Recycle or Landfill?

Recycle or Landfill?

Plastic shopping bags and many other items do not belong in your recycling bin

Recycling household waste is second nature to me.  But, I still find myself questioning what I can and cannot put into the recycle bin.

Here’s the skinny on the products that I find confusing.  You should always consult with your local curbside recycling service provider.  A good resource for all your recycling questions is


The numbered triangle on the plastic container indicates the type of plastic that was used to make that container.  Some types of plastics are easier to recycle than others.  Which types of plastics get recycled often depend on if there is a market for that product after it is recycled.

  • Plastic bottle caps: SOMETIMES
    • My recycler will now accept plastic caps if they are screwed onto the bottle.
    • Alternate:  Loose caps can be sent to
    • Plastic butter tubs and yogurt cups: NOT TYPICALLY
      • There are companies using these types of recyclables, but they may be regional or may not create enough demand to justify curbside pick-up.
      • Alternative: turns #5 plastic into products like toothbrushes and razors.  Check their website for drop-off locations near you.
      • Plastic grocery bags: NO
        • Have you ever had a piece of a plastic bag stick to your hand and you find it impossible to remove?  Now, imagine what it could do to the mechanical processing equipment.
        • Alternate:  Most grocery stores collect used bags for recycling, but I recommend that you BYOB (Bring Your Own Bag)


  • Napkins and paper towels: NO
    • Too many potential contaminants
    • Alternate: better for the compost pile but I recommend that you buy chlorine free
    • Pizza boxes: SOMETIMES
      • It depends on how greasy you like your pizza.  My recycler accepts pizza boxes if the food contamination is limited.
      • Wrapping Paper: NO
        • Wrapping paper typically contains foils and plastics that contaminate the paper and make it difficult to recycle.
        • Alternate:  Wrap gifts in a re-useable bag or box or use recyclable kraft paper and decorate it yourself.  According to, if every American family wrapped just three presents in reused materials, it would save enough paper to cover 45,000 football fields.


  • Food cans/lids: YES
    • My recycler will accept lids from the steel food cans.
    • Foil: SOMETIMES
      • Most curbside recycling programs do not accept foil because of food contamination.
      • Alternate:  Drop it off at your local scrap metal recycler.


Do you have other recycling tips and questions?  Share them with us.  ©

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