How To Determine What Can Be Recycled

Photo of plastic bottles

Recycling is something that not only enhances the environment by keeping items out of the landfills, but it can be profitable as well. Recycling is done on two ends -- buying items that can be recycled, and finding out which of these items will be accepted by your local recycling center.

  1. Read labels. Many items will have a triangular arrows symbol meaning that the item is recyclable. If it does not have this symbol, that does not necessarily mean it cannot be recycled; many items made from glass, cardboard, tin, aluminum, plastic and paper can still be recycled in most areas. Any paper items to be recycled should be clean and dry. No paper with food, liquid, or other items on it should be recycled.
  2. Call the local recycling center. Some centers only accept loads from city vehicles, but if the local center accepts small loads from private citizens, find out what items they will take. Most will pay for these items by the pound. Newspapers and soda cans are common items that people take to recycling centers, as they are used by most households and are easy to collect in bulk. Aluminum soda cans are the most lucrative of all recycling items, but they need to be rinsed out before being taken to a recycling center. Glass bottles should be intact, as most recycling centers do not accept broken glass.
  3. Call the local city government to find out if there is a curbside recycling program in your area. In cities with this program, a bin is provided for items that will be picked up regularly. These items vary from city to city, so you will have to know what items will be accepted. Some common items may be cardboard cereal boxes, glass bottles, magazines, cans, and used computer paper. Motor oil is often recycled curbside as well. Motor oil must be in a secure container and must not be mixed with any other liquids in order to be recyclable.
  4. Study your plastic. Many plastics can be recycled, but because plastics come in many different formulations, there is a coded number system printed on them that determines whether they are recyclable. The numbers run from 1 through 7, and can usually be found either on the bottom of the item or inside the recycling triangle symbol. Each number corresponds to a specific type of plastic, and not all can be recycled. Some areas have specific numbers that they will pick up for recycling.

Recycling can be time consuming, but once you are aware of the items in your home that can be recycled, it is just a matter of keeping those items separate from the trash. A typical household that recycles can reduce its amount of trash by 50 percent or more, keeping items out of the landfills and saving the energy needed to produce new items from scratch.


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