6 Things That Can Be Recycled, And 13 That Absolutely Can’t

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Been throwing your pizza boxes in the recycling? Well, they don’t belong there.

Recycling is an easy way to be less of a garbage human.

But sadly, most of us generally aren’t that great at it — even those ‘90s kids, who grew up having “reduce, reuse, recycle” drilled into their brains.

In fact, the EPA estimates that while 75% of the waste each of us produce every day is recyclable, only 25% of it actually makes its way to the proper facilities.

That margin of error is kind of criminal given that 94% of us have access to recycling services, 73% of which are curbside (as in, right outside our doors).

Plastic recycling is generally governed by numbers one to seven in that cute arrow triangle symbol you’re surely familiar with. But do you know what those numbers actually mean? If not, here’s a cheat sheet:

• Generally easily recycled curbside: 1, 2, 4

• Iffy whether recycled curbside, so call first: 5

• Not generally easily recycled curbside: 3, 6, 7

In an effort to gently move us all forward from literal trash people to recycling all-stars (group hug!), allow me to drop some maybe surprising knowledge on what’s recyclable and what’s not.

Here’s everything you should be recycling, and everything you shouldn’t be.

1. DO: Plastic bottles, jugs, and jars.

Ok, you’re recycling these already, right? (And also hopefully refusing and reusing these as much as possible!) If not, a good rule of thumb is that almost all plastic bottles, jugs, and jars (except for yogurt or pudding containers, which might need to be recycled elsewhere) are generally made from recycle-ready plastics. Just give them a good rinse and they’re good to go.

2. DO: Most of that junk mail you keep receiving.

And most other clean (i.e. no food residue) paper goods of the glossy, non-glossy, construction, and envelope varieties. And, while it’s still a good idea to remove the clear window panes from envelopes, these days most are actually made from cellulose, which can safely be recycled with paper. If you really want to do yourself a favor, stem the production of extra waste by removing your name from distribution lists. Here’s a good place to start.

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