Keep These 5 Things Out of Your Recycling

If you add these items, you may be doing more harm than good.

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Reduce, reuse, recycle: You know the drill. But when you set that bin out on the curb each week, are you sure that everything you put in it is going to good use? If you recycle incorrectly, all your best-intentioned plastic bottles may end up in a landfill. Lori Bongiorno of Yahoo Green breaks down the five items that should never end up in a recycling bin:

  • Pizza boxes. The oil from pizza can contaminate cardboard boxes, making it impossible to process them into clean paper.
  • Napkins and paper towels. It's not the paper goods themselves that present a problem, but the fact that they're typically used to wipe up food, cleaning products, and other "hazardous waste."
  • Sticky notes. Their size, color, and the adhesive strip make them a better bet for the trash bin.
  • Plastic caps. Curbside programs won't recycle them, but Aveda collects them and turns them into packaging for new products.
  • Wet paper. Paper fibers that have been exposed to water are shorter and therefore less valuable to paper mills, making it unprofitable to collect and recycle.

The materials that recycling centers accept vary widely from region to region, so always check your recycling company’s website for details. There are some general guides, such as this one, that may help. Always check the number on the bottom of the plastic bottle or container before you throw it into a bin—companies are very specific about what they will and will not accept. And if you have some really unusual items that you’d like to recycle, check out How Can I Recycle This? The site offers recycling tips for anything from karate belts to television wires. And don’t forget that recycling can earn you some cash.