1. Takeout food boxes soaked with oil or grease.
There's no shame in some takeout pizza, but the greasy pizza box should not show its face in your bin. Some cities that compost organic material may accept used pizza boxes in the compost bin instead. Learn more about how to reduce takeout plastic and waste from Grove sustainability expert Alexandra Bede.
2. Most plastic bottle lids.
The lids on water and soda bottles, as well as detergent and other container lids, are usually made with the typically unrecyclable plastic #5 called polypropylene.
3. Plastic straws and plastic cutlery.
Disposable straws and cutlery are usually made with plastic #6 (polystyrene), which is too expensive for most municipalities to recycle. It’s best to keep your own plastic-free to-go cutlery and straws on hand so you can say no thank you to the plastic. Or learn even more about the best alternatives to plastic straws here.
4. Cartons and paper with a wax coating.
The wax fibers on milk and juice cartons, broth containers, wax paper for baking, and so on, will not break down properly in the paper recycling process. Some municipalities pay for the extra cost of processing these items with a wax coating, so check your local guidelines before you toss it or recycle it.
5. Plastic bags and plastic wrap.
The lightweight plastic material will tangle, clog, and potentially damage the machinery at the recycling facility. Some municipalities and certain grocery stores will collect plastic bags separately to reuse or recycle, but they should not be mixed in with your regular curbside plastics. Bringing your own reusable grocery and produce bags eliminates this issue entirely. Or learn more about reusable food storage here.
6. Broken glass and windows.
Window panes, mirrors, light bulbs, and broken glass should not be put into the curbside bin because they’re hazardous to facility workers. Window panes, drinking glasses, and mirrors are treated with chemicals that change their melting point so that they can't be melted down with your recyclable glass bottles. Specialized recovery facilities may accept some of these items if you drop them off.
7. Used paper towels and paper napkins.
Paper towels and napkins are recyclable before they have been used, but after they’ve been used, the food particles and other substances on them will contaminate the process. If you or your municipality compost organic waste, you can compost your used paper towels and napkins that haven't been used on chemicals.
8. Shredded paper.
Shredding paper shortens and degrades the fibers, making it undesirable for recycling into anything decent. Some plastic or other material might get mixed in with the shredded paper bits and ruin an entire batch of paper recyclables.
9. Wet paper.
This might seem ridiculous, but it's true! Moisture damages the paper fibers by making them too brittle to recycle. Depending on the kind of paper that’s wet, you might still be able to compost it.
10. Wire clothing hangers.
Since wire hangers contain such a low percentage of metal and are perfectly shaped to wreak havoc on the machines at the facility, they shouldn't be put in your curbside bin. If you can't bear to throw them out, many clothing donation centers and dry cleaners will accept old hangers to reuse.
11. Paper to-go coffee cups.
If you're counteracting your Starbucks on-the-go habit by fastidiously recycling each and every paper coffee cup, we have news for you: The wax coating inside the paper cup makes it a contaminate for the other recyclable paper and lowers the quality of the end product.
You can compost some paper cups, so check your city’s compost regulations, but you definitely need to go dig them out of your paper recycling bin...excuse us while we go do the same!