Here’s What Not To Recycle

what not to recycle

We’ve been told to reduce, reuse and recycle. But do you really know what goes in the blue bin? There are lots of common misconceptions about what’s recyclable and what’s not. Unfortunately, we may end up doing more harm than good by attempting to recycle certain unrecyclable materials. To help clear things up, we’ve created a list of what not to recycle. This list is just a starting point, though. Remember, recycling rules vary by city, so it’s best to check with your local public works website for accurate advice tailored to your location.

what not to recycle

What Not To Recycle

Pizza Boxes

While clean cardboard items like shipping boxes or cereal boxes can be recycled, cardboard that’s been contaminated with grease or food cannot be recycled.

Contaminated Food Items

In addition to pizza boxes, any items that have food residue on them should not be recycled. Even a small amount of food debris can contaminate recyclables. However, if you can clean residue off beforehand, feel free to recycle things like food jars or cans.


Styrofoam is not biodegradable material. Things like packing peanuts, styrofoam coffee cups and egg cartons don’t belong in the recycling bin.

Wrapping Paper

Most wrapping paper cannot be recycled. Opt for newspaper or wrapping paper made from recycled materials for more sustainable options.

Plastic Shopping Bags 

Unfortunately, plastic shopping bags cannot be recycled. They can clog machinery and slow down production times while workers must remove them by hand.

Bottle Caps

Plastic bottles are fair game, but the bottle caps are not. They’re made from a type of plastic that is unable to be recycled, so you’ll have to toss them instead.

Broken Glass

If you put broken glass in a recycling bin, it could cause harm to workers. Instead, check and see if your local recycling facility accepts broken glass.

Construction Paper

We love to get crafty, but any leftover construction paper is not recyclable because it contains dyes. Try to use any scrap papers for additional craft projects.

Scrap Metal

Pieces of scrap metal can damage recycling sorting equipment, so keep them out of your blue bin.


Don’t recycle old clothes. Donate them or sell them online with a service like Poshmark or eBay.

Another important note: Don’t bag your recycling up, because it’ll look like trash at the recycling facility. instead, keep everything separate. A safe rule to follow is “when in doubt, throw it out!” This will help cut down on the amount of non-recyclable materials that end up slowing down facilities and causing injuries.


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