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5 Important Recycling Tips

By NativeEnergy |

If you're reading this blog, you probably recycle. But do you recycle correctly?

This story is from our partner NativeEnergy and was originally published 11/10/2011.

The household recycling process has changed since it became popular in the 1970s. Many municipalities have expanded their capabilities, and some forward-thinking cities have even implemented curbside composting for food waste.

Nevertheless, improper recycling continues to harm efficiency and the entire process of material recovery at recycling plants.

Here are some tips to make sure your good deed is doing the most good.

1. Beware the food stains

Grease spots on pizza boxes and other paper containers are more than unsightly—they can actually ruin entire paper batches at the recycling facility. According to Recyclebank, “grease… causes oil to form at the top of the slurry, and paper fibers cannot separate from oils during the pulping process.” Ruining carefully recovered materials is, of course, that last thing you intend to do.

Solution: Contaminated paper products, including used napkins, paper towels, and pizza boxes, belong in the trash or compost heap. If tossing them makes you cringe, cut out the contaminated sections and recycle the rest.

2. Check the numbers

While many places, including Vermont’s Chittenden County, can recycle plastic numbers 1-7, not every municipality can. To find the “plastic number,” look for the recycling symbol on the bottom of containers; view this list of plastic types to learn more. Numbers 1 and 2 are the most commonly accepted.

Solution: Contact your local recycling facilities or visit the Earth911 database to learn what types of plastic are accepted in your area.

3. Rinse and repeat

Aluminum, glass, and plastics are heat-treated during the recycling process, so grease is not as destructive. But while careful washing is not required, a little effort on your end will improve efficiency at the recycling center.

Solution: Using soap is unnecessary, but rinse your recyclables before tossing them in the big blue bin.

4. Know what can’t go

It may look like plastic, but that doesn’t always mean it can be salvaged. These items generally cannot be recycled in your curbside box:

  • Styrofoam
  • Plastic bags
  • Plastic wrap

Solution: Some cities are way ahead of everyone else and accept plastic bags, food waste, and more. But be sure to check with your local facilities before putting questionable items on the curb.

5. Take a trip

Certain devices that are banned from the bins can still be brought or sent to specific drop-off locations. Common items like cell phones and eyeglasses can even be refurbished to serve those in need. For example, the “HopeLine” program provides emergency phones to people experiencing domestic violence.

Items that can be recycled at certain locations:

  • Batteries
  • Hazardous waste containers
  • E-waste, including computers and other electronics
  • Household appliances

Solution: Take non-curbside recycling items to your local drop-off center. For general tips and nationwide recycling options, check out the “How to Recycle Anything” guide.


For more information about proper recycling, visit

Share with Your Friends & Family
  • John D. 4 years ago
    Therein lies the problem, especially for me. Being a single dude and my city uses these giant wheeled carts that mine takes me 3 months to fill (and I have difficult access moving it in and out of my garage), the stuff needs to be fairly clean or it'll attract roaches and/or smell nasty. So some things require too much of 'my own' natural resources to recycle. This illuminates to me why some folks just don't bother (although they could do some recycling).
    Makes me miss when my city used the hand carry tubs like pictured above.
    • Donna D. 4 years ago
      I have the same problem with the large bins. But you don't have to fill the bin before taking it to the curb. I take mine out every other week, or at least once a month.
    • John D. 4 years ago
      "(and I have difficult access moving it in and out of my garage)"
    • John D. 4 years ago
      P.S. The milk jugs are the worst, the smell gets embedded in the plastic despite aggressive rinsing and even soaking. So since they're so infrequent for me I sneak them out into my neighbor's bin the night before pick-up (I don't think they care if that's all it is as we're a close-knit cul de sac).
  • Meg P. 4 years ago
    water is too precious to use the way that would be ideal for recycling. Something to consider.
    • Steven S. 4 years ago
      Any recyclable that needs to washed sits my sink. When I wash my dishes, the soapy water is reused to wash out the recyclable. No extra water or soap needed. Just a little elbow grease and the recyclable is clean.
  • Regina H. 4 years ago
    love reading all the different ways to recycle
  • Gina L. 4 years ago
    Those grease spots may be more to take care of with all the washing and extras than worth the recycle. It would do a great deal of good to find easy, cheap, affect ways to clean before tossing.
  • Jose T. 4 years ago
    Glad i clicked on the link to read a bit more. We need to have more compost piles, because if food stained containers go to the landfill than hat is only adding to the problem.
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