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How to Separate Your Recycling

Recycling your garbage is noble, and in many places mandatory. But it also can be very confusing. This guide will clear up the rules.


  • Step 1: Check laws Check the local laws regarding recycling in your town. Not all communities recycle the same things.
  • Step 2: Rinse Rinse glass bottles, plastic containers, and aluminum and tin cans. Labels do not have to be removed. Recycle the plastic caps of water and soda bottles, but toss the ones from laundry detergent and food containers.
  • TIP: If you’re confused about whether a plastic item can be recycled, look for its resin identification code – a triangle with a number inside. Products marked "1" and "2" are recyclable. Don't recycle unmarked plastic containers.
  • Step 3: Separate In general, containers that held food, beverages, household cleaners, or personal care products like shampoo and mouthwash are all recyclable. Separate plastic; glass; aluminum, tin, and aerosol cans; and aluminum foil.
  • TIP: Light bulbs, drinking glasses, crystal, window and mirror glass, ceramics, and kitchen cookware don't get recycled.
  • Step 4: Handle with caution Contact your local sanitation department for instructions on how to dispose of anything that held potentially hazardous material such as motor oil, pesticides, paint, solvents, and batteries.
  • Step 5: Bundle paper Place together all newspapers, magazines, catalogs, junk mail, letters, envelopes, and promotional advertisements. Be sure to keep all paper dry.
  • TIP: Be careful about recycling that can be used to steal your identity, like financial statements and unsolicited, pre-approved credit card applications. Shred them before recycling.
  • Step 6: Gather cardboard Remove any tape from cardboard boxes and brown paper bags before flattening them. Check if items like pizza and cereal boxes are recycled in your area. If they are, include them, too.
  • Step 7: Dispose Find out when your city picks up recycling – sometimes on a different day from when garbage is collected – so you know when to leave those bins and boxes by the curb.
  • FACT: Americans throw away 2.5 million plastic bottles every hour.

You Will Need

  • A trash can
  • Recycling bins
  • String

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