7 Tips To Help Determine Which Household Garbage Is Actually Recyclable


Our‌ ‌landfills‌ ‌are‌ ‌becoming‌ ‌increasingly‌ ‌full,‌ ‌and‌ ‌our‌ ‌oceans‌ ‌are‌ ‌filling‌ ‌with‌ ‌trash.‌ ‌Many‌ ‌of‌ ‌these‌ ‌items‌ ‌commonly‌ ‌thrown‌ ‌in‌ ‌the‌ ‌garbage‌ ‌are recyclable. Accessibility‌ ‌to‌ ‌residential‌ ‌and‌ ‌‌office‌ ‌recycling‌‌ ‌has‌ ‌become‌ ‌a‌ ‌huge‌ ‌industry‌ ‌in‌ ‌an‌ ‌effort‌ ‌to‌ ‌combat‌ ‌this‌ ‌problem.‌ ‌ ‌ ‌We‌ ‌know‌ ‌recycling‌ ‌is‌ ‌a‌ ‌great‌ ‌thing‌ ‌for‌ ‌the‌ ‌environment.‌ ‌But‌ ‌with‌ ‌so‌ ‌many‌ ‌rules,‌ ‌it‌ ‌can‌ ‌be‌ ‌overwhelming‌ ‌to‌ ‌do‌ ‌our‌ ‌part.‌ ‌It‌ ‌can‌ ‌be‌ ‌easier‌ ‌to‌ ‌avoid‌ ‌the‌ ‌process‌ ‌and‌ ‌simply‌ ‌throw‌ ‌everything‌ ‌into‌ ‌the‌ ‌trash‌ ‌bin.‌ ‌ ‌You‌ ‌may‌ ‌be‌ ‌surprised‌ ‌how‌ ‌much‌ ‌of‌ ‌what‌ ‌you‌ ‌use‌ ‌every‌ ‌day‌ ‌is‌ ‌recyclable.‌ ‌

Your‌ ‌local‌ ‌recycling‌ ‌company‌ ‌can‌ ‌offer‌ ‌more‌ ‌specific‌ ‌guidelines‌ ‌about‌ ‌what‌ ‌they‌ ‌accept.‌ ‌But‌ ‌here‌ ‌are‌ ‌seven‌ ‌tips‌ ‌to‌ ‌help‌ ‌you‌ ‌get‌ ‌started‌ ‌in‌ ‌determining‌ ‌which‌ ‌of‌ ‌your‌ ‌trash‌ ‌is‌ ‌recyclable.‌ ‌

1. Paper Products

Paper products are one of the most common items recycled. Think of the amount of junk mail and brochures you receive every week. These wasteful items can easily be recycled. 

Standard white office paper, color copy paper, and cardboard are all recyclable. But what about other items made of paper that aren’t quite as common? Items printed on newsprint like newspaper and phone books may also be recycled. 

Even though they are made of glossy paper, magazines can also be thrown in the recycling bin. Choose paper bags, not plastic, from the bagger at the grocery store so those can be recycled as well.

But what about all of those food containers you discard from your kitchen? Even though they have a coating, food packages like cereal boxes are recyclable. Many local recyclers accept paper cartons like milk and juice containers.

2. Plastics

More and more items are being made from plastic for convenience. The number one rule to recycling plastic is to make sure it is rinsed clean. Food debris and residue can disqualify your entire bin from being recycled.

Plastic is by far the most diverse material in our trash. It is confusing to know which ones are actually recyclable. Each plastic container has a code number inside a triangle imprinted somewhere on it. Your local recycling company will be able to tell you which code numbers and shapes of plastic containers they accept. 

With the wide variety of plastics that can be recycled, it may be easier for you to focus on the plastic items that are not able to be recycled. Plastic grocery bags can not typically be included with your regular recycling. Check out your local grocery store to see if they have a receptacle to turn these in. 

Some containers are made of different types of plastics. While one part of the container may be included in your recycling, often, the cap is not allowed. Try to remove any shrink-wrap labels from containers, but stickers can stay.

3. Metal

Metal was one of the original materials in early recycling and is still one of the most common today. It is efficient to recycle and is commonly acceptable. The process is quick and saves the energy and resources required to produce new metal containers. As with plastic, it is important to clean your metal containers thoroughly before throwing them into the recycling bin. 

Obviously, soda and cans are the most common metal items being recycled. But don’t forget, you can also recycle the foil made from the same material. Disposable pie plates and baking dishes may also be included in your recycling.

4. Glass

Glass containers are another very common household item. Whether clear, green, or brown, any color of glass can be recycled. Again, make sure to rinse thoroughly and separate any lid made from another material.

Some glass items are not acceptable. Ceramic and Pyrex dishes are made from types of glass that are unable to be recycled. Also, window panes made from tempered or stained glass and mirrors will have to go in the regular trash. Fluorescent light bulbs require special disposal, so make sure you follow those guidelines.

5. Appliances, Electronics, and Batteries

Because they are made of a variety of materials, most appliances and electronics are not able to be included with your regular recycling. Batteries contain acid that can make them dangerous to be thrown in the standard trash. But there are responsible options for you to dispose of these products.

Check with your city for special disposal events or locations where you can turn in appliances and electronics. There are even convenient ways that you can recycle batteries through the mail. Schools or science centers often accept donations of used electronics for teaching materials.

6. Other Options

There may be other options for recycling materials that your local company does not accept.  A little research will find you specialized recyclers that are specially equipped to handle different materials. You may even be able to have a product made for your home from this waste.

Some recycling programs make usable items, like benches, out of recyclable bottle caps.  Often, local artists will accept items to use in art projects that are not acceptable for recycling. Look into donation centers to get rid of your old ceramic and Pyrex casserole dishes.

7. Composting

Food waste is a massive contributor to our trash piles. Composting is an easy and beneficial way to address this. Compost bins can be inexpensive and will give you an excellent fertilizer for your lawn and garden.

You can compost all of your fruit and vegetable scraps. Even old bread and used tea bags can be thrown into your compost bin. Just avoid composting dairy and meat items, as well as animal bones.


The growing list of items that are acceptable is growing as recycling technology advances.  It can be a task to stay up to date. But making an effort to recycle where you are able will make a big difference.

Getting into good recycling habits will take time. It can be rewarding when you witness the number of items that transfer from your trash bin to your recycling bin. Just imagine the results of the combined impact of everyone in your neighborhood, let alone across the country!

Clay Miller
the authorClay Miller
I am the creator/writer of and I'm an advocate for oceans, beaches, state parks. I enjoy all things outdoors (e.g. running, golf, gardening, hiking, etc.) I am a graduate of the University of Kentucky (Go Wildcats!!). I'm also a huge fan of the Pittsburgh Steelers. I was born and raised in the beautiful state of Kentucky.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.