Recycling correctly is the key to the entire process. With single-stream recycling, one mistake could cause an entire recycling bin to be sent to the landfill. While that may seem like an extreme measure, it’s a necessary safety precaution. Improper recycling can lead to contamination of the materials, damaging and clogging of the recycling equipment at sorting facilities and ultimately, higher bills on your end as recycling facilities have to increase their budget to offset the costs of recycling incorrectly.

Use the list below for some general rules and guidelines to make sure that you’re recycling correctly.

Important Recycling Rules to Follow

  • Do your homework. To really learn how to recycle properly, research the specific rules in your location.
  • Leave your labels on. They will naturally burn or melt off during the recycling process, so removing them will just waste your time.
  • Take out the plastic pump. While many soap pumps are plastic, they also contain a lot of pieces that are too small to recycle once separated.
  • Recycle most paper items. If the paper can be torn, it can be recycled. Just place any shredded paper in a labeled paper bag.
  • Know how to handle the lids. If the lids are the same material, leave them on. Take the lid off and toss them both in the bin it they’re different.
  • Take the tape completely off. Tape on boxes are not recyclable. Remove any tape before you recycle them.
  • Remember the sticky note rule. Small pieces can break the sorting machines at the facility. If it’s smaller than a sticky note, don’t recycle it.
  • Keep plastic bags out of the bin. They will clog the machinery. However, most grocery stores will accept and recycle them for you.
  • Recycle even what can’t go in your bin. While some items can’t be regularly recycled, they can be recycled through specialized programs.
  • Empty and rinse out drink and food containers. Remnants can leak onto other materials, making them unrecyclable.
  • Plastic numbers are outdated but still important. Plastic containers have a number inside the recycling symbol on them. 1 and 2 are accepted curbside but most recycling centers sort out your plastic and remove any that can’t be recycled. So, don’t be afraid to toss 3-7 in your recycling bin.