The Beginner’s Guide to Recycling

Do you recycle or is it something you keep telling yourself you are going to start doing? Maybe you have been putting it off because you are not sure where to begin. When my sister first started recycling she called me with a long list of questions like: Where do I take my recycling? Do I have to have everything separated? What is and is not recyclable? I remember having all of the same questions when I first started recycling but thanks to the Internet these questions are easy to answer. It can seem overwhelming at first, but with a little bit of research it really is not that bad.

First things first, does your city offer curbside recycling or will you have to drop it off? If your city was kind enough to supply you with a recycling bin then you can put almost all of your recyclables in there. If you do not have curbside recycling then you can search for a recycling center close to you at All you have to do is type in your zip code and you will be directed to a list of recycling centers in your area. Some recycling centers do require items to be separated into groups. If that is the case, then these bags might be handy. Before curbside recycling was made available in my town I used them to keep my recyclables separated and since the bags have handles it made it easier to load them into my car when I was ready to take them for drop off. Also, since recycling does not go into a trash bag I figured a reusable recycling bag was a great option.

Now that you know where to recycle let’s talk about what CAN be recycled. The good news is almost everything can be recycled; the bad news is some items will have to be recycled separately from your curbside bin. Paper, plastic, and glass are among the easiest to recycle while electronics can be a little more difficult to find a proper recycling facility. If you do need to recycle any old phones, computers, tablets etc. check out this post to find the best recycling options for you.

In my curbside bin I am able to recycle papers, flattened cardboard, plastic bottles and jugs, aluminum and steel cans, food and beverage cartons, and glass jars. I keep this little guide on the lid of my trashcan to help remind my family and myself to stop and make sure the item is going in the correct bin before it gets tossed out.

A few do’s and don’ts to keep in mind when it comes to recycling:

  • Do rinse out all bottles, cans and jars before placing in the recycling bin.
  • Do replace lids on plastic bottles and jugs.
  • Do Not replace lids or corks on glass recyclables.
  • Do Not flatten aluminum cans before placing in the recycling bin.
  • Do Not put recycling in trash bags. Recycling should be left loose.

You should never place electronics, batteries, lightbulbs, medical waste, Styrofoam or plastic bags in your recycling bin. Electronics and batteries can be recycled but will need to be done through a recycling group that works with those products specifically. Medical waste, such as needles and syringes, should be disposed of in a Sharps container and mailed in for proper disposal. If you need more information on how to properly dispose of medical waste I found this guide to be very helpful. Plastic bags can not be recycled through your curbside recycling but a lot of stores, like Target and many grocery stores, have plastic bag recycling bins. I always hold on to my plastic bags so that I can take them back to the store with me to drop off for recycling. You may notice a recycling symbol on some Styrofoam but do not place it in your curbside recycling. Styrofoam is very difficult to recycle so it is probably best to try and avoid it if possible.

I think once you get started recycling you might be shocked to see how much stuff you were throwing in the garbage before. For me I noticed that my recycling bin was filling up much faster than my trash was. At first I thought that was awesome and I was really proud of myself, but then I started to realize that there were a lot of items in my recycling bin that I could have avoided using in the first place. Now when I shop I try to buy things that come in the least amount of packaging or items that are packaged in recycled materials. If your local grocery store has a bulk section you can bring your own reusable bags or jars to purchase grains, nuts, seeds, and other goodies. Farmers markets are usually good places to find products that don’t come in an over abundance of packaging, and it’s also a great way to support local small businesses.

Do you have any recycling tips I may have missed or more questions you would like me to answer? If so, leave a comment below.

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