When people place non-recyclable items into their recycling bins, they can contaminate other recyclables causing entire lots to be thrown out and may even damage machines (ie plastic bags). As a result the mantra is, “if in doubt, throw it out” which ultimately results in toxic chemical release from landfills. This no win situation has led to a rise in popularity of the “zero waste” movement whereby disposable is replaced by reusable.

Check out TREEHUGGER’S detailed list of ways you can reduce waste overall

And to be a responsible recycler, please AVOID putting any of these items into the recycling bin:

  • Coffee cups (they contain a layer of wax)
  • Paper towels, tissues, tissue paper
  • Plastic bags (they require special facilities. Here’s a list of collection sites, including Kohls and Target
  • Nothing smaller than a credit card: straws, bottle caps, coffee pods, plastic cutlery, paperclips, shredded paper, etc
  • Pizza boxes w/ cheese or grease
  • Styrofoam (experts believe styrofoam could take a million years to decompose if it ever does at all)
  • Hangers (may be taken to the dry cleaners)
  • Containers with food (must be well cleaned)
  • Broken glass, glass used to make windows, drinking glasses, mirrors
  • Compact fluorescent bulbs (CFLs) (they contain mercury which can leach out in landfills- you can take to Lowes or Home Depot)
  • Plastic toys