Environment

A Visual Guide to Recycling

A photograph of the author, Jason Woods.

By Jason Woods

April 15, 2019

A Visual Guide to Recycling

In This Article

  • Home recycling can sometimes be confusing.
  • It might surprise you that some things, like receipts and disposable coffee cups, aren't recyclable.
  • Use this infographic to sort recyclables from trash.
  • Make sure to check with your local recycling station for specific details.

Sometimes, it's not the easiest thing in the world to figure out what can responsibly put in your recycling bin at home or at work. Can you recycle all plastics? Can you recycle a used pizza box? Styrofoam can't be recyclable, can it?

And it seems like recycling is getting even more difficult in the United States. To help guide you down the path of good Earth stewardship, use our infographic below.

Keep a couple of things in mind when you're deciding what to recycle. Some recycling facilities can handle more types of materials than others, so check with your local recycler to see what can and can’t be recycled. And whatever you're recycling, make sure to rinse all food residue before putting it in the bin.

In general, you can recycle plastics if the item is classified as 1 or 2. Plastics 3, 6 and 7 are not usually accepted by home pick-up operations, and plastics 4 and 5 are consistently not accepted. For anything above a 2, you can look for a store drop-off facility.

Glass is completely recyclable, but as of late, many facilities in the United States have stopped accepting it since it's hard to transport. Metal cans are recyclable and usually accepted.

A few things that aren't recyclable might surprise you. Disposable paper coffee cups are almost always lined with polyethylene, which isn't recyclable. Most facilities won't accept a pizza box contaminated by grease (although you can always rip the clean upperhalf off. And receipts can't be recycled either, since they are made from thermal paper, which contaminates the rest of the recycled paper.