Sustainable Gifting Made Easy!

Recycling 101

A Guide To Recycling

     What is recycling? Good question! To recycle is to “to treat or process (used or waste materials) so as to make suitable for reuse.” Recycling is the separation of specific materials (plastic, metal, paper, glass, cardboard) and diverting them away from landfills and to a special facility where they will be broken down and repurposed for reuse.





No. 1

polyethylene terephthalate,

or PET

Peanut butter jars, plastic soda and water bottles, microwavable food trays, salad dressing bottles

PET plastic is recyclable and about 25% of PET bottles in the US today are recycled. The plastic is crushed and then shredded into small flakes which are then reprocessed to make new PET bottles, or spun into polyester fiber. This recycled fiber is used to make textiles such as fleece garments, carpets, stuffing for pillows and life jackets etc. 

Products made of #1 (PET) plastic should be recycled but not reused.

No. 2

high density polyethylene, or HDPE

Milk jugs, laundry detergent bottles, butter tubs, motor oil bottles, shopping bags

HDPE is the most commonly recycled plastic and is considered one of the safest forms of plastic. It is a relatively simple and cost-effective process to recycle HDPE plastic for secondary use. Products made of HDPE are reusable and recyclable. only about 30-35% of HDPE plastic used in America gets recycled each year

No. 3

Polyvinyl chloride, or  (PVC)

Pipes, medical tubing, wire jacketing, cleaner spray bottles, cooking oil bottles, teething rings

PVC is dubbed the “poison plastic” because it contains numerous toxins which it can leach throughout its entire life cycle. Almost all products using PVC require virgin material for their construction; less than 1% of PVC material is recycled.

Products made using PVC plastic are not recyclable. While some PCV products can be repurposed, PVC products should not be reused for applications with food or for children’s use.

No. 4

low density polyethylene, or LDPE

Plastic films, squeezable condiment bottles and toys, packaging bags such as dry cleaning, grocery, bread, frozen food, produce bags

Products made using LDPE plastic are reusable, but not always recyclable. You need to check with your local collection service to see if they are accepting LDPE plastic items for recycling.

No. 5

Polypropylene, or PP

Syrup, ketchup, medicine bottles, bottle caps, straws

Polypropylene is recyclable through some curbside recycling programs, but only about 3% of PP products are currently being recycled in the US. Recycled PP is used to make landscaping border stripping, battery cases, brooms, bins and trays. However, #5 plastic is today becoming more accepted by recyclers. You must check with your local curbside program to see if they accept No. 5 plastics. Because polystyrene is structurally weak and ultra-lightweight, it breaks up easily and is dispersed readily throughout the natural environment. Beaches all over the world have bits of polystyrene lapping at the shores, and an untold number of marine species have ingested this plastic with immeasurable consequences to their health.

No. 6

Polystyrene, or PS

Extremely versatile plastic. Packing peanuts, CD cases, take-out containers, disposable plates and cutlery, aspirin bottles, egg cartons

Recycling is not widely available for polystyrene products. Most curbside collection services will not accept polystyrene, which is why this material accounts for about 35% of US landfill material.

No. 7

Other/Miscellaneouscategory for all the remaining plastics

BPA plastics, acrylic, baby bottles, sippy cups, oven-baking bags, large office-sized water jugs, fiberglass

A new generation of compostable plastics, made from bio-based polymers like corn starch, is being developed to replace polycarbonates. These are also included in category #7, which can be confusing to the consumer. These compostable plastics have the initials “PLA” on the bottom near the recycling symbol. Some may also say “Compostable.”

No. 7 plastics are not for reuse, unless they have the PLA compostable coding. When possible it is best to avoid No. 7 plastics, especially for children’s food.

Single Stream Recycling.

The most common form of recycling is Single Stream Recycling. It allows customers to put all their recycling in a single container, which is then transferred to a recycling center and separated by a team of specialists.

Pros of Single Stream Recycling:

  • One container for all recycling materials.
  • You should not bag your recycling, just chuck it in the bin.
  • No separation is required. If it’s accepted, throw it in the same container.

Cons of Single Stream Recycling:

  • Contamination ruins the entire load
  • If an unaccepted material or trash ends up in the bin, the entire load must be disposed of at a landfill for contamination
  • Most people are unfamiliar with the fact that different facilities accept different materials.


Styrofoam, window glass and mirrors, electronic waste (TVs and computers), motor oil containers, yard waste, chemical containers, shredded paper, plastic bags, ceramics or dishes, food waste, scrap metal, monitors.

Recyclable Items

  • Aerosol cans (completely empty)
  • Aluminum cans  
  • Beverage cans
  • Brochures
  • Cardboard cereal boxes (plastic lining OK)
  • Computer paper
  • Coupons
  • Egg cartons
  • Food cans
  • Glass bottles and jars
  • Glass cosmetic bottles
  • Glass (unbroken)
  • Junk mail
  • Laundry bottles (remove caps and lids)
  • Ledger paper
  • Magazines
  • Milk/juice cartons
  • Newspaper
  • Paper
  • Paper tubes
  • Phone books
  • Pizza boxes (clean)
  • Plastics #1 - #7
  • Tin cans
  • Tissue boxes
  • Used envelopes
  • Wrapping paper


Non-Recyclable Items

  • Animal waste
  • Animal waste bags
  • Carbon paper
  • Carpet
  • Cat litter
  • Ceramic pottery, mugs, dishes
  • Cigarette butts
  • Compact flourescent bulbs (CFL's)
  • Dishes
  • Disposable diapers
  • Dirt/cement/rock
  • Electronic waste (computers, monitors, cell phones)
  • Flooring
  • Food boxes (non-cardboard)
  • Food waste
  • Greenwaste
  • Household hazardous waste (oil, paint, batteries)  
  • Mirrors
  • Napkins
  • Old clothes/shoes
  • Paper towels
  • Plastic Bags
  • Rags/sponges
  • Soiled paper plates
  • Solar panels
  • Polystyrene foam
  • Tires
  • Tissue
  • Toothpaste tubes
  • Waxed paper
  • Window glass

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published