What Can Be Recycled?

Electronic waste can be recycled at a special facility.
A plastic bag.
Plastic water bottles can usually be recycled.
A bag made of recycled paper.
Many gas stations and autoshops accept tires for recycling.
Glass bottles can be recycled.
Cardboard can usually be recycled.
Glass and plastic are recyclable materials.
Motor oil can be recycled.
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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 10 April 2014
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Almost anything can be recycled, but just because something is recyclable does not necessarily mean that it will be recycled. This depends less on what something is made out of, and more on the policies of local recycling agencies. Small agencies and garbage collection companies tend to recycle less, because they don't have the facilities for processing numerous recyclables, and they don't collect enough to justify the expense of contracting some recycling services out. For people who are really concerned about recycling, it may be necessary to drop recyclables off at several locations. For example, plastic grocery bags may not be accepted in curbside recycling, but the grocery store might have a collection point for them.

In terms of plastics, most plastics are in fact recyclable, although some are harder to recycle than others. Plastics are marked with numerical codes which indicate what kind of plastic was used in the manufacturing of the product. Recycling companies usually list the codes they will accept for recycling, and plastics marked with other codes will not be recycled by the collecting agency. However, some communities have collection points for plastics not handled by the recycling company, and it is also possible to mail them to a central location.


Glass is all fully recyclable, although recyclers do need to sort out different kinds of glass. Again, a recycling company may dictate the types of glass it will accept. If a recycling company excludes a particular glass type, there may be a local resource which will handle it. For example, a junkyard or auto body shop might take auto glass.

Paper is also highly recyclable. Many recycling companies today take all paper and cardboard, and do not require separation. Others may ask for glossy materials to be recycled separately. Electronics and appliances like computers, cell phones, fax machines, ovens, and so forth can be recycled as well, although they cannot be put in curbside pickup. Technically considered “electronic waste,” electronics can be processed at a special facility to break them down into component recyclable parts, while appliances need to be processed by specialized scrap yards.

Metals can be recycled, although some specialty products may need to be taken to a scrap yard. Some metals actually have monetary value; copper, for example, can be sold by weight. Products like tires and motor oil can be recycled too, although many people are not aware of this. They may need to be picked up by a specialty company. Many gas stations and auto shops will accept motor oil and tires for recycling, sometimes for a small fee.

Fabrics can be recycled, although, again, they may need to be processed by a special company. Biodegradeables like yard waste and food waste are not recyclable, but they can be composted. People who lack the space or inclination for composting may be able to arrange for pickup by a company which composts commercially.

It is always good to ask a recycling company directly if there are questions about a recyclable. If the company will not accept it, it may have suggestions about potential recycling options.


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