How To Properly Care For Your Recyclables

As the national recycling rate continues to rise, it’s important that we take the time to properly care for our recyclables to ensure that items don’t unnecessarily end up in an overflowing landfill.

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Did you know that the United States is one of world’s largest producers of trash? Trash is generated at an alarming rate of 1,609 pounds of trash per person per year. Over the past 30+ years the national recycling rate has headed in the right direction, with a reported rate of about 34.5 percent of households, but there’s still room for improvement.

There are so many reasons to recycle. Recycling allows us to reuse materials, which in turn conserves natural resources. It also saves water and energy, improves air and water quality, lowers pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, and preserves landfill space

City and town recycling programs each have their own set of rules for preparing your recyclables before placing them in the recycle bin. Following your city or town’s guidelines is imperative, because facilities’ equipment and capacity vary widely from location to location.

Here are a few general guidelines to follow for recycling.


Glass bottles filled with liquid need to be emptied and preferably dried before being placed in your bin. It’s important in most communities to clean out containers and jars that contained food and grease. A simple trick to help with the cleanout process is to fill a jar with a small amount of water, place the lid back on and give it a few shakes. Once you dump the water out, the jar will be reasonably clean. This works especially well with jars used for pasta sauce.

There’s no need to remove labels on glass containers since the recycling process will take care of this.


To recycle cardboard it’s important to remove all other materials from inside the box, such as plastic wrap, polystyrene peanuts, and other packing materials. All cardboard boxes should be broken down before being placed in the recycle bin. Cardboard should be dry and free of food scraps.


There is a long list of paper products that can be recycled, including: magazines and catalogs, telephone books, direct mail, brochures, pamphlets, and booklets. Also recyclable are cereal, cake mix, and cracker boxes. Be sure to remove the liner and all food from boxes. Flatten the box before placing it in your recycle bin. Tissues and waxed and carbon paper are not recyclable.


Check the bottom of the plastic container for the recycle triangle symbol to make sure the container is recyclable. Rinse plastic containers with water and crush, if possible, before adding to your recycle bin.

Not all locations require the rinsing of containers, but a problem can arise in areas that do require rinsing when the rinsing doesn’t happen. When recyclables are dirty their market value substantially decreases. This creates a vicious cycle because it reduces the amount of money the recycling service provider is able to earn, thereby decreasing the amount of money they are able to reinvest and improve their existing services.

It’s important when recycling to check the regulations at your local waste management facility before placing items in the recycle bin.

As the national recycling rate continues to rise, it’s crucial that we take the time to recycle properly to ensure that items don’t unnecessarily end up in the landfill.

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