16 Things That Are Not Recyclable

16 Things You Shouldn’t Recycle

Many people have good intentions about recycling; however, more often than not, we recycle things that are not recyclable. Our environment—and consequently our lives—are at risk. It’s no secret: global warming is real. There are a lot of things that we can and can’t recycle, and a lot of things that we think we can recycle, we actually can’t. If you want to be a more astute recycler, here is our list of 16 things that are not recyclable.

  1. Aerosol Cans: While it might be tempting to recycle aerosol cans because they tend to be made of aluminum, they also feature pressured air—which is why you should should avoid tossing them into the recycling bin.


  1. Batteries: You can’t recycle batteries at your curbside bin, but a lot of recycling centers in your area will accept them through mail-in programs.


  1. Colored paper: Heavily dyed paper is often heat-treated, contaminating it and making it unrecyclable. If you want to recycle your colored paper, create a fun art piece with the leftover material.


  1. Bubble Wrap: Bubble wrap is made of a certain kind of plastic that’s too thin to be recycled—the thin film gets tangled in recycling machines. However, many recycling facilities will accept your wrap when you bring it in. Facilities are able to find a use for thin plastics, but if you can’t find a center, bubble wrap is great for packing material.


  1. Ceramics: Broken mugs belong in the trash; most recyclers can’t accept them. If you break a lot of dishes at once, call your local recycling center to see if they can accept them. If they don’t, the broken ceramic makes for a great art project!


  1. Household glass: Light bulbs, mirrors, eyeglasses, and Pyrex baking dishes are among glass things that are not recyclable. Intact bottles and jars are fine, but small shards of glass could injure the workers.


  1. Juice Boxes: Wait! Make sure that the container has the recycling symbol on it before you toss it into the recycling bin. The coating on a lot of most juice boxes renders them unrecyclable.


  1. Medical Waste: Needles, syringes, and other medical waste belong in a hazardous waste facility and should be gathered and mailed back using a national program.
  1. Napkins, Paper Towels, & Tissues: These paper products are often too contaminated to be recycled. Additionally, the fibers are generally too short to go through the recycling process (since they’ve already been recycled before).
  1. Pizza boxes: If you ever have a pizza box with no grease or food residue, then you’re OK to recycle it. However, the bits of food generally left inside make them unsuitable for recycling.
  1. Plastic bags and plastic wrap: Just because it’s plastic doesn’t mean it’s recyclable. Plastic is not biodegradable. Every time you throw a plastic bag in the trash, you’re contributing to global warming.
  1. Plastic bottle tops: Plastic bottles are recyclable, yes, but their caps are not. Bottle caps are often made from a type of plastic that can’t be recycled.
  1. Shredded paper: You can recycle most plain paper, but it’s difficult to determine a paper’s type when it’s shredded. Since shredded paper is difficult to sort, it can be an issue for recycling centers. Instead, use shredded paper in your compost or mulch.
  1. Styrofoam: Most curbside pick-ups can’t recycle Styrofoam—and it’s not biodegradable. However, you can check to see if your community has a special center for this; they can turn them into items like rulers, pens, and picture frames.
  1. Takeout containers: Grease-soaked containers, or anything with leftover food particles, can damage or contaminate other recyclable materials.
  1. Wire Hangers: Local dry cleaners will possibly take your old wire hangers, but most recycling centers won’t because they’re not equipped to deal with wire.