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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.