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What you shouldn’t recycle

Americans generate about five pounds of garbage every day. In a year, Americans generated more than 292 million tons of waste, but only 94,000,000 tons were recycled or used for composting. Some of the destruction was burned to create energy, but 146 million tonnes ended up in landfills in America.

Did you know that by recycling certain items, they can contaminate a batch of recyclables or take extra time to sort them out, which increases fees? Do you put these ten items in your curbside recycle bin without realizing they could ruin a whole load?

Aerosol Cans

Check the rules for aerosol cans. It may be illegal to throw them away, but recycling the cans might also not be legal. Metal cans contain hazardous materials. Many recycling centers follow these guidelines:

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Food or Beauty Products

  • Empty cans are placed in the curbside recycling bins
  • Food cans that are partially full go in the garbage
  • You can dispose of partially complete beauty products at your local hazardous waste depot

Cleaners and Paints

  • Bring empty and partially filled cans to the hazardous waste depot in your locality
  • Some municipalities require that empty cans be thrown away.

Use common sense. A few years ago, someone accidentally threw a partially filled bear-repellent can down a recycling bin in Vermont. The can was ruptured by the equipment at the recycling facility. More than a dozen workers were sent to the hospital, and another two dozen had to be treated on the spot. The entire recycling facility was evacuated, as were nearby businesses.


Batteries do not go in blue bin recycling. Batteries are being thrown into recycling bins at an alarming rate. Crushed rechargeable batteries may ignite fires, setting fire to paper and cardboard. Batteries that are not appropriately recycled have caused several major fires, including one in New York, which took two days and hundreds of firefighters to put out.

Store your batteries in plastic bags or containers before you place the batteries in, tape electrical tape on their terminals. Bring your batteries to any recycling facility, such as Ace Hardware, Home Depot, or Lowes. Place them in the Call2Recycle container.

These containers are usually able to accept mobile phones, rechargeable battery packs, and batteries for single use. Find your nearest recycling centers in the Recycle Nation mobile app or online.

Coat Hangers

If you have metal or plastic coat hangers, then they should be easy for you to recycle. They’re not. You can recycle metal coat hangers in your blue bin, but they are not as easy to use. Bring them to a metal recycling center.

Plastic hangers can be made of a mixture of plastics. They are difficult to recycle because they’re made from a mixture (typically #7). If they are broken, you should throw them away. Post them to your local Freecycle group if they are still in good condition, or ask if any thrift shops in the area could use them.

Hardcover Books

Since you can recycle hardcover books in the blue bin, it’s okay to recycle paperbacks. This is not true. Hardcovers are often more than just paper.

The cardboard-like backing can be made of a variety of materials. Some binders are stitched with threads or fabrics that can’t be recycled. If you can, donate them or sell them on the Internet. If they are moldy or mildewed, they should be thrown out.


Lids for bottles, jars, and other containers are not recyclable. They are not recyclable. They are often made from a mixture of plastics and metal coated with plastic. They are thrown away. Stop putting the cap on bottles before you recycle them. Instead, throw away the caps.

Paper Milk/Juice Cartoons

Paper cartons containing juice, broth, and milk are recyclable in only some places. Although they may look like paper, the containers can contain aluminum and plastic pressed together to form a heat-resistant seal. It would help if you threw them in the trash unless a district has special equipment for separating the materials.

Pizza Boxes

Pizza boxes are usually covered with grease and melted chees. In many areas, this makes it difficult to recycle. Check to see if your local recycling facility will accept pizza boxes with food and grease stains before you recycle them.

Before placing the pizza in the box, some restaurants place circles of aluminum foil or cardboard under the pizza. This will help to eliminate grease stains. You can recycle the items in your blue bin without stains.

Plastic Utensils

Plastic cutlery cannot be recycled. You can either throw them away or wash them and reuse as many as you can. You’ll need to throw them away once they’ve been broken.

Consider the environment. Stop buying plastic utensils. Consider compostable cutlery if you’re looking for disposable cutlery, such as for a large party. These are made from plant-based materials such as potato or corn starch.

Pyrex and glass bakeware and containers

Glass is recyclable. Pyrex, glass containers, and bakeware are recyclable for many people. They will also recycle Mason jars, along with glass containers and cookware. Despite being made of glass, they should not be put in the blue bin.

You can also donate them to thrift stores like Goodwill. You can also donate these items to thrift shops like Goodwill. Mason jars can be turned into planters for windowsills. Add rocks to the bottom of your pots for drainage, then sand. Add seeds or seedlings to the soil, and watch them grow.


Most facilities do not recycle peanuts and Styrofoam. Never place them in your curbside recycle container. Please bring them to FedEx or UPS in your area for packing peanuts for items sent back to retailers and manufacturers.

Call local retailers that accept online orders. They may be willing to take Styrofoam, bubble wrap, and other foam shipping material if they ship items regularly that are at risk of damage.

Learn What You Can and CANNOT Recycle Locally

Do you need clarification about what you should and shouldn’t recycle? Ask your local waste district if you can download a list of recyclables. You should check back every month as they are updated regularly. Print a new version if necessary.

Reuse as much as you can. Old glass containers can organize your screws, nuts, and bolts. Plastic coat hangers are functional in summer for hanging foil strips around your fruit and berry trees or bushes to keep birds at bay.

Recycle Nation is an app that will help you discover where to recycle different household items. You can download it from the App Store or Google Play. Use our online search form for recycling. Find the nearest recycling facility.

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Jane S. King

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