Bamboozled: 7 Things That Can't Actually Go In Your Recycling Bin

October 17, 2022
Bamboozled: 7 Things That Can't Actually Go In Your Recycling Bin

Ah, recycling. It’s a great way to feel as if you’re doing your part to keep Mama Earth healthy, and when done correctly, it is. Most of us grew up being told we could recycle things such as paper, cardboard, plastic, metal, and glass. While this is somewhat true, the way many of the aforementioned products are manufactured prevents them from being made into shiny new things. 

Here are 7 common items you probably believed could be recycled but actually end up in the landfill. 

1. To-Go Coffee Cups and Food Containers

While it would seem intuitive that a paper coffee cup or to-go container belongs in the recycling bin, in order for your coffee or food to stay put inside and not leak out all over you, it has to be lined with a thin coating of plastic or wax. This compromises the recycling system which is not able to separate the inner coating from the cup. 

If making coffee at home isn’t your thing, invest in a reusable to-go mug. Your barista will gladly put your morning fuel (or midday pick-me-up) inside. And as for your to-go food, sometimes you just won’t be able to avoid how you take it home. Some restaurants, however, may be totally fine if you offer up your own reusable to-go container. Call ahead and ask, or only order what you know you’ll eat during your visit. 

2. Plastic Bottle Caps

Plastic bottles, such as water or soda bottles, detergent bottles, and other containers with a hard plastic twist-off cap, are usually fine to go into the recycling bin. Their caps, however, aren’t welcome. These types of caps are made from polypropylene (AKA plastic #5), and can’t be recycled. 

Just remove them beforehand. 

3. Plastic Grocery Bags

Sometimes we forget our reusable bags at home, and that’s fine. We’re human, after all. But if you get stuck with plastic grocery bags as a result, know that bundling them up and tossing them into the recycling bin is not an option. 

Just like those plastic demons get tangled up in our wildlife, causing irreparable harm, the same goes for the recycling equipment we all believed could turn them into new products. The bags get caught in the machinery and damage them. If you are dedicated to finding a way to recycle them, call your local grocery store and see if they’ll accept your old plastic bags for reuse. 

4. Pyrex Baking Dishes

While Pyrex ovenware is made of glass, it’s specifically designed to withstand high temperatures. After all, how else could you possibly toss them in the oven? Sadly this means it can’t go through the recycling process. If you have to get rid of it, you’ll have to dispose of it carefully in the trash. 

5. Paper straws

Much like to-go coffee cups and food containers, paper straws are often lined so they can deliver your beverage safely to your mouth and not spray out all over your face. But even if you found a paper straw that isn’t lined with something non-recyclable, most recycling facilities won’t accept food-contaminated paper products. 

Bummer, since so many cafes and restaurants, have switched to them in an effort to seem more eco-friendly. They simply aren’t the answer to our plastic straw crisis. Reusable straws are the best option, so invest and keep those things out of the landfill where they’ll inevitably wind up. 

6. Bathroom/Shower Products

Your lotion, shampoo, and conditioner bottles can technically all be recycled— but not if you haven’t bothered to rinse them out first. No one at the recycling plant is carefully rinsing these items out so they can go through the process. 

Along with removing their plastic tops before tossing them in the bin, rinse ‘em out!

7. Tissue Boxes With The Plastic Insert

Again, no one is removing this for you, and the machines aren’t magically equipped to do so either. Rip that plastic off, then toss that box in the bin! If you don’t, well, you’ve condemned what could be easily recycled to end its life at the landfill. 

Now that you know the hard facts, you can get smarter about how you use and recycle these products. Remember: it’s reduce first, reuse second, and recycle last. Whenever you can opt for reusable products, do it. Whenever you can reuse what can’t be recycled, do it. And whenever you can recycle something, knowing how to recycle it will keep it out of our landfills and wildlife. 

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