A Complete List Of What To Recycle

Knowing what to recycle can be a mystery for most people. It’s not so much the difficulty of recycling; it’s more knowing what you can and can’t recycle, and more importantly, how to recycle it. A little waste management goes a long way in making the world a better place.

Which I’m guessing is why you turned up here.

So, let’s take a look at some items you can recycle. To make it easier, I’ve split it into five different categories for you to take a look at:


All paper is recyclable, right? Well, no, not necessarily some paper is contaminated with plastic, glitter, and other unrecyclable materials. This also means it won’t biodegrade the same way, you should check out this post to find the answer to: Is paper biodegradable?

Here are a few paper products you can recycle:

Junk mail

A box full of junk mailYou’ll have no problems recycling most junk mail; it’s just remembering not to stick it in the trash which is the hard part.

It can be recycled in your curbside recycling bins, with no problems.

Leave a small bin near your door, you can place all of your junk mail in there to help remind you.

Once you’ve opened your mail, you can stick the envelopes in there, even with the plastic windows. You also have recycling bins outside schools and churches, where you can throw your old junk mail. The schools and churches sell it to recycling centers for extra funds.


Cardboard boxes aren’t always as easy to recycle as you think, it needs to be clean so it doesn’t mess up the batch. Which means cardboard pizza boxes typically end up in landfill sites.

It’s usually because the cardboard boxes are covered in food waste and other materials. So, what do you do?

Well first ask yourself, is cardboard biodegradable?

Spoiler alert: The answer is yes! Which means

Composting cardboard boxes in your garden is the most eco-friendly option. The cardboard will leave you with some fertile soil.


old booksAfter a while, all your books start to clutter up your shelf, and it’s a shame to Chuck them away if they’re in good condition.

So you have a few options:

Instead of recycling, you could swap it for a new book, plenty of cafes around the world have a book swap area.

All you have to do is take one of your old books and swap it for a new one. You could also give them to charity without an issue, at least someone else will get to enjoy the book too.

If the book is beyond repair, then recycling might be the best option, just stick them in your recycling bin with the rest of the recyclable paper.

Paper Cups/Plates

Paper plates can be recycled, so please don’t chuck them in your trash. There are a few things you need to know before you send them to be recycled.

You need to make sure they are free of all grease and food waste. If it has any traces, it unlikely to make it to the recycling center. If they have too much grease, it could mess up the whole batch of recycling, so please do be careful!

If the cups or plates are soiled in any way, you could always compost them in your garden. After a few months, you’ll have nutrient-rich soil.

Gift Wrap

Gift wrapSome gift wrap can be recycled, but not all of it. You have to be very careful when sending it to your local recycling plant.

Watch out for additives like plastics or glitter; it makes the paper unable to be recycled.

Ring your recycling center to find out if you can place it with the curbside recycling. Your community might even run special recycling events where you can take your gift wrap.


With natural resources running low, it’s even more important than ever to recycle our electronics. Take a look at some everyday electronic items you can recycle:

Ink Cartridges

Ink cartridges are classed as hazardous materials due to the chemicals inside; luckily, they are straightforward to recycle. Ink cartridges are expensive due to the material used to make them. People are even making a business out of recycling your old ink cartridges.

To recycle them, you can send them via post or drop them off at Staples, Best Buy, or other retailers. If you’re stuck, try Earth 911; they’ll be able to point you in the right direction.


household batteriesThey’re classed as hazardous waste, which means batteries need to be recycled; in fact, some states it the law to recycle them.

Luckily you recycle them with ease. Most grocery stores have special drop off points. Drop them in the bin and let other people take care of it for you.

If you don’t have anything available, then some communities run hazardous waste collection events. Keep an eye out for recycling events in your area.

Old TVs

Most households have multiple TVs in the house, and a lot of them have harmful chemicals inside, especially the old ones. So it’s a good idea to recycle instead of sending them to the landfill.

If you’re looking to recycle your old TV you have a few options; you could ring your local recycling center. Or best buy will pick up your old TV once they dropped off your replacement.

Power Cords

People often forget about recycling their old cables, so we end up with a box full of wires, it’s one of those “Just in case” things.

The thing is, we never end up using them; they just stay cluttering up the place.

Cables are full of copper, which is a valuable recyclable; strip it down yourself, and you could make yourself some extra cash.

Mobile Phones

Mobile phones have a vast amount of recyclable materials, yet we only recycle around 10% of our phones. Which strange considering you can get paid for your old phones.

If you’re looking to recycle an old phone, there are plenty of online stores that you could ship them off to. If not, some mobile phone stores will take them off your hands.


It’s no secret that you can recycle metal, and it has an endless life-cycle. The problem is some will require a special recycling process.


tin cansOld food tins and aluminum cans are recycled from your curbside with little to no effort. You do need to clean them first; they might get rejected.

Just leave them in your recycling bin, and they will come to collect it.

If you’ve created a lot of trash, you could take it to a recycling center yourself.

Aerosol Cans

Some aerosol cans have some hazardous chemicals inside, which is why many recycling plants won’t take them. Once you’ve found the right recycling center, there’re a few things you need to do.

Make sure the cans are completely empty, and the plastic lid gets removed before sending it away. Don’t worry about the spray cap; they’ll do that for you.

Aluminum Foil

Aluminium foil ballIt’s made with the same material as the soda cans, but because of the contamination, it’s not always guaranteed you can recycle them.

Make sure it’s clean and free of food waste once the foil is clean, roll all the sheets into a big ball.

It stops it from getting blown away and helps it go through the recycling machine.


It’s one of the biggest polluters of the ocean, if not the biggest. Unfortunately, it’s not always recyclable. So can you recycle plastic bags?

Plastic Bags

A lot of plastic bags are made with #2 or #4 plastic, which means they can be recycled. You need to make sure they are free of any food waste, turn them inside out, and give them a shake to make sure they’re empty.

They can’t be recycled at your average recycling center; it needs special treatment. But it takes no effort to recycle them. Next time you go to the grocery store, take your old plastic bags; they usually have a drop-off recycling bin outside.

Plastic Bottles

recycled plastic bottles2.5 million bottles are used in the US every hour, which is mind-boggling.

So I’m sure you can understand why plastic bottles one of the biggest ocean polluters

Most plastic bottles can go in your curbside recycling bin. But there are occasions where recycling bottles isn’t going to be possible.

Plastics bottles made with #3-#7 plastic need special recycling, due to their using plant-based resins.

Caps And Lids

Lids and caps are harder to recycle than plastic bottles. The problem comes because plastic lids aren’t always made with the same plastic. And to make it worse, every recycling program has its own rules regarding their recycling.

Some programs will ask you to take the lids off and separate them while others want you to leave them on. And in the worst case, they ask you to chuck them away. Personally, I fill a 5-liter bottle with lids; it ensures they don’t fall through the gaps during the recycling process.


It’s a little known fact, but you can recycle straws. But, it’s not always easy unless you know the little trick; check it out; it’s a turtle saving technique.

It will take some scouting to find a recycling program that will accept them, but it is possible. If your struggling, then check the Earth 911 recycling database; it’s enormous.

Bubble Wrap

bubble-wrapIt might come as a surprise, but bubble wrap isn’t just good for popping. It can also be recycled very easily. You have two options in my eyes.

Your first option is to reuse; it’s always a better option than recycling; it takes too much energy to process.

The second is to recycle bubble wrap with your plastic bags; they use the same plastics so you’ll have no issues.


Styrofoam is a nightmare to dispose of! It doesn’t biodegrade and uses harmful toxins to be manufactured. And if it does break down, tiny pieces of microplastics are left behind. So it’s lucky we can recycle it.

It’s hard and will take some searching, but it can be done. As always, if you’re struggling to find somewhere local try Earth 911, they really do have the best database.


There are so many materials in your home that can be recycled. It’s just knowing which ones. I’ve already mentioned a few materials you can find in your home. But, here are a few more:


glass-recyclingNearly all glass can be recycled nowadays; even plastic coated windshields can be recycled now with the new recycling technology.

Unfortunately, it’s not always as easy as sticking it in your curbside recycling, unlike glass bottles.

Windows and mirrors need special recycling, which means you need to find a construction recycler.

Windscreens need similar treatment, look for automotive recycling as for glass bottles, they can go in your standard recycling bin. Just try not to break the glass bottles before recycling them.


Light bulbs can be recycled and they hold some valuable materials inside; not only that but CFL bulbs contain mercury. Mercury needs special treatment due to the damage it can do to the environment and your health.

Stores across the country have set drop off bins to cut down the amount of trash getting sent to the landfill. Make sure all CFL bulbs are sent to the right recycling program mercury is extremely dangerous.


recycling clothesIt’s strange to think, but the fashion industry is one of the biggest polluters, its only just behind oil. Which is why we should recycle our old clothes.

You have a couple of options; clothing swaps or thrift stores are a great way to get new clothes while getting rid of your old stuff.

You could also give them to charity as long as the clothes aren’t damaged too badly. If they’re damaged, then send them for recycling; H&M has a drop-off point if you’re struggling.


They’re just about the most significant thing, you can recycle, and because of the size, it’s not very easy to recycle. But, they do contain materials that can be recovered. You have a few different options when it comes to recycling.

Recycling programs may accept them. If not, the store you brought a new mattress from might be able to take it for you. If that’s not an option, a second-hand store like goodwill might take it off your hands.


That should be more than enough items to get stuck into. But, before we go, there’re a few things you need to remember.

Plastic bags require special recycling as do a lot of other materials. Make sure you check the item can go in curbside recycling beforehand.

Another thing to note is, food waste is one of the number one contaminators of recycling; this counts for cardboard, glass bottles, and other debris.

With solid waste management, we can make a difference!

If you have any questions or you think I’ve missed something important, feel free to comment below. If you like what you’ve seen, don’t forget to give us a share on Facebook/Twitter.

Scroll to Top