Chances are you are already recycling, but have you ever wondered whether you are doing everything you can or if you’re even recycling correctly? Most people know the basics, but do you know where to put a broken mirror? Have you ever wondered if you can recycle a dirty pizza box?

Let’s review some facts and go over some common mistakes people make when it comes to recycling.

What I can and cannot recycle

Plastic

Plastic is probably the first thing that comes to mind when someone says recycling. We would like to think that most people are already recycling it, but are you doing it correctly?

Plastic bottles, jars and cups are obvious items to add to the recycling bin. But before doing so, those should be reasonably clean (no you don’t have to thoroughly wash every yogurt cup) and not contain any liquids.

In some countries, plastic foils and bags can be added to recycling bins. Other countries may have a special recycling program for those — same goes for styrofoam. (In the U.S., these items are commonly collected at grocery stores for proper recycling. Do not add them to your recycling bin for collection from your home.)

Although most plastics can be recycled, there are some you should never put in a recycle container. These items include plastic pipes, mattresses, plastic flooring, and chemicals containers.

To minimize confusion even more, be conscious about products you purchase. Shop for products that do not use plastics. Learn more about Steps To Plastic Free Shopping at /plastic-free-shopping/

Paper

Paper is another very commonly recycled material. In this category, you can recycle any clean and dry paper, including newspaper, magazines, cardboard and paper packaging.

What does not belong in recyling are tissues, paper towels, diapers, and any paper that is dirty, is greasy or has food on it. This includes pizza boxes.

Also, there is not much use in recycling egg containers and toilet paper rolls. These items are created using recycled paper and paper can only be recycled seven times. In the case of egg containers and toilet paper rolls, the chances are, that they can’t be recycled anymore.

Glass

Bottles, jars, and glass containers are an obvious choice when it comes to recycling. But what you do with a broken mirror, besides crying about your future bad luck? A mirror is for sure partly glass, but there is also the metal plating that makes it problematic to melt. So a mirror actually belongs in the mixed waste, along with other metal-plated glass objects.

Metal

The metal recycling bin is where your cans, tins, metal lids, and foils should end up. This is also where you throw metal cosmetics packaging. However, no gasoline containers or chemical containers should be recycled. Common mistakes are also wires and electronics, which often require special recycling based on the community.

Cartons

Milk, juice and other cartons are not paper or plastic, as some might think. They are a special type of material that can be recycled separately. The ground rule with recycling cartons is that they should be empty and flattened.

Hazardous waste

This special category contains waste that has some dangerous properties. It could be flammable, explosive, ecotoxic, corrosive, etc. Items in this category commonly found at home are batteries, neon lights, some chemicals, as well as medicine and drugs.

This waste should always be handled with care and is usually collected at special locations. For example, you can return unused or expired drugs to the pharmacy, or there might be a used battery bin at your local mall. However, you should always find how the particular hazardous waste is handled in your area. Never put those in mixed waste.

Clothes

Last but not least, there is textile waste. Probably the best way to recycle clothes is to give them to someone else. Clothes are a great gift to a friend or a stranger on the internet. Arguably, the second best way to get rid of clothing is to donate them to a local charity or a second-hand store. From there they might be resold or given to those in need.

These are some of the most common recyclables. Have you been recycling correctly? Even though some materials are better for recycling than others, don’t forget that the best waste is the one that is never made.

Find out more tips for a sustainable life!

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