Recycling Dos and Don’ts

Every few years, I write about recycling. While we all know the basic rules, it’s the specifics that trip us up. I’m frequently teaching my clients about what doesn’t go in the recycle bin.

Recently, I was contacted by D.B. Container Service, which provides dumpsters here in NYC. They put together a nifty guide called “What Can I Recycle?” Reading through their list of what does and doesn’t get recycled, even I found a few surprises!

Cardboard and Paper

  • You probably already know about: mail, envelopes (including window envelopes), catalogs, receipts, paper bags, phone books, paperback books, comic books, wrapping paper.
  • But you probably didn’t know about pizza boxes (as long as they are free of food and oily liners).


  • You probably already know about: soda bottles, wine and beer bottles, pickle jars, jelly jars.
  • But you probably didn’t know that ONLY bottles and jars are recyclable. All other glass goes in the trash. Remove metal caps from your bottles and jars and recycle them with metal.


  • You probably already know about: cans, aluminum foil, aerosol cans, metal lids, caps, and plates.
  • But you probably didn’t know that bulky appliance and tools that are mostly metal — and that fit into the recycling bin — can be recycled that way as well.

Rigid Plastic

  • You probably already know about: bottles, jugs, jars, toys, yogurt and cottage cheese containers, buckets and pails.
  • But you probably didn’t know that only rigid plastics are recycled. If it loses its shape when you squeeze it, then it goes into the trash.
  • Another surprise: drink box cartons, milk cartons, and juice cartons go into the plastic/metal bin, even though you might be tempted to put them in the paper bin!

Things that Can’t Go in the Recycle Bin

  • Batteries.
  • Foam cups, containers, packing peanuts.
  • Flexible plastic, such as toothpaste tubes, single-use coffee pods, straws, basketballs and soccer balls.
  • Glass items that aren’t bottles or jars, such as light bulbs, nail polish bottles, ceramics, or eyeglasses.
  • Soft paper, such as tissue paper, napkins, paper towels, toilet paper.
  • Waxy or plastic-coated paper, such as candy wrappers, granola bar packages, and freezer containers.
  • Electronics.
  • Cassettes and VHS tapes.
  • Tanglers — that is, any string-like items that could wrap around others, including computer cords and wires.

Remember, these rules are just for NYC residents. If you live elsewhere, check your local government website for the recycling rules in your area.

I hope you had a few aha moments when reviewing these rules, especially the don’ts!




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