How to Recycle: The Ultimate Guide to Recycling

Knowing what things you can recycle is the first step toward integrating environmental responsibility into your daily routine.

This recycling guide will give you general information on what categories of materials can be recycled as well as the best ways to make recycling a habit in your daily routine. This guide addresses many of the common recycling facts and questions, including how to understand the various recycling symbols and their meanings to help you to find the answers you need quickly and easily.

In the following guide, learn how to recycle the following items:

  • Cardboard and paper products
  • Select plastics
  • Home electronics
  • Glass
  • Batteries

How to Recycle Cardboard and Paper

Is all paper recyclable?
Most paper and cardboard products can be recycled. Exceptions include shredded paper and cardboard or paper that has been coated with wax or plastic, such as paper coffee cups. These materials do not break down properly during the paper recycling process and should not be combined with other paper products.

How can I recycle paper at home?
Stacking newspapers, magazines, and other paper into bundles and delivering them to a recycling drop-off point is a quick and easy way to begin your recycling journey. Or, if you have a home recycling service make sure separate you’re the recyclable paper products out from the regular trash. Cardboard box recycling usually begins by breaking down boxes to create flat bundles. You can usually recycle cardboard boxes at any locations that accept regular paper.

Is it worthwhile to recycle cardboard and paper?
Yes! Cardboard recycling statistics indicate that as much as 25 percent of the energy needed to create these materials can be saved by using recycled cardboard. Still not convinced? Check out these other paper and cardboard recycling facts:

  • U.S. paper manufacturers currently use approximately 37 percent of recycled fibers to make new products for consumers.
  • Corrugated boxes are used to ship more than 90 percent of all products in the U.S.
  • Every time a consumer recycles three feet of newspaper by height, one tree less tree is harvested.

Recycling paper products is a simple and easy way to help conserve the environment for future generations.

How to Recycle Plastic

What are the benefits of recycling plastic?
Did you know? Most plastic products take between 500 to 1,000 years to biodegrade. Large amounts of plastic are found in the oceans, forming the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, and take up huge amounts of space in landfills. By recycling plastic, you are helping to reduce the adverse impacts of this largely used material.

What does the plastic recycling symbol mean?
Plastics that can be recycled are usually marked by their manufacturers with recycling symbols 1-7:

  1. PET: Polyethylene terephthalate
  2. HDPE: High-density polyethylene
  3. Vinyl
  4. LDPE: Low-density polyethylene
  5. PP: Polypropylene
  6. PS: Polystyrene
  7. Other: Mixed plastics

Each of these types of plastic must be recycled and processed separately. Additional plastic recycling facts are available online from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and other environmental organizations.

How can recycling plastic help the environment?
Plastic recycling facts:

  • Roughly 10% of all waste produced worldwide consists of plastic.
  • More than 2.5 million plastic water bottles are used once and discarded every hour in the U.S. alone.
  • Decking and play sets are some of the most common products made from recycled plastic bottles.
  • Detergent bottles are often recycled into plastics used for buckets and other containers.
  • Each year, 500 billion plastic bags are used worldwide.

Can plastic bags be recycled?
Most plastic bags and cling-wrap products are classified as either number 2 or 4 on the recycling symbol chart. Most stores provide boxes and containers designed specifically to facilitate recycling plastic bags. Recycling bags can prevent them from clogging landfills and ending up in the oceans, where they have dangerous consequences for wildlife and can pollute large bodies of water. To date, numerous municipalities in approximately 16 states have passed plastic bag bans. So, next time you go to the grocery store, pick up a reusable bag and always choose paper over plastic.

Is plastic recycling worth it?
Most experts agree that recycling plastic would be worthwhile even if the only benefit was in reducing the amount of waste that would otherwise be sent to landfills or end up in oceans or as litter. By reducing the amount of plastic products that end up in these areas, you can have a direct and positive impact on environmental conditions in your community and around the world.

How to Recycle Electronics

Many consumers simply do not know how to recycle electronics properly. As a result, many times they end up in landfills where they can present serious pollution risks. Understanding how to recycle old electronics can help clear out clutter in your home while ensuring the safest possible environment us now and for future generations.

What types of electronics can be recycled?
The following items are generally accepted by recycling centers that recycle electronics:

  • Cell phones – or go to a nearby ecoATM
  • Tablets
  • Monitors, computers, laptops
  • Small appliances

Where do I recycle electronics?
Computer recycling is the most common service available in most communities. The EPA website offers some information on how to recycle computers and electronics; however, your best resource for electronic recycling facts is usually your city or state agencies. These organizations often maintain lists of local companies and drop-off points. Remember to remove the batteries when recycling laptops as they need to be recycled separately.

Is it worth it to recycle electronics?
According to environmental experts, electronic waste constitutes just 2 percent of all trash in the U.S. but is about 70 percent of all toxic waste in landfills. Reducing the number of electronic devices that go to these large-scale waste collection facilities can have an immediate and positive effect on water quality in communities across America.

How to Recycle Glass

Most communities offer glass recycling centers that can accept all types of glass. Because glass can easily be melted down and reused, these facilities typically do not require sorting items before placing them in recycling bins. Recycling large panes of glass may present risks for recycling personnel so should be delivered directly to a facility rather than placed in collection bins.

How to Recycle Batteries

While rechargeable batteries are designed to be reused multiple times, single-use batteries can and absolutely should be recycled through mail-in services or at local facilities. Advances in technology have made it much more cost-effective and practical to recycle batteries, which will prevent them from causing chemical pollution in landfills. The EPA recommends searching Earth 911 to find battery recycling centers in your area.

Advantages of Recycling

Recycling paper, cardboard, glass, plastics, batteries and home electronics is a quick, relatively easy and immediate way to reduce the amount you’re contributing to landfills.

Creating and promoting the value of thinking green will instill the importance of taking care of our planet in younger members of your family. By incorporating recycling into your daily and weekly routine, you are making a difference in the world while helping to eliminate health risks and toxic environmental impact.