The more we know and do, the better we all will be.



Oct 13

Commonly Recycled Materials

Consumer awareness regarding recycling common materials has grown immensely over the last few decades. It has become commonplace to separate common trash items from common recyclables, at least for a good percentage of Americans.

There is still a great deal of work to be done in the battle. Materials that may be recycled are still piling up in landfills and entering precious areas like our beloved oceans. This problem will only grow exponentially as world population and developing nations are increasing consumption at higher and higher rates.

The only way to combat this grave issue is through awareness of the need for recycling all available materials. As consumers better understand the effects of their wastefulness, they are more inclined to make the effort in recycling. On the other hand, simple awareness as to what products should be recycled will help keep more of these materials from our landfills.

Below are two of the most commonly recycled materials today. Some may seem obvious, but the sad truth is that the percentage being properly recycled is still far too low for a sustainable future.

#1 Plastics

Plastics are one of the most common materials used by consumers today and with a little effort, much of these common items can be recycled. There are also a myriad of collection programs popping up as the business becomes more economical. While some types of plastic simply cannot be recycled, others are just not profitable enough for private collection agencies.

Be sure to learn what types of plastic your local agency does accept before separating your trash. On each plastic container or material, there will typically be a number (1-7) corresponding to the type of plastic used that item. These will be reflected in the list of recyclable materials from your local agency.

Commonly recycled plastics include containers such as milk, pasta, juice, water, beverage, etc.. Other not so common materials include open top containers such as the ones used to package yogurt or fruit baskets. Grocery bags and other packaging are often the least profitable collection type and added effort must be made in finding a drop point for these materials (often right at your local supermarket).

#2 Paper

Paper is another one of the most commonly recycled materials used by consumers everyday. While most types of paper are recyclable, it is important to note the labeling system adopted by the industry as a useful tool when choosing your products.

On most paper products you will find a label offering the exact percentages of recycled material used in the production of said product. A typical label will include the following information:

60% Recycled paper,
40% Post-Consumer,
Soy-Based Inks

These labels are relatively straight forward and provide easy to understand notifications to consumers. “Post-consumer” relates to the amount of recycled material returned by consumers to then be used for new paper products. The higher this percentage, the more profound effects this company has on the preserving the environment.

Typically recycled papers include white office paper, corrugated cardboard, newspapers, phone books and waxed cartons. Paper that cannot be recycled includes various mixed papers such as waxed paper and laminate papers such as food wrappers and pet food bags.

In conclusion is it important to understand the different areas in which we can recycle such common materials such as paper and plastics. It’s not good enough to simply throw all paper or plastic into the bin as it may not turn into re-usable material. Understanding the labeling systems and sorting your trash can have a dramatic impact on our planet if truly adopted by the masses.

Emma is a freelance writer most notable for her work with recycling containers and anti fatigue mats. She is also a strong advocate for conservation and hopes one day to teach her children the importance of recycling.


  1. Scrap Metal Recycling

    Surprisingly, you make no mention of recycling scrap metal despite its substantial value. People make cash when they recycle their scrap metal, so in the eyes of most green recyclers, it defeats the selflessness of the metal recycling.

    Please don’t neglect the metal recycling industry in posts like this, because it is one of the most profitable types of recycling, and its economic success will help develop the recycling base needed to make recycling so sustainable.

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