Six Things You Thought You Could Recycle, But Can’t

Last week I told you about several items that you can and should be recycling. This week, here’s a list of items you probably thought you could recycle (and likely have been), but actually shouldn’t be:

●      Pizza boxes: Yes, they are made of cardboard, but unfortunately the pizza in the box leaves oil that is absorbed by the cardboard. This oil can contaminate the batch of recyclables, such that one oily box can send a whole batch to the landfill. This also includes any kind of container that came into contact with greasy foods.

●      Plastic bottle caps: You may have heard this one before – the caps on plastic bottles are typically made out of plastic #5, which many household pickup recycling programs do not take. This includes caps on bottled beverages and things like detergent and peanut butter caps. Make sure you check with your program to see if they accept #5 plastics. If not, there are many places that will collect them.

●      Juice boxes: Most of this type of packaging is made from paper, but it is coated with plastic on the inside to make it able to hold liquid. But before you do throw these away, check to see if it is specially marked as recyclable, as some manufacturers have begun to produce recyclable containers.

●      Styrofoam: Even though this stuff is every where, it can’t be recycled normally. The reason is it is made from petroleum, and actually highly flammable! Try to avoid using Styrofoam when you can, but if you do acquire it (and in all likelihood, you will) do a little research to see if there is somewhere nearby that does collect and recycle it.

●      Aerosol cans: Many of these cans contain harmful chemicals, so even though they are made out of metal, they can’t be taken curbside. However, many hazardous material drop-off centers will take them to recycle safely.

●      Wet paper: If paper has ever been wet, it should not be recycled. The fibers become damaged once they are wet, and could become a contaminant.
On the subject of paper, it is okay to recycle envelopes with plastic windows, staples, and paper with adhesives (like sticky notes), as it is typically water-soluble.

It is unfortunate that not everything can be recycled. The best way to avoid questioning your recycling or risk contaminating the system is to avoid it when you can – especially those pesky plastics. And of course, make sure you check with your curbside recycling service to find out exactly what you can and cannot recycle.