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Recycling Decoded

Does your community have a recycling program? Are you doing your part to lessen the load on our landfills? Do you understand what materials are recyclable and which ones are not? The following charts help explain what the different types of recyclable materials are. To learn about your community’s recycle program, type in the search terms: Recycle and (your city and state) in your favorite search engine since these programs vary from state to state and city to city. 

                                                                                                      The Universal Recycling Symbol was designed by 23-year-old college student,                                                                                                       Gary Anderson in 1970. The symbol is in public domain— anyone can                                                                                                                   download it, use it, or modify it royalty free. 


                                                                                                      The symbol is universally recognized as a symbol letting people know a                                                                                                                 container is recyclable. It is usually located on the bottom of the plastic                                                                                                                 bottles, jugs, jars or containers.

The 3 main things to remember about recycling:


  1. Recycle CLEAN bottles, cans, paper, and cardboard

  2. Keep food and liquid out of your recycling

  3. No loose plastic bags, film plastic (like plastic wrap), and no bagged recyclables

If you wonder if something is recyclable or not, the following chart lists and explain the categories for plastic. Green means this number is usually allowed in curbside recyclable pickup. Pink or red means this number usually isn't accepted in curbside pickup, but check your community's recycling instructions on their website. 

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I used information from the article, Exactly What Every Plastic Recycling Symbol Actually Means by Brian Clark Howard and Amina Lake Abdelrahman to put it in an easier-to-read chart.

If you’d like to download this chart to print out:

Our community’s recycling page said that all plastic food, beverage, and household product bottles and jugs with #1, #2, #3, #4, #5, #6, and #7 can be recycled. But then it said, “No film plastic (which is #4) or Styrofoam (#6), and #7 is rarely recycled, so nix #4, #6, and #7 on the list. Your community recycling guidelines may say otherwise. The following website differentiates between the recyclable (but not through curbside pickup) and non recyclable types of plastic film: .

Recycling Other Materials



Rechargeable cannot be disposed of in curbside recycling. Rechargeable batteries must be deposited at battery collection sites like Home Depot, Target, Walmart, and Sears, among others. Auto supply stores like O’Reilly, Interstate Battery, AutoZone (in Texas), Home Depot, usually take old vehicle batteries, too.


According to Home Depot (Link), alkaline batteries are usually non-hazardous and can be tossed into a regular trash can, except in California. They advise collecting used batteries in a container that won’t cause a spark (cardboard or plastic). Be sure to tape 9-volt battery terminals with masking, duct or electrical tape before tossing to avoid causing a fire. Learn about 9-volt battery safety HERE.


Call2 Recycle is the country’s leading consumer battery recycling program. You can find the nearest location that accepts different kinds of batteries for recycling.


Cardboard packaging is designed to be recycled, and can be recycled 5 to 7 times. This includes toilet and paper towel empties. Prepare the cardboard for recycling by:

  • Removing any packaging like packing peanuts or Styrofoam™ before recycling box.

  • Removing any plastic film over the cardboard.

  • Flattening any oversized pieces, cutting or tearing it up to make it fit loosely in the recycle container. 

  • Making sure the cardboard is dry before recycling it.

  • Keeping the cardboard clean. Do not recycle cardboard with grease or food stains on it.


Paper recyclables include newspaper, magazines, catalogs, office paper, school paper, paper food boxes, shoe boxes, paperback books, and junk mail. Make sure the paper is dry before recycling. Flatten boxes. 


Glass food and beverage containers (CLEAN & empty); remove any lids before recycling; throw away small lids


Aluminum, tin, and steel cans (CLEAN & empty)- remove any lids before recycling; throw away small lids


Waste Management’s website has pictures accompanying what is acceptable or not for recycling. I’m very visual, so this helps: 




E-Waste is not accepted in curbside recycling programs. The following businesses will recycle residential electronics, or E-waste, which is the fastest growing municipal waste stream in the U.S., according to the EPA.


         Best Buy                 Home Depot.                  Lowe's                  Target                   Goodwill

These phone manufacturers will provide credit toward a new phone if you trade in your old phone: Samsung, Apple, Google, and LG. Amazon also offers trade-in deals. Most mobile carriers also offer trade-in values when buying a new phone from them: AT&T, Sprint, Verizon, T-Mobile, and US Cellular.

Why Recycle?


  1. Saves energy

  2. Reduces landfills

  3. Reduces the use of toxic chemicals

  4. Is good for the economy

  5. Helps our climate problems and helps reduce global warming

  6. Creates jobs

  7. Reduces water pollution

  8. Saves you money

  9. Conserves natural materials

  10. Preserves the future


Sorry, Earth!

Let’s leave a better world for our children and descendants. Currently, we aren’t doing a very good job. 


China Doesn't Take Our Plastic Waste Anymore

China used to import 70% of U.S. plastic recyclables, processing it into raw materials they turned around and sold for profit. Chinese shipping containers arrived with goods, and the empty bins were filled with waste on the return trip. That amounted to 700,000 tons of waste leaving the U.S. But in 2018, the Chinese government banned almost all trash imports in an effort to halt the soiled and contaminated materials overwhelming Chinese processing facilities and giving them another environmental problem to deal with. This plastic waste is showing up in other countries, which aren’t in the best positions to recycle it or dispose of it safely. Some governments are refusing to let America’s trash enter their countries.


Much of the contamination occurred when recycling programs changed from having consumers separate paper, plastics, cans, and bottles to putting them altogether in a single recycle bin. Contamination from food and unrecyclable plastic packaging causes large amounts of materials to be unusable. 


A lot of the plastic that used to go to China is being stockpiled in the U.S. while trying to find new markets. But other communities have slowed recycling collecting or even stopped the programs completely, which means more plastic and paper are going to landfills or are being burned, adding to air pollution. But it’s hard to start recycling again once it’s stopped. 


What Can We Do?

    • Reduce your use of single-use plastics, such as disposable water and soft drink bottles by using refillable water bottles or containers (including a reusable straw)

    • Bring your own reusable bags to stores; there are also reusable produce bags, too

    • Shop more ‘whole foods’, which are foods not wrapped in plastic or other packaging, when possible

    • Use bars of shampoo and conditioners, which have eliminated the use of bottles

    • Switch from disposable razors to safety razors and bar shaving cream 

    • Bamboo toothbrushes are compostable, versus plastic toothbrushes that live forever in landfills




Let’s all do our part!



Exactly What Every Plastic Recycling Symbol Actually Means


Gary Anderson Has Been Found!


Should You Recycle That Cardboard Box?

The Universal Recycling Symbol for You to Download

Why and How to Recycle Your Old Mobile Phone

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