How To Recycle Waste At Home The Right Way 

If you are in the process of going green and creating an environmentally friendly home, then you are probably already recycling. 

Recycling helps convert old products into new useful products. It is good for the environment since it sends less trash to landfills. And it helps reduce air and water pollution. 

In your journey to go green, recycling is one of the steps to be more eco-friendly. 

For more steps and tips, check out the free eBook of over 100 going green tips

Read on to learn about recycling and ways to recycle. 

What Is Recycling?

Recycling is the process of turning old used materials into new ones. It is an alternative to “conventional” waste disposal that can save material and help lower greenhouse gas emissions. 

Recycling can prevent the waste of potentially useful materials and reduce the consumption of fresh raw materials, thereby reducing energy usage, air pollution (from incineration), and water pollution (from landfills).

Recycling helps reduce the exploitation of natural resources, saves money, and reduces pollution and waste.

It is more than just separating plastic bottles and aluminum cans out of the trash. It is a process that includes collecting recyclable materials, processing them into raw materials and then manufacturing the raw materials into new products. 

Recycling Benefits

  • Reduces the amount of waste sent to landfills
  • Conserves natural resources such as timber, water, and minerals
  • Prevents pollution by reducing the need to collect new raw materials
  • Saves energy and money
  • Conserves valuable resources and cuts down on carbon emissions
  • Reduces greenhouse gas emissions
  • Stimulates the use of greener technologies
  • Prevents the loss of biodiversity

Disadvantages of Recycling

Ok, so now you know the benefits of recycling, but what about disadvantages? 

Yes, recycling is important and it is one of the Rs of an eco-friendly life. Refuse, reduce, reuse, recycle, and rot. 

It is further down the chain because there are some repercussions of recycling. One is that it takes energy and creates pollution to recycle. 

Recycling requires waste to be transported, sorted, cleaned and processed in separate factories, all of which need energy and may result in by-products that can pollute the air, water or soil.

Also, recycling can have an adverse effect on health and the environment when not done properly. Debris and toxic waste that is improperly handled can contaminate land, air, and the environment.

Recycling does help reduce energy usage, consumption of raw materials, and air and water pollution, but it does have its drawbacks. This is why it’s important to focus on living more simply and refusing to buy new things you don’t need, reducing what you do use, reusing before getting new, and then recycling. 

Recycling Facts

Here are some recycling facts I found at Recycle Across America. Let these sink in a bit:

  • The U.S. recycles less than 22% of its discarded materials
  • Despite only representing 5% of the world population, the U.S. generates more waste than any other country in the world.
  • In less than 15 years, worldwide waste is expected to double.
  • Recycling prevents waste from going into oceans – it is proven, when there is a strong recycling culture, there is less litter and less waste going into the ocean.
  • Significantly reduces the use of fossil fuel energy and reduces CO2 emissions
  • Americans throw away 2.5 million plastic bottles every hour.
  • Recycling one ton of plastic bottles saves the equivalent energy usage of a two-person household for one year.
  • It requires 95% less energy and water to recycle a can than it does to create a can from virgin materials
  • Making paper from recycled paper reduces the related contribution to air pollution 95%.
  • Glass can be recycled and re-manufactured an infinite amount of times and never wear out.
  • Making glass from recycled material cuts related water pollution by 50%.
  • Recycling is in a crisis in the U.S. due to public confusion about recycling. 
  • Manufacturers truly want these materials back to reuse in their manufacturing, but they aren’t able to reuse the materials if people don’t recycle right.

Recycle Symbols

recycle symbols for how to recycle

#1 PETE- Polyethylene Terephthalate: This is the easiest of the plastics to recycle. You will find this symbol on soda bottles, water bottles, and common food packages. PETE plastic is recycled into bottles and polyester fibers. 

#2 HDPE- High-density Polyethylene: This plastic is also easily recyclable. It mostly found on detergents, bleach, milk containers, hair care products, and motor oil. It is recycled into more bottles and bags. 

#3 PVC- Polyvinyl Chloride: This type of plastic is found in lots of products. Pipes, toys, furniture, and packaging. It is more difficult to recycle and PVC is a major threat to the environment and has been found to be toxic. 

#4 LDPE- Low-density Polyethylene: This plastic is used for many different kinds of wrapping, grocery bags, and sandwich bags. It can be recycled into more of the same products. 

#5 PP- Polypropylene: Found in clothing, bottles, tubs, and ropes. It can be recycled into fibers. 

#6 PS- Polystyrene: Found in cups, foam food trays, and packing peanuts. It is also known as styrofoam and is a real problem as it’s bulky but lightweight and difficult to recycle. It can be reused. 

#7 Other: This will be found on items that are a mixture of any and all of the above plastics. Also, it will be marked on items that are more difficult to recycle. Avoid it if you can and always check to see if it can be recycled. 

For anything that you are recycling, check the item to see what number is printed on it to be sure if it can be recycled. Check with your local recycling center to see what types of plastic can be recycled in your area. 

You can download a cheat sheet at Green Living Tips

Recycling Tips

Know what you can and can’t recycle: Read the recycling rules for your area and make sure you don’t send anything that can’t be processed. Each city has its own specifics, so try to follow those guidelines as best you can.

Buy Recycled Items: For recycling to truly be effective, it needs to be cyclical with a movement of materials through the system. Buy recycled, recycle that item, and continue the cycle of eliminating waste and the need to extract more virgin materials. Supporting recycling means feeding this loop by not only recycling but also supporting recycled products. 

Recycle Your Water: Consider collecting rainwater or greywater from your shower and tub to flush your toilet. If you have a garden, water it with leftover bathwater or dishwashing water (as long as you use a biodegradable soap).

I have written more about ways to recycle. I’ve included seven useful tips.  

How To Recycle Properly

Here is a guide to what can and can’t be recycled and how to do it properly. Always look for the recycle symbols on plastics to know if it can be recycled. For anything you are unsure about, check with your local recycling center. 

Also, check out TerraCycle. They recycle many products that would head to the landfill. 

Aluminum

Mostly found in aluminum cans used for drinks. It is easily recyclable and with little loss of quality. Before putting in your recycle bin, be sure to rinse out. You don’t need to crush them. 

Use aluminum foil over and over again until it starts to tear and fall apart. Rinse off food scraps and once it’s dry, ball the aluminum into a ball until it’s at least 2 inches in diameter so it doesn’t get lost and end up in the landfill. 

Bottle caps 

Caps on glass bottles of beer or soda are typically made of steel or aluminum. You can test with a magnet to figure out what material the cap is made with. The steel ones will be magnetic. Separate the steel caps from the aluminum caps into separate cans. To ensure they don’t get lost keep in the cans until almost full and place lids on and crimp closed so the caps don’t get out. Then put it in the recycle bin. 

Brown Paper 

Brown paper is recyclable but is also compostable and can be used as mulch in the garden. Just be sure there isn’t wax on one side. 

Cardboard Boxes 

They are recyclable. You don’t need to remove the tape but do make sure to break the boxes down. 

You can use cardboard boxes for sheet mulching in your garden if they are regular brown boxes with no wax on them. 

Cereal Boxes 

They are recyclable in your curbside bin. 

Coffee Pods

Most are not recyclable through curbside pickup. They may be convenient but aren’t great for the planet. 

Cup Lids 

Cup lids are typically made with plastic #6 and can’t be recycled in your curbside bin.

Envelopes 

Paper envelopes can be recycled once you remove the plastic window (if it has one). 

Glass Bottles 

It is recyclable and it doesn’t lose quality no matter how many times it’s been recycled. 

Glass kitchenware

Most glass cookware and dishware are too thick for recycling plants to handle. Donate anything in decent shape to a local second-hand store. 

Magazines 

They can be recycled. Consider donating to libraries, charities, and shelters first. 

Metal Lids From Glass Bottles 

Metal lids from sauces and larger glass jars and bottles can be recycled and are big enough to be placed straight in the recycle bin. 

Milk and Juice Cartons

Most of these cartons are made with paperboard and lined with polyethylene. Check with your local recycling center if they take these as it varies across the country. 

Mirrors

Because the glass has been treated they can not be recycled. Old mirrors should be donated to a second-hand store. Broken ones will have to be put in your regular trash. 

Newspaper 

Newspaper is recyclable and compostable. It too can be used as sheet mulching in the garden. 

Packing Materials

They are not easily recyclable. Take foam peanuts and other packing materials to a local shipping store or small business that can reuse them for shipping. 

Paper Cups 

Coffee cups are lined with plastic and aren’t compostable and aren’t recyclable in most locations. Check with your local recycling center. The cardboard sleeves are recyclable though. 

Paper Napkins and Towels 

The fibers are too small to be recycled but they can be composted. 

Parchment Paper 

Any paper that is stained with cooking oils is not recyclable. It can be composted. 

Pasta Boxes 

They can be recycled. Just be sure to remove the plastic windows before putting them in the bin. 

Photographs 

They are not recyclable. 

Pizza Boxes 

You can not recycle any paper that has been soiled with food, liquids, or grease. So you can remove the top and sides if they are clean to be recycled. The greasy bottoms can be composted. 

Plastic 

Make sure you rinse out all plastic before putting it in the bin so it doesn’t get paper dirty. Check the items for the plastic symbol to know how it can be recycled. 

  • #1- Excepted in most recycle bins. The softest of the plastics
  • #2- It is excepted in most recycle bins. 
  • #3- Not normally excepted in most curbside recycling. 
  • #4- Not accepted in curbside recycling. It can be taken to store where they collect plastic grocery bags and other #4 plastics. 
  • #5- Is accepted in curbside recycling. 
  • #6- It’s not recyclable in most curbside programs. 
  • #7- Often not recyclable. 

Printer Paper 

It is recyclable in your curbside bin. 

Produce Bags 

They can’t be recycled in your curbside bin but can be recycled with other #4 plastics where they collect grocery bags at the front of the grocery store. 

Receipts 

They can not be recycled and can actually contaminate paper goods meant to be recycled because they are coated with BPA. 

Shredded Paper 

Once the paper has been shredded, it’s too small for most recyclers to handle. Check with your local recycling center on how to package it for pickup or ask if there is a local drop off location that will accept it. 

They can be used as compost and in worm bins to create compost. 

Steel Cans 

Steel cans are recyclable in your curbside bin. Canned foods need to be cleaned but the paper can be left on. 

Water Filters 

They can not be recycled but check with the filter manufacturer for a take-back program. 

Wax Paper 

Wax paper can’t be recycled in your curbside bin. Petroleum coated wax paper can not be composted but wax paper coated with vegetable wax can be composted. 

Conclusion To Eliminating Waste By Recycling The Right Way 

Recycling is one of the steps to living a green and eco-friendly life. It has many benefits but is not perfect. 

The goal is to lessen your dependence on plastics and disposables and opt for reusable items. When you do have waste, always check to see if it can be recycled. 

Do your part to keep waste out of the landfills and instead cycled back into production to keep raw materials from needing to be used. 

Bookmark this post and access it whenever you have a question about how to recycle.  

Reuse, Upcycle and Recycle Waste 

What questions do you have about recycling? Anything you’ve been recycling that you learned that you can’t be? Share in the comments. 

How To Recycle