’t tangle up in the sorting process.

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Video

Empty. Clean. Dry.

Don’t contaminate the recycle stream.

  • Be sure your recyclables are empty, clean and dry before you put them in your recycle container.
  • Rinse to remove any residual material (you don’t need to wash it).
  • Clean recyclables don’t contaminate other types of materials, so the recycle stream stays out of the landfill.
Jeremy explaining empty clean dry
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Rule of Thumb

Never recycle anything smaller than a credit card.

If recyclable materials are smaller than a credit card, they will likely end up in the landfill or jam up the sorting equipment during the recycling process.

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Keep Your Recyclables Dry

Allow no more than a teaspoon of liquid in them.

Just one bottle of ketchup with residue could contaminate an entire truckload! Keep recyclables free of liquid or food waste by ensuring that they’re empty, clean and dry.

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Plastics

Which plastic items can go in your recycling container?

  • Recycle plastic bottles and jugs. Water bottles, beverage bottles, milk or juice jugs, detergent and cleaning bottles.
  • Flexible plastics (grocery bags, plastic packaging, bubble wrap) and styrofoam packaging require special handling and do not belong in the recycle container.
  • To dispose of plastic bags, you can return them to the store where you got them.
Jeremy explaining plastics
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Don’t Mix It Up

Separate combined materials before you recycle them.

Padded envelopes and electronic or toy packaging usually have combined materials that can’t be easily separated. Make sure to separate recyclables or toss them in the trash!

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Pass the Smell Test

If your recycling container stinks, it's probably contaminated.

Put your recycling container to the “smell test”: if something smells bad, it probably has food or liquid waste in it. Be sure everything is empty, clean and dry!

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Common Contaminants

What doesn’t belong in your recycling container?

  • Don’t bag your recyclables – place them in your recycling container loosely.
  • Grocery bags and other flexible plastics will get caught in the machinery.
  • Many common household items (shoes, toys, clothing) can be reused but NOT recycled.
Jeremy explaining common contaminants
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When In Doubt, Throw It Out

Wondering if something can be recycled?

  • If it has food waste, it belongs in the trash. For example, you can recycle the clean part of a pizza box, but throw away the greasy part.
  • Paper plates, paper towels and napkins belong in the trash, not the recycle container.
  • Just one dirty bottle can contaminate the contents of a whole recycling truck.
Jeremy explaining when in doubt
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Yard Waste

Yard waste does not belong in the recycle container.

  • Composting options for tree trimmings and other yard waste may be available in your community, but not via your recycle container.
  • If you’re interested in composting, contact your local community or look for options online.
  • Garden hoses cannot be recycled – when worn out, put them in your trash can.
Jeremy explaining yard waste

Want to Learn More?

We’ve put together some guidelines that are as simple as 1-2-3. We’ve also created additional informative resources you can download for easy reference.

Learn the Basics View Resources