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How To Recycle Plastic

Most cities have made it easier than ever to recycle plastic. Make sure you're doing your part to keep plastic waste out of landfills.


  • Step 1: If you have large quantities of plastic material that may be recyclable, contact your local recycling facility to find out where to take it. Some private recycling companies may also be willing to pick up your load of plastic scraps.
  • Step 2: Many local recyclers don't accept plastic grocery bags, but many grocery stores and discount stores offer bag recycling. Remove any items from the bags before you return them.
  • Step 3: Gather up your extra plastic hangers and donate them to a thrift store or organization that provides clothing for the homeless. Some organizations will even schedule a pick-up at your home.
  • Step 4: Don't overbuy plastic items just because they're recyclable -- unlike glass they can only be converted into another product once. Remember that in most cases reducing and reusing are even better energy-saving strategies than recycling.
  • FACT: Americans buy and use about 25 billion plastic bottles each year, most of which end up as waste instead of being recycled.
  • Step 5: Put your recyclable plastic products and containers at the curb in the bin provided by your city on pick-up morning. If your city doesn't pick up recycling, take your recyclables to the drop-off location during their hours of operation.
  • TIP: While your containers should be basically empty, if a small amount of food remains in the jar -- such as a bit of peanut butter -- that's okay. Don't waste valuable time and water trying to get it out, because it will burn away in the recycling process.
  • Step 6: Look on the bottom of a plastic container to find the number inside a triangle of arrows. Recycle only those with numbers that are accepted at your recycling facility; plastic foam products can't be recycled.
  • TIP: Numbers one and two are the most recyclable, but many cities now recycle all types from one to seven. This includes bottles, wide-mouth containers such as margarine tubs, and plastic lids.
  • Step 7: Even if your city accepts lids for recycling it's important to remove them, because they are made of a different type of plastic and can't be recycled together.
  • Step 8: Use or dispose of most of the product remaining in the container, and rinse it with a little water if needed.
  • Step 9: Call your city's recycling division to find out which types of plastic products can be recycled and, if they are not picked up curbside, where you can drop them off.

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