We all know how important recycling is for our health and the planet’s, and we’re all trying to do our part. But in our efforts to take care of the earth, are we dropping items in the blue recycling bin that don’t really belong there? We’ve compiled a list of items you can’t recycle. It’s helpful to know what can and can’t be recycled so we make sure things go in the right bin, and so we can ask for better packaging decisions from retailers so we don’t take home too many items that cannot be effectively recycled.
1 – Heat Resistant Glass
We know, we know. You’ve always been told that glass is recyclable, so you’ve always placed it in the recycling bin, but heat resistant glass is a different story. Because of the chemical treatments that make heat resistant glass so helpful in the kitchen, it can cause problems in the recycling process. So if you no longer need your heat resistant glass items, consider donating or selling them if they’re still usable.
2 – Plastic Caps
Chances are, you’ve been doing your part and checking the stamps of your plastic items to see if they can be recycled. But what you may not know is that while your bottle may be a recyclable plastic, the cap likely isn’t. Unless it is otherwise marked, or your local waste disposal department tells you otherwise, your plastic caps shouldn’t go into the blue bin with your bottles.
3 – Plastic Straws
Well, unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, you’ve probably heard this one, but it bears repeating. Plastic straws actually are made of a recyclable plastic, but because of their size, shape, and food/drink contamination most recyclers won’t accept them so they effectively cannot be recycled. If you use plastic straws because bendy straws make it easier for you to drink, or because you have tooth pain, or other physical disabilities to navigate, there may be alternatives that could help. Reusable stainless steel straws with a permanent bend are available, and compostable paper straws are also becoming more widely available.
4 – Ceramics
This comes as a surprise to many people. Probably because they think of ceramics in the same category as glass. Your ceramic mugs, plates, bowls, and platters cannot actually be recycled. Luckily, if they’ve been well taken care of, these items don’t necessarily need to head to the nearest overflowing landfill because they are durable and can have very long and useful lifespans. You can donate these items to the local thrift store, or other charity, or you can sell them through a local sales app or at a garage sale. So rather than throwing them away, find your ceramics a new home.
5 – Pizza Boxes
Cardboard boxes are one of those items you always feel good about dropping in the recycling bin, but your pizza boxes are non-contenders. While some have plastic coatings or treatments that would make them undesirable to recyclers, the grease they absorb from your pizza and its toppings is the real culprit. The grease can be a big problem in the recycling process and it’s something recyclers want to avoid.
6 – Disposable Diapers
You probably already about know this one. Disposable diapers are full of all sorts of liquid and odor absorbent materials and treatments and, of course, human waste and all of those things combined make them a very difficult item to recycle. While a great deal of research and effort is being put into finding a recycling solution to the disposable diaper conundrum, unfortunately this is an item that currently has to go to a landfill.
7 – Mirrors
Although they’re glass, mirrors cannot be recycled by most recyclers because of the mirror coating on the glass. Whatever your mirror is made from, chances are your local recycler will not accept it. Mirrors that aren’t broken can be a great item to upcycle, however. Consider taking the glass out of and reframing it, or maybe paint the mirror frame to bring it more in line with your current tastes.
8 – Paper Towels
We know what you’re thinking. How can a paper item not be recycled? While technically the paper is recyclable, recyclers will not accept them because of the contamination of food, or whatever else you’ve used your paper towels to clean up. One way to mitigate your paper towel waste is to buy recycled paper towels, there are lots of them available. You can also compost most paper towels (depending on what you used them for) to make sure they aren’t taking up space in a landfill.