What Can Be Recycled? A Video Guide To Giving Garbage New Life

Celebrate Earth Day, every day, by cutting down on waste and learning exactly what you can recycle…

Recycling can sometimes feel like a battle of wills. While some are quick to throw anything and everything in the trash, others — like me — are the ones following in their wake, grumbling while we surreptitiously retrieve perfectly recyclable plastics and cardboards and coffee lids from the garbage to deposit in the proper blue bins. It’s frustrating, but also understandable that some aren’t so quick to reduce and reuse. I mean, the rules aren’t always so clear and, even if you’re a pro at recycling in your own city, the regulations can vary widely from state to state. But really, when it all boils down, there should be no excuse for not doing everything we can to help this planet of ours, and recycling is one of the easiest ways to make our world a healthier, happier, more sustainable place to live. In honor of Earth Day, we’ve put together short and sweet video that details some of what we can — and can’t — recycle, revitalize and compost. Give it a watch below, then scroll through for more details on how and what to recycle…

Composting: While not all cities and towns offer composting services, you’d be surprised at how many do — some will even pick up your compost at your house! — and if not, how easy it is to start composting on your own. Check your local listings and local farm cooperatives for composting services offered in your area. No city services listed? Consider starting your own compost bin or pairing up with a neighbor. While the ultimate goal should be to waste less food, composting is a way to give your scraps and leftovers new life. What can be composted? Think plant waste and trimmings, eggshells, leftover veggies and veggies past their prime. What can’t be composted? Almost anything animal-based (except for eggshells), so avoid tossing cheese, milk, yogurt, meat, or bones in your bin.


Cardboard & Paper: Rules for recycling cardboard and paper can vary widely from city to city — some don’t accept magazines, some do; some make you separate your paper from plastic, some don’t; some cities, like Philly, make you break down your cardboard and tightly bind it together in an intricate roadside pile. It’s best to read up on your city or town’s rules and regulations to be sure you’re in the clear. Most cities will let you recycle the clean parts of otherwise dirty cardboard or paper containers, so before you toss that coffee cup, remove the lid and sleeve, and be sure to tear the clean lid from your food container before tossing the soiled part in the trash. These small actions add up over time — think about it, if you purchase one coffee every day for a year, that’s at least 365 coffee lids and sleeves that won’t end up in landfills. Better yet, invest in a sturdy reusable travel cup and pack your lunch in a reusable glass container to cut back even more on unnecessary waste.


Plastic: Plastics are another category that might take some research. Plastics are often assigned a number, and depending on your location, your local recycling center may or may not accept all numbers. For the most part, all clean, hard plastics are recyclable. However, one thing that doesn’t fit in this category are plastic bags. Most recycling centers do not accept plastic bags, and they can actually “contaminate” your recycling if you secretly try to stash them in the bin, meaning everything gets thrown away. Plastic bags can usually be dropped off at grocery stores, but this is also where the whole “reduce, reuse…” thing comes into play. Instead of amassing a formidable collection of plastic shopping bags, commit to actually using all those totes in your closet. I’m just as guilty as the rest for constantly forgetting to bring my reusable shopping bags with me to the store, so I’ve stashed totes where I know I’ll need ’em: In my car, at my desk, I even have a few rolled up and stuck into purses. And when I inevitably do forget my tote, I opt to either just carry my purchases loose or have them packed into a paper bag, which is a little easier to recycle.

Metal & Glass: We’re lucky in Philly in that we don’t have to separate our recyclables, but this isn’t the case in all cities. While I’ll just toss my cans, glass and metal lids into the same bin as plastics and paper, some towns and cities require you to use different containers, so be sure to read up before combining it all. The same goes for glass containers.


Electric & Tech Waste: Don’t toss those batteries in the trash! Check your listings for special days when you can drop off household and hazardous waste at your local recycling center. Typically held once per month, these days are when you’ll want to drop off batteries, household chemicals and cleaners, old computers and cell phones, house paint, auto parts, and other hazardous materials that otherwise can’t be left curbside. And before you toss that old cell phone, camera, or computer, see if you can donate it! There are a variety of organizations that accept broken or otherwise unusable electronic trash and repurpose them for communities in need.

Landfill: No one wants to see their waste end up in a landfill… even typing the word feels wrong. Unfortunately that’s where the majority of our trash ends up. Even after making valiant strides in recycling, we’re still left with scraps and items that simply cannot be reused or recycled. This Earth Day offers the perfect opportunity to examine your habits and make some changes. Remember that one small change a day can make an enormous difference!

+ How are you celebrating Earth Day? Let us know in the comments!

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5 years ago

WONDERFUL and helpful! You can take batteries/electronic goods to Best Buy and drop them off….

5 years ago

As always a beautiful and important article . Congratulations!!!



5 years ago

This is so to the point I love it! Now, where in the hay do I take my all of my batteries and electrical waste :/ Thank you!! Sharing!

5 years ago

Awesome article and video!

I recently started a potted garden on my patio (small space garden woo) and made a watering can out of an old detergent bottle, painted it and made it so cute! One less thing in the Earth, as well as free! <3

4 years ago

Thank you for sharing! The best way to celebrate the Earth Day is to recycling entities. Companies should take care, however, to keep to the spirit of Earth Day with initiatives that encourage environmentally responsible behavior. This is the greatest way to participate.