How to Recycle

Recycling becomes simple and easy once you know how to go about it. There are numerous materials that can be recycled and they generally all require the same, simple preparations. However, in order to make sure that your recycling efforts are making the greatest impact that they possibly can, we encourage you to check with your municipality or recycling service provider to view their specific guidelines on materials as well as preparation.

Below are some of the most common recyclable items and 'how to recycle' information for each. Click on a heading to expand the content. After you see how easy it is, you will be recycling in no time! Every little bit makes an impact. Start with just one material and grow your efforts or dive in and recycle them all!

Want to learn about the recycling process? Click here.


Types of Plastic:

Most plastic containers have the number type of plastic it is made of stamped on the bottom. Although you will usually find the products identified below consistently in containers made of a certain plastic, that does not mean that a product will always be contained in that type of plastic. For example, while ketchup is usually found in #5 bottles, you might also find it contained in #1 or #7 bottles.

#1 PET - (polyethylene terephthalate) is clear or slightly tinted and has a high melting point: soft drink bottles, peanut butter jars, salad dressing,and sheeting for microwave food trays. Recycled PET is also used to produce carpets and clothing (polyester).

#2 HDPE - (high density polyethylene) - is translucent or colored: milk jugs, juice bottles, water and detergent bottles, margarine tubs, cool whip, bleach bottles, lotion bottles, shampoo bottles, and bubble bath

#3 Vinyl - PVC (polyvinyl chloride): have a shiny surface and sink in water - vegetable oil and shampoo bottles, laundry detergent containers, cooking oil bottles, window cleaning products, and fresh meat wrappers

#4 LDPE (low density polyethylene): margarine tubs, mustard, and coffee can lids

#5 PP (polypropylene): squeezable jelly, syrup bottles, and ketchup bottles

#6 PS (polystyrene): Styrofoam containers

#7 OTHER: all other plastics

How to Recycle Plastic:

When recycling plastic, just follow these simple rules:

  • wash out all containers
  • remove non-plastic lids
  • do not mix different types of plastic unless permitted by collectors
  • remove plastic containers from bags

How to Recycle Glass:

  • Remove lids and caps
  • It is OK to leave on neck rings and paper and plastic labels- they will burn or blow off in the recycling process
  • Dump out food residue and lightly rinse bottles

Check with your city before including windows, drinking glasses, mirrors or other glass. Before you begin recycling, check with your city and the recycling programs offered.


Typically, newspaper can be recycled 5-7 times. Each time it is recycled, its fibers become shortened. Eventually, they become too short to make good paper. When newspaper enters the recycling process at a de-inking mill it is washed in a solution of warm water and chemicals that turns it into a kind of mush. Through a combination of spinning and screening the mush, most ink and other unwanted particles are removed after which it is air treated in a flotation cell which causes any remaining particles to float to the surface. After one last washing and screening, the mush is bleached and, if necessary, mixed with pulp from trees. This mixture is then squeezed to remove the water after which it is dried and pressed and is readied for shipment.

How to Recycle Newspaper:

Check with your city concerning specifics on preparing your newspapers. Generally, the following tips are important:

  • Keep paper dry
  • Don't worry about pulling out all the glossy inserts
  • Don't recycle newspaper you've used for birdcages, for housebreaking your pets or for painting or art projects

How to Recycle Aluminum:

Many cities only accepts aluminum cans and aluminum foil for recycling. Most do not accept other aluminum products such as siding and guttering. To recycle aluminum, just follow these simple rules

  • Make sure that cans and foil are free of food, liquid, and any other contaminants.
  • Do not mix aluminum with any other material
  • Remove any non-aluminum material such as grocery bags

How to Recycle Steel:

Items that can be recycled: household items including folding chairs, fencing, broken tools, play equipment, plumbing fixtures, bike frames, garbage cans, etc. Iron items can be recycled with steel.
For further information on Steel Recycling visit the Steel Recycling Institute.

Other Items

Clothes hangers: Local recycling centers may not take them so call first. Give them to your dry cleaners or second hand stores. For questions on particular metal items(including appliances), go to Corporate Recyclers.

Household Hazardous Waste

The United States Environmental Protection Agency considers a substance hazardous if it can catch fire, if it can react or explode when mixed with other substances, if it is corrosive, or if it is toxic. This definition includes things that are probably being stored right now in your garage, basement, bathroom, or kitchen. Such products may include drain and window cleaners, flow and furniture polishes, disinfectants, nail polish and nail polish remover, antifreeze, motor oil, paint, paint thinner and strippers, fertilizers, pesticides, weed killers, moth balls, and batteries. The used or left-over contents of such consumer products are known as "household hazardous waste."

Before you begin recycling, check with your city and the recycling programs offered.