I write frequently about recycling and thought it would be helpful to have a page devoted to recycling resources. It’s an important topic, particularly with significant changes taking place in the recycling industry that will impact our communities.
I’ll add to Recycling Resources as I come across new information, but let me know if I’ve missed anything!
Table of Contents
- Recycling 101: What is Recycling?
- How to Recycle – Curbside
- Recycling No-Nos
- How to Recycle Beyond Curbside
- Recycling Statistics and Metrics
- Specific Recycling Rules and Locators for Your Community
- Get Involved: Recycling Campaigns and Projects
- Recycling Issues: Challenges and Opportunities
- Recycling Resources: News, Publications, Books
Recycling 101: What is Recycling?
Green That Life’s post — Where Does Your Recycling Go? — outlines the recycling process from beginning to end. It’s worth a read to understand the process and inherent challenges.
How to Recycle – Curbside
Waste Management, the country’s largest residential garbage and recycling company devotes its page, Recycle Often Recycle Right, to explaining how to recycle. It provides downloadable materials to get you organized and ready to recycle right.
The EPA has a How to Recycle page with guides for how to recycle the most common recyclables.
National Public Radio’s Plastics Recycling site provides an excellent visual of what plastics you can and can’t recycle.
Common Items That Don’t Get Recycled
Avoid wish-cycling! Always check your local waste authority first for recycling, but these are the common items that can’t go in the recycling bin (Source: EPA):
- Garden hoses
- Sewing needles
- Bowling balls
- Food or food-soiled paper
- Propane tanks or cylinders
- Aerosol cans that aren’t empty
- Broken glass
- Broken light bulbs
Hazardous Waste Disposal
For more information on how to properly dispose of hazardous waste, visit the EPA’s page of U.S. State environmental agencies. This page provides links to all the state regulatory agencies that handle hazardous waste, including additional state-specific information.
How to Recycle Beyond Curbside
Personal Creations lists over 200 items that can be recycled beyond your curbside items and provides detailed information on how to recycle these items.
Locators for Specific Non-Curbside Recyclables
Clothing. See Green That Life’s post on clothes recycling.
Cork. ReCork will collect your unwanted cork at designated drop-off locations. The cork is recycled into a variety of products, including shoe soles and yoga accessories.
Electronics and E-Waste. See Green That Life’s post on e-waste.
Food waste. Start your own home composting setup to “recycle” food waste into nutrient-rich soil, or check your area for food waste recycling services. Check your town website to see if food scrap recycling is offered as a city service. For a list of private recycling services, see Litterless.com or FindaComposter.com.
Tires. Some states, including New York, are required by law to take back an equal number of tires of a similar size to the number of new tires you purchase. Alternatively, check first with your local recycling facility to see whether they accept tires.
“Non-Recyclables.” TerraCycle, a private company, will collect and recycle almost any form of waste. Just type the item you want to recycle into their search bar. A fee is sometimes applied for their service.
Recycling Statistics and Metrics
EPA’s Facts and Figures about Materials, Waste and Recycling. This page is packed with information and up-to-date stats. You’ll find the annual report a go-to source for all data related to recycling in this country. This is one of the essential recycling resources for detailed metrics.
Recycle Nation‘s Surprising Recycling Statistics page is worth taking a look at. It really is surprising to learn how much waste each of us generates.
Specific Recycling Rules and Locators for Your Community
Your Town or City Website
Always start with your local town or city’s website. The waste management page of your municipality’s website will have the most up-to-date information on what can and can’t be recycled. You can also check your state websites for recycling guidelines. New York State, for instance, provides funding for a Recycle Right guide that includes a searchable database of local recycling guidelines.
Earth911. Search by zip code for curbside information and other recycling locations. With over 350 materials and 100,000+ listings, Earth911 maintains one of North America’s most extensive recycling databases.
Simply dial 1-800-CLEANUP, or enter in the material you’re trying to recycle along with your zip code.
Get Involved: Recycling Campaigns and Projects
Campaign to Institute Standardized Labels
Recycle Across America is a non-profit organization that has created a standardized labeling system for recycling bins to make it easier for people to begin to recycle right, wherever they might be. The website includes:
- Labels for every recycling sorting situation and need.
- Recycling toolkit to create a successful recycling program in your community or school.
- Email template to contact your local officials.
The Recycling Partnership‘s anti-contamination kit is designed to provide steps, tools, and resources to help you improve the quality of your community’s recycling program.
Projects for Educators and Students
The EPA‘s Reduce, Reuse, Recycling Resources page for students and educators lists several educational activities and initiatives for students.
Campaigns for Companies
Sustainable Packaging Coalition offers several recycling resources for its members, including projects, tools, and educational courses.
Recycling Issues: Challenges and Opportunities
Green That Life addresses a number of recycling-related challenges and solutions:
Chemical Recycling. What it is and whether it’s an effective solution to plastic pollution.
Plastic Recycling. Is it effective or a red herring to our waste problem?
COVID and Recycling. It may look like business as usual, but the pandemic has exacted a toll on the recycling industry, and those recyclables you’re placing in the curbside bin could instead be headed for the landfill.
Recycling Resources: News, Publications, Books
Green That Life’s list of Waste Reduction books on GTL’s Best Environmental Books page is worth checking for a more detailed read on recycling and waste reduction.
Waste Dive has an excellent state-by-state summary of recycling news. Given the transformation in the recycling industry with China’s recycling policy changes, Waste Dive is well worth an occasional scan to monitor changes in your state.
Science Daily has a Recycling and Waste section that’ll keep you up-to-date with the latest recycling news.
Waste360‘s recycling resources, along with its numerous waste-related expos and events, are targeted to industry professionals. For the rest of us non-industry folks, it’s still worth a visit for the latest news in its recycling section.