7 Things You Should Never Recycle (and 5 Things that You Should)

7 Things You Should Never Recycle (and 5 Things that You Should)

We all know that one of the ways to save Earth is by recycling, right? And now that we’re aware, there’s this urge to recycle as many things as possible. However, there are some items that you should never recycle like these things below.

The non-recyclables:

1. Bright-colored paper

bright colored paper

Don’t put this kind of paper to your paper and cardboard recycling container. Even though it’s paper, the brightly colored ones prove to be problematic. The reason is that the dyes will taint the recycling process and add unwanted color to the new paper products.

You wouldn’t want to add orange t-shirt into a white clothing-filled washing machine, right? That’s why recycling paper companies refuse to take dyed paper. What you can do is to compost it with leaves and grass clippings.

2. Ceramic

ceramic cups, saucers, and pots

You can recycle glass cups, but not the ceramic ones. Ceramic is not organic, and that’s why you can’t compost it too. So whenever you have coffee mugs, cups, bathroom stuff, and pots that you don’t want anymore, don’t toss them at the kerbside. Not all recycling centers accept ceramics.

So make sure that you have recycling facilities that has a program for processing concrete and bricks. The easiest and best thing you can do for ceramics is donate them (if they’re not chipped or broken) or sell them to a local thrift store.

3. Cardboard pizza boxes

cardboard pizza boxes

We all know pizza boxes are made from cardboard, a fully recyclable material. But once it touches grease and absorbs it, the idea of recycling is a big no-no. In recycling process paper products are mixed with water into a thick slurry.

When you put pizza box in there, there will be oil forming at the top. During pulping process, this oil is troublesome because you can’t separate oil from paper fibres. There are some pizza makers that put another layer of paper to minimize the grease problem, but it’s only to minimize, not getting rid of it. The best way you can do for pizza boxes is tossing them in regular trash.

4. Broken glass

broken glass

When it’s ‘whole’, glass is absolutely recyclable. You can easily put glass bottles to recycling box, but when they’re broken, you really shouldn’t. The shards/pieces are dangerous to the workers who collect, sort, and handle the glass at recycling centers. One thing you can do is find facilities that accept broken glass, another is to simply sweep it, put it in a paper bag, then throw it away.

Also, remember that some glass items like mirrors and window panes have chemical materials. They have different melting point than glass bottles, so you shouldn’t put them in the same box/bin. Dispose of them properly by finding facilities that accept old windows and/or mirrors.

5. Loose bottle caps and small balls of foil

aluminium foil is recyclable in big size

Aluminium foils are recyclable, only in big size. This means that you can’t throw them away if it’s small. Why? Because they can slip right through recycling equipment, and they’ll most likely end up in landfill instead. So the best thing you can do is bunch them together into a ball until they’re bigger than 8cm.

The same goes to bottle caps. They’re too small for the machines, so it’s best to leave them alone. Some are not recyclable too, so you need to look at the labeling as well. But if you’ve already gathered bottle caps, then you can turn them into decorations, beautiful flooring or table.

6. Paper towels

paper towels or tissue paper

But it’s made of paper! I know, I was kinda surprised too when I found out about this. It’s true that paper towels and napkins are recyclable. However, we can’t forget the fact that we use them for anything from food, cleaning stuff, hygiene, to toilet.

You know what stuff that gets absorbed into your paper towel; grease, body fluids, and chemical things. So you understand why they can’t be recycled. But that’s not the end because you can add them to the compost pile and let the organic material break down. Just make sure that you don’t put the ones contaminated with chemicals and bleached paper towels.

7. Paper cups

paper cup

Another paper things that can’t be recycled? Yes. Do you notice that paper cups have a layer of plasticky stuff? That’s what makes them not recyclable because the plastic or wax coating damage the recycling system. It can’t separate plastic/wax from paper, so the paper will be contaminated, producing a lower-quality recycled paper, and we don’t want that.

Although it’s extremely rare, there are facilities that can properly recycle them like NextCupCycle. You can also commercially compost paper cups if the coating is polylactic acid (PLA) instead of polyethylene in some facilities.

So now we know that some things are not quite recyclable and we must be careful to dispose of our household things. But there are other things (some are surprising!) that you can definitely recycle. Find out in the list below.

The recyclables:

1. Undies


In North America only, people throw away 70 pounds of clothing each year. The amount is quite immeasurable when you combine the clothing waste of all countries on Earth. And from that clothing, there’s 95% recyclable stuff that gets easily overlooked.

This includes undergarments like bras and panties. To properly recycle or repurpose them, you can check out this article. You can turn them into crafting projects like or household items. Oh, and donation to charity organizations is always an option.

2. Bicycles

bicycles like these are recyclable

So you’ve grown tired of your bicycle. Don’t just haul it to the dumpster just yet. There are organizations that accept your old bikes. If they can’t recycle it, they will strip the parts and repurpose it. If they can, then they will transform it so that your old bike will look new and it can be reused.

3. Eyeglasses

eyeglasses are recyclable

People in third world countries do need some of the stuff that are widely available around us, like glasses. So instead of trashing your old eyeglasses, you can give them a second life and help people there.

There are eyewear retailers that will gladly accept your old pairs like LensCrafters, Sears Optical, and Pearle Vision. You can also give it to organizations like The David Suzuki Foundation, because they recycle your glasses in various ways through humanitarian aid groups.

4. Batteries

batteries are recyclable, but dispose of it properly

Yes, I realize that you can’t just toss away batteries. They contain heavy metals and chemicals that will leak in landfills and water. However, there are some places that will gladly offer battery recycling! An example would be Walgreens, but if you don’t have Walgreens, you can check your local stores.

To make it easier for you and for the recycling facilities, put your used batteries into a small box. When it’s full, drop them off to the battery recycling boxes. Just remember to not dispose of them in your regular waste bin.

5. Prescription Drugs

prescription drugs

What do you do to your unused prescription drugs? Putting them in trash? Flushing them? Don’t. They can have serious negative impacts on the environment. It’s because they contain hazardous and addictive chemicals that can pollute waters and release toxin on land.

The more eco-friendly option is find a drug take-back programs offered by your local apothecary/stores. They have a place for you to drop unused medications for a safer and more proper disposal.

So which items that you find most surprising? Tell us in the comment below and like this article if you enjoyed reading it. Don’t forget to read our article about recycling/repurposing your household items here. Happy recycling!



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