Recycling Do’s and Don’ts: Things You Should and Shouldn’t Put in the Recycling Bin

We are firm believers that anyone who is recycling is doing so for the right reasons, but without realizing it, many of us could be putting things in the recycling bin that don’t belong there, contaminating the entire batch. We’ve put together this handy guide of do’s and don’ts when it comes to what you should – and shouldn’t – put in your recycling bin.

Keep in mind: Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all rule regarding recycling center capabilities. We definitely recommend contacting your nearest recycling center or government office to find out the specifics of your locality’s recycling program. What is recyclable in one city may not be in another.


  • Put plastic bottles and containers in your bin – only after you’ve rinsed them. Talk to your local recycling center to see if they require you to keep plastic lids on bottles or remove them before recycling.
  • Recycle empty tin, aluminum, and steel cans after they’ve been washed out. Empty aerosol cans can typically also be recycled; just make sure the plastic lid has been removed first.
  • Recycle paper, newspapers, and magazines as long as they aren’t wet. If they are damp, those papers can go into your compost bin.
  • Recycle shampoo, soap, and laundry detergent bottles, as long as they’re washed out prior to going into the bin.
  • Recycle junk mail and phone books. Most of us can probably agree we receive way too much junk mail, but at least we can find a bit of comfort in knowing it can potentially be recycled.


  • Put greasy pizza boxes in your bin. The issue isn’t the cardboard itself; it’s the grease spots on the cardboard. Unfortunately, the paper fibers can’t be separated from the oils in the recycling process.
  • Recycle old Pyrex dishes. Glass baking dishes are specially treated to withstand high temperatures in the oven, so they won’t melt during the recycling process.
  • Recycle ceramics that have been chipped or broken. You can opt to donate these to thrift stores if the chips are small; otherwise, ceramics should be disposed of safely.
  • Put old hangers in your bin, whether they’re plastic or wire. If you are looking to get rid of them, the best thing you can do is donate them to a local thrift store.
  • Recycle broken mirrors. The glass used in mirrors is specially treated and doesn’t break down like other glass. As for the seven years of bad luck? You’re on your own there! We’re not claiming any of that negative energy.
  • Dispose of light bulbs, fluorescent tubes, computers, needles, hazardous waste, paint, and yard waste in the recycling bin. These items require special handling. It’s worth a call to your local recycling center to see if they have special drop-off days for certain items.

Sources: Bob Vila, EcoScraps, Plastics for Change

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