5 Common Recycling Questions

Sometimes it seems like “simply recycling” in your home isn’t as simple as you hoped, right?

If you still have questions about what can actually go in the recycling bin, check out the answers to these common recycling questions.

Recycling Question #1. Should I recycle mail?

Yes! According to the Environmental Protection Agency, you can recycle mail. That even includes envelopes with plastic windows! Yup, like me, you may have been taking the time to separate the plastic window from the paper envelope this whole time only to just now learn that you didn’t have to…yay!

But what about protecting my privacy?

Right. Have you heard that you should actually NOT recycle mail because it could leak your personal information?

There is debate on this topic. Obviously, if it’s important mail (such as financial information), it’s better to play it safe by not recycling that. But for junk mail, for example, or other unimportant mail that only has your name and address, it is up to you. Whether you feel safe recycling that is ultimately your call.

Some sources on this topic say that your personal information is already “out there” (have you ever searched you name or address on the internet?). Others say that there are still some desperate people out there that will dumpster dive for your more personal information, so you are better off keeping it out of the recycling.

Identity theft could occur in some of these cases. If you opt to be extra cautious with your mail, you could shred it and find other uses for it, such as composting it.

Recycling Question #2. What’s the big deal with shredded paper?

Another frequently asked question about recycling is, “can I recycle shredded paper?”

The problem with shredded paper is that it can’t be sorted in the way the recycling machinery is meant to sort. Instead of paper that can normally be bundled up and stacked, shredded paper may ball up and jam the machinery.

Check to make sure your recycling center or city’s waste management system allows shredded paper. Find out if they want it in a clear plastic bag, paper bag or cardboard box. Chances are that if they do accept it, they then have to send it off to a separate facility that can process such items.

large clear plastic bags filled with recycling waste

Recycling Question #3. Should I put my recycled items in plastic bags?

Hopefully your city recycling program has already told you this…

You should NOT put your recycle items in plastic bags before it is collected. Do not put your recyclable items in plastic bags for city curbside bins or at local recycling centers.

The reason you should not use a bag is because any loose plastic bags like that can jam the sorting machinery at the recycling center. In fact, if you do recycle plastic bags (like those from the grocery store), you are supposed to bundle them all up into one bag until it’s the size of a soccer ball. Then you can recycle it.

Did you know?

Some cities, as the truck is coming around on recycle collection day, will take note if you put your recyclables in a plastic bag and they’ll send you a warning. This happened to someone in my neighborhood!

many colorful batteries scattered around

Recycling Question #4. How do I recycle batteries?

Single use batteries are recyclable! This, however, depends on your city.

Call your local solid waste management to learn if your city or local community has a collection program or upcoming event where you can recycle batteries.

close up aerosol can with colorful paint blurred in background

Recycling Question #5. Can I recycle aerosol bottles?

Surprisingly, yes! But first, confirm this with your city’s waste program.

Make sure you separate the plastic lid from the metal can since they will need to be recycled separately. I don’t mean the nozzle though. Do not remove the plastic nozzle as this could be dangerous to you.

Make sure the aerosol can is empty to prevent causing some type of explosion at the recycling plant. If the aerosol can is not empty yet, that means it is still pressurized.

So if your aerosol bottle is NOT empty, dispose of it through your local hazardous waste program instead.


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