18 Everyday Items That Aren’t as Recyclable as You Think

Navigating the world of recycling can be more complex than it seems, especially when it comes to understanding the nuances of different materials. Click to discover 18 surprising everyday items that are not as recyclable as you might have once thought—and why this is the case.

Plastic Bags

Photo Credit: ARIMAG/Shutterstock.

Plastic bags, such as those from grocery or convenience stores, are considered “soft” plastic and are problematic for typical recycling machinery. If you have piles of these bags at home and are wondering how to properly dispose of them, look for specific drop-off locations. Stores like Home Depot, Target, and Walmart sometimes offer bag recycling collection bins, according to Earth911.

Pizza Boxes

Photo Credit: Chachamp/Shutterstock.

While pizza boxes are made of corrugated cardboard, they’re often contaminated with grease by the time you’re done with them. Oil-soaked sections of the box are non-recyclable, but the top part is usually recyclable if you separate it from the greasy bottom.

Plastic Containers With Food Scraps

Photo Credit: Konektus Photo/Shutterstock.

Plastic containers are generally recyclable, but only if they’ve been cleaned. Residual food and liquid are considered major contaminants and should be removed before you dispose of your containers. So, be sure to wash dirty and greasy containers with soap and warm water until they’re clean.

Disposable Coffee Cups

Photo Credit: Manu Padilla/Shutterstock.

Unfortunately, disposable coffee cups are typically made of mixed materials and are hard to recycle due to their plastic linings. Some recycling systems, however, will accept them, so be sure to check local regulations. If the coffee cup can’t be recycled as a whole, then the cardboard sleeves and plastic lids can be separated and recycled.

Styrofoam (Polystyrene Foam)

Photo Credit: Shutterstock.

Many people believe that styrofoam products, such as egg cartons, fast food boxes, packaging peanuts, and coffee cups, are recyclable, but they’re not typically accepted in the average curbside recycling program. Instead, you should use specific drop-off locations or place it in a regular waste bin.

Batteries

Photo Credit: Shutterstock.

Alkaline batteries can go straight into the trash in most states except California, according to WikiHow. Rechargeable and lead-acid batteries must be recycled due to environmental risks but cannot be put in household recycling bins. These batteries need to be dropped off at a battery recycling facility or at local home improvement, tech, or auto parts stores.

Plastics #3 Through #7

Photo Credit: Matveev Aleksandr/Shutterstock.

Plastics three through seven—PVC, LDPE, PP, PS, and those in the ‘Other’ category—have a low demand for recycling and may not be accepted in many standard recycling programs. They often require specialized facilities, but you can check your local recycling regulations for acceptability.

Lids and Caps

Photo Credit: phBodrova/Shutterstock.

Though some lids and caps are now recyclable, many are made from polypropylene (plastic #5) which, as mentioned in the last section, is not typically recyclable in standard programs. This kind of plastic often requires special handling or disposal.

Compostable Plastic

Photo Credit: JpegPhotographer/Shutterstock.

Compostable plastic is often made from plant-based materials like corn or sugarcane, and while some people believe that this can be recycled, that’s not actually the case. As stated by the Environmental Protection Agency, “Compostable plastics are not intended for recycling and can contaminate and disrupt the recycling stream if intermixed with petroleum-based plastics that are non-compostable.”

Compostable Serving Ware

Photo Credit: Pla2na/Shutterstock.

According to Treehugger, “When a plate is labeled ‘compostable,’ it essentially means that it can break down in an industrial composting facility and biodegrade or compost.” Compostable utensils, cutlery, and serving ware, including bowls and plates, are not suitable for recycling bins and require processing at commercial composting facilities.

Paper Napkins, Plates, and More

Photo Credit: Shutterstock.

Unfortunately, paper napkins, plates, and the like cannot be recycled if they’re dirty, greasy, or soiled in any way—which is typically the case. As soon as these items become contaminated, they are non-recyclable. However, you could compost the soiled parts and recycle the clean parts if you’d like.

Liquid Cartons

Photo Credit: Carlos Martinez Subirats/Shutterstock.

Liquid cartons are typically made from multiple different materials and are difficult to process post-use. The recyclability of these cartons has improved but is still challenging as many recycling centers can only recycle the paper components—though this varies per community.

Wire Hangers

Photo Credit: Nattawit Khomsanit/Shutterstock.

Most recycling centers won’t accept wire hangers because they can jam up and cause damage to recycling equipment. Conserve Energy Future suggests that some scrap metal recyclers may accept them, but if not, you could try to repurpose them or donate them to a local dry cleaner instead.

Ceramics and Pottery

Photo Credit: Shutterstock.

If you thought you could recycle your old plates and pottery, you thought wrong. According to Zero Waste Washington, “Ceramic waste poses an environmental challenge for three reasons: recycling issues/hazards, energy consumption/emissions, [and] toxic chemicals and lead exposure.” You can always donate your items to charity or thrift stores instead.

Plastic Wraps

Photo Credit: goffkein.pro/Shutterstock.

Plastic wrappings, like the plastic bags we mentioned earlier, should be placed in the trash instead of in a recycling bin. This is because the plastic material can cause clogs in the recycling machinery. Even better, you can reuse plastic wrappings or avoid them in favor of sustainable alternatives.

Unused and Expired Medicines

Photo Credit: Melnikov Dmitriy/Shutterstock.

This might go without saying, but medicine—whether old or simply unused—cannot be recycled and can require special disposal. You can drop off unwanted medicines at designated drug take-back locations. CVS and other pharmacies often have safe disposal boxes as well.

Garden Hoses

Photo Credit: Shutterstock.

Some people believe that garden hoses can be recycled with ease, but this isn’t the case. A garden hose is not recyclable due to its material composition, so avoid discarding it in a regular recycle bin. Why not repurpose or donate it if it’s in usable condition?

Sewing Needles

Photo Credit: Shutterstock.

Perhaps you’ve just bought a new sewing kit and want to get rid of your old needles, or maybe you just have nowhere to store them. Either way, you may be surprised to know that sewing needles are not suitable for standard recycling. The needles pose safety hazards in recycling facilities. Consider donating them to sewing or craft groups instead!

READ MORE

Photo Credit: Koldunov/Shutterstock.

There’s no denying that Millennials have fallen for some pretty questionable gadgets, much to the amusement of the Boomer generation. In this post, we’re diving into 17 gadgets Millennials bought into that made boomers laugh.

THE BOOMERS CALLED IT: 19 STUPID TRENDS THAT BACKFIRED

22 THINGS THAT SCREAM ‘I’M EX-MILITARY”

Photo Credit: Ollyy/Shutterstock.

Military training often engrains some odd habits that stay with members for life. An internet survey recently asked, “What screams “I’m ex-military?” Here are the top 22 responses.

22 THINGS THAT SCREAM ‘I’M EX-MILITARY”

21 OBSOLETE COMPANIES THAT PEOPLE ARE SURPRISED STILL EXIST

Photo Credit: Roman Samborskyi/Shutterstock.

Companies come and go, but some manage to stay open longer than expected. A recent internet survey asked, “What obsolete companies are you surprised are still holding on in the modern world?” Here are the top 21 answers.

21 OBSOLETE COMPANIES THAT PEOPLE ARE SURPRISED STILL EXIST

20 HAIRCUTS THAT WOMEN OVER 60 SHOULD NEVER GET

Photo Credit: Luis Molinero/Shutterstock.

As we journey through different stages of life, our hair transforms as well. What looked fabulous in our 20s and 30s might not be the most flattering option now. And let’s face it, nobody wants to look like they’re stuck in a time warp! So, as a tribute to the age of wisdom and elegance, let’s explore 20 haircuts that women over 60 should never get. It’s all about embracing the changes and looking your absolute best!

20 HAIRCUTS THAT WOMEN OVER 60 SHOULD NEVER GET

20 THINGS THAT WEREN’T CONSIDERED LUXURIES 20–30 YEARS AGO (BUT ARE NOW)

Photo Credit: Ollyy/Shutterstock.

Times change, and some of us are old enough to remember how much. Some things that were seen as affordable or reasonable a few decades ago are now luxury items kept as a rare treat, only exist in certain instances (or not at all), or are reserved for the wealthy. One internet user recently inquired, “What was normal 20–30 years ago but is considered a luxury now?” Here are the top 20 replies:

20 THINGS THAT WEREN’T CONSIDERED LUXURIES 20–30 YEARS AGO (BUT ARE NOW)