A List of Recyclable and non-recyclable things

The perpetual problem of deciding between the black and the blue! What things should be recycled and why?

Today when I finished cooking dinner, I found myself with a lot of empty containers. As I went to throw them away, I realized that some of them might be recyclable. But which ones? While some of the containers had the standard recycling symbol imprinted on them, others do not. To satisfy my curiosity (and to recycle as much as I can, which is good for the environment) I looked up some recycling dos and don’ts, compiled here for your convenience!

  • Paper Plates: DON’T. According to MIT, paper plates and other paper products that hold food contain too much oil residue to be recycled. Also, there can be higher risks for contamination if the plate is not dry (see here). However, other types of paper products that are not soiled by food waste are fair game.
  • Juice Cartons: DO. Apparently the paper product that the cartons are made of is valuable and useful for other future products. So your juice carton has a high probability of be reincarnated into something else (source here). And it’s not even required that you rinse them.
  • Plastic Bags: DO. While more types of plastic are becoming universally recyclable, it’s a good idea to check for the imprinted recycling symbol. However, not all plastic things are recyclable. For example, most recycling plants will not be able to recycle plastic children’s toys. And if plastic can be reused in your home, then it would better to reuse than to recycle, as it prevents the plastic from ever entering the natural environment.
  • Wax Paper or other waxed, paper products: DON’T. Surprisingly to me, the wax coating on paper can make it un-recyclable, says the recycling center for New York . I just assumed that all paper products were created equally, but this isn’t true. This problem persists even with wax coatings on plates or cups.

I hope this short list will help you remember what can and cannot be recycled! I know the next time that I cook I will be more attentive to what I put in the blue bin.