6 Things You Can’t Recycle in Your Curbside Bin

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Despite widespread knowledge regarding the importance of recycling, there’s a lot of misunderstanding about what materials are recyclable. According to Progressive Grocer, “40 percent of Americans are ‘aspirational recyclers’ who recycle items that they’re unsure will meet the requirements in hopes that any unrecyclable items will be later sorted.”

This behavior, however, leads to harmful recycling contamination which increases waste, damages recycling machinery, and decreases the quality of recycled goods. To avoid these negative impacts, it’s important to be aware of the things you can’t recycle. These are some of the items that you should never toss in your blue bin.

Plastic bags

When recycled, it’s easy for plastic bags to become wrapped around recycling machinery and cause jams. Not only do these jams slow down the recycling process and damage the equipment, but they can also put workers in danger. Instead of throwing plastic bags into your curbside bin, recycle them at your local grocery store. Or, better yet, switch to a reusable bagging option.

Plastic bottle caps

When throwing a plastic water or soda bottle in the recycling bin, make sure to remove its cap first. Most hard-plastic twist-off bottle caps contain unrecyclable material known as plastic #5.

Ropes, cords, and hoses

You should avoid recycling anything that can become tangled around machinery. If you can tie it into a knot and it’s made of durable material, you’d be better off trashing it. Another option is to take your “tanglers” to a store such as Best Buy or Staples which both have recycling programs for cables.

Contaminated materials

Think twice before throwing that greasy pizza box in the bin. You can’t recycle anything that’s covered in food residue or any sort of waste. When you recycle these items, they’re all put together in large loads. Recycling contaminated items will often make the whole load unrecyclable or significantly decrease the quality of the other recycled goods.


You should not recycle clothing via your curbside bin. You can, however, donate gently-worn items to your local thrift store. If your unwanted clothing is too worse-for-wear, you can also recycle it in a drop-off bin in your area. Companies that specialize in textile recycling, such as the American Textile Recycling Service, have thousands of donation bins across the country.

Shredded paper

You cannot recycle shredded paper because it’s difficult for recycling plants to sort the shredded pieces from nonrecyclable material. As such, a better option for disposing of your shredded paper is putting it in your composting bin.

Crigler is a leading distributor of recycling equipment and waste handling systems. We offer a full line of waste processing and handling systems such as new and used baling equipment, shredders, and conveyors to provide your company with cost-effective waste management solutions.

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