We’re dreaming of a green Earth Month, where recycling bins overflow and contamination is low — an April where trash bags are light, because it’s easier to recycle right.
Recycling makes the biggest impact when the only things in our recycling carts are items that can be processed by the local MRF and efficiently recycled into new products. Of course, it’s not always clear just what those things are, and it seems like every day brings a new reason to ask: Is this recyclable?
This year, we’re celebrating Earth Month with a greatest hits collection of recycling questions asked by YOU, our readers. Here are our top 10!
1. Can I Recycle Receipts Made of Thermal Paper?
No. The thermal paper used for most receipts can contain chemicals, like BPA, that are not easily removed in the recycling process. One indicator that your receipt is printed on thermal paper is a slight shine on the surface of the paper; another is that the paper turns a purplish-black color when you rub your nail along it. If this sounds like your receipt, trash it (or try to avoid it altogether).
Read More: Because You Asked: Can I Recycle Receipts Made of Thermal Paper?
2. Can I Recycle Sticky Notes?
Usually, yes. Though we can’t say for certain if your hauler will accept them (so be sure to double-check), most paper recycling equipment is capable of removing the adhesive used on sticky notes, making it perfectly fine to recycle them right along with all of your other paper.
Read More: Because You Asked: Can I Recycle Sticky Notes?
3. Do I Need to Remove the Address Window from Envelopes?
Nope! Go ahead and recycle your junk mail without removing the address windows. Just as paper recycling equipment can handle some sticky note adhesive, it can also handle those address windows, and staples, and paper clips, and all sorts of other bits that come in the mail, too.
Read More: Because You Asked: Do I Need to Remove the Address Window from Envelopes?
4. Can I Recycle Plastic Grocery Bags in the Recycling Bin?
No, and including them in your bin can actually jam up recycling machines and hurt the whole process. But don’t fret! You CAN recycle them elsewhere. The easiest option is to drop them in a designated bin, at the entrance of most grocery stores, home improvement stores, pharmacies, and other retailers. You can double-check where the nearest drop-off center is before heading out with a bundle of bags.
Read More: Because You Asked: Can I Recycle Plastic Grocery Bags in the Recycling Bin?
5. Because You Asked: Is Bubble Wrap Recyclable?
Not in your bin, but it can be recycled along with those plastic grocery bags at participating drop-off centers. If there are no drop-off centers by you, you still don’t have to trash it. Try reusing it, or get crafty and upcycle it.
Read More: Because You Asked: Is Bubble Wrap Recyclable?
6. Is Cling Wrap Recyclable?
Unfortunately, not at all. Unlike other thin plastic items like grocery bags and bubble wrap, cling wrap is not recyclable in any way. In order to keep it out of the landfills, you should just try to avoid it all together.
Read More: Because You Asked: Is Cling Wrap Recyclable?
7. How Can I Clean Recyclables Without Wasting Water?
You want to recycle right, but you ALSO want to conserve water, so which one wins out? It turns out there are certain #lifehacks to get your recyclables clean and dry enough without wasting too much water. Bottles containing liquids can be emptied and air-dried on their own. For those harder-to-clean recyclables, using lightly-used water (“gray water”) or fitting them into your dishwasher load should do the trick, and won’t use any extra water.
Read More: Because You Asked: How Can I Clean Recyclables Without Wasting Water?
8. Can I Recycle Styrofoam?
Yes, but not in your bin. Though foamed polystyrene (also known by the brand name Styrofoam) is technically plastic and usually marked as #6 within a triangle or recycling symbol, most curbside programs do not accept it in the bin. There are still other options for any foamed polystyrene that makes it your way, like taking it to a specialty recycling facility, or reusing it, especially if it’s in the form of packing peanuts.
Read More: Because You Asked: Can I Recycle Styrofoam?
9. What Is There To Do With Leftover Paint?
Depends on what type of paint it is. If it’s latex, there’s a chance it can be thrown away with your regular trash, once it’s completely dried out. If it’s an oil-based paint, it’s technically household hazardous waste (HHW), and can be disposed of with other hazardous items during community drop-off HHW events. However, if you’re lucky, you might live near a PaintCare drop-off location, where you can recycle both types of paint!
Read More: Because You Asked: What To Do With Leftover Paint?
10. Can I Recycle Dryer Sheets?
In short, no. Many dryer sheets are made with thin polyester, and covered in fabric softening and fragrance chemicals. Even if you choose a slightly more sustainable option, like ones made from unbleached paper, the essential oils used for fragrance would contaminate other papers you’d be recycling them with. All this being said, you can always reuse dryer sheets to help clean or deodorize around the house.
Read More: Because You Asked: Can I Recycle Dryer Sheets?