Do Your Part: What Things Can be Recycled?

Recycling is a Simple Way to Help Reduce Waste

If you’re trying to do the best for the planet and want to be conscientious, then hopefully you’re doing your bit by recycling.

The average American throws away around 180 lbs of plastic waste a year, and as a country America gets through 400 million disposable cups a day! But if we all do our bit and recycle as much as possible we can reduce the impact we as a species have on our fragile planet.

But, you might be aware, not everything can be recycled easily. Some products that we would assume are easily re-used or re-processed still cannot be. So just what items can be recycled?


Pretty much all paper goods are good for the recycle bin. Leaflets, junk mail (ahem, sorry, ‘direct mailings’), cardboard and paper bags are all fine to go to the green bin.

But some paper products are treated with additional materials, for example those pesky coffee cups. Many of them are actually coated with plastic so are not recyclable. Many companies are now turning to compostable cups and lids, but to avoid adding those 400 million daily cups, buy a reusable coffee cup!


Of course glass jars and bottles are fine to be recycled. Clean them first (a quick rinse is usually enough), then remove the lids and recycle them separately as they are usually made of metal or plastic.

Some states in the USA and Canada also pay for returned glass items. Check with your local government office for details.

Light bulbs are one of the glass items that usually need to be recycled separately, mostly because they are fragile and have other components as part of their assembly. Some larger light bulbs (strip lights for example) need to be recycled with a reputable company as they also contain certain gases.


Household metals such as food or drinks cans, metal food containers, foil lids or other food foils and aerosols are fine to be put into the recycle bin. For aerosols, make sure they are fully spent before you put them in.

For larger metal items such as cooking implements or tools, these normally need to be taken to a local recycling center or collected specially by a recycling service.


When it comes to plastics, the processes become a little more complicated. The spotlight is very much on plastics at the moment and many companies are changing the materials they use to comply with new legislation.

Most plastics that can be recycled will have a symbol on them that tells you if they can be put in the green bin.

As a general rule, the following household plastics can be recycled:

  • Soft drink bottles and caps
  • Milk bottles
  • Liquid detergent bottles
  • Some food containers such as pots
  • Shower gels, shampoos and toothpaste containers
  • Toothbrushes

However there is some gray area over certain types of plastics. For example, check your local facilities or on the packaging to see if the following are recyclable:

  • Food trays (for vegetables or meat, etc.)
  • Cling films
  • Bags

If in doubt, there should be a symbol on the packaging that tells you if the plastic is recyclable.


Disposing of waste clothing is actually a massive global problem, with millions of tons of clothing going to landfill on an annual basis. You can donate your old clothes to charities and more and more high street stores are accepting your old clothes so they can be recycled properly.


Our use of disposable electronics has soared since the 1980’s with most people in the developed world owning around seven or more items of personal tech. And this is on top of household goods like kettles, toasters, shavers and microwaves!

Aside from the obvious like smartphones, TVs and tablets/e-readers, we’re now tempted by more and more gadgets with relatively short shelf lives. Consider Amazon’s Echo/Alexa devices, smartwatches, Bluetooth speakers and VR headsets, most of which didn’t exist five years ago.

Recycling centers will accept most household electronics, including white goods (fridges, laundry machines, etc.) and household appliances like kettles and toasters.

Smartphones are usually accepted for recycling at cell phone stores, even if they’re not your network provider. Many charities also accept old phones which they re-condition and sell (often in developing countries).

For most devices with lithium ion batteries inside, such as portable battery packs, Bluetooth speakers, tablets and most modern devices, you’ll need to either make use of a professional recycling service or take them to your recycling depot.

Unfortunately most of these devices can’t just be placed into the trash with household recycling (or they shouldn’t be!).

Compostable Goods

Yes, even your wasted food can be recycled. Compost bins have become a more common sight in recent years, with different areas accepting different types of food waste.

Usually, food waste means uncooked fruit and vegetables or organic matter. This can include coffee grounds, tea bags, potato peelings and moldy bread. However, many places might also accept cooked food and meat as well.

The new compostable coffee cups can now be thrown in with your compostable waste too, so make sure to put them there and not the paper recycling!

Bulk Recycling

For most households, using the supplied recycling bins or visiting your local recycling depot is all that is required for most regular recycled materials. Suppliers might also take your old goods when you buy a new one, so check if this is the case.

For businesses and commercial enterprises it can be a little trickier, with the volume of waste being generated. Most businesses will use a waste disposal service to collect their recyclable waste, although it will need to be sorted into the correct bins before disposal.

Every local area should now supply a list of trusted recycling services; so wherever you are, you’ll be able to dispose of all your waste in a responsible manner.

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