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What Belongs in the Bin?

This page offers a basic guide for what types of common materials should go in a home or office recycling bin. However, recycling programs can differ dramatically on acceptable materials or how materials should be separated. Be sure to check with your waste hauler or municipality for a list of acceptable items. 

PLASTIC

  • beverage containers (bottles and jugs) marked #1-7 (caps & lids attatched) 
  • food containers (squeeze bottles, tubs, plastic take-out containers)
  • health // beauty containers (lotion, shampoo, detergent, hand soap *bottles* etc.)

PAPER

  • office paper, printer paper, loose-leaf paper, etc.
  • envelopes, folders, junk mail, coupons
  • newspapers, magazines, catalogs, phone books, paperback books, etc.
  • craft paper, paper bags, wrapping paper, scraps of paper
  • paper egg cartons, paper drink cartons, juice boxes (no foil juice pouches) 

GLASS

  • beverage containers (bottles)
  • food or condiment containers (bottles and jars)

METAL

  • clean, balled-up aluminum foil
  • aluminum pie pans
  • tin and aluminium cans
  • empty aerosol canisters (discard the caps)

CARDBOARD

  • rolls from paper products 
  • broken down cardboard boxes
  • thin cardboard boxes (cereal, tissues, etc.) 

General Recycling Rules

All items should always be empty with all food or liquid residue removed and washed away as much as possible. 

Just because an object is made from plastic, metal, or glass DOES NOT mean it belongs in the bin. Recycling systems are designed to handle certain items. There are many factors that determine which items are acceptable in a recycling program. Some objects could be hazardous to sanitation workers or damage equipment used in processing recyclables! 

Most confusion and contamination in recycling systems is related to 3-dimensional objects. Use this flow chart to help you decide if a 3-D object should go in a recycling bin. (The diagram does not include paper and cardboard products)


What Should Never Go in the Recycling Bin? 

  • polystyrene (styrofoam)
  • plastic bags *
  • broken glass from windows, mirrors, drinking glasses
  • scrap metal or any metal that isnt a can or empty canister *
  • rigid plastic that isnt a bottle, jug, tub, container 
  • batteries *
  • clothing *
  • food *
  • wood
  • electronics * 
  • hazardous waste

Some of these items are easy to recycle, but they can't get recycled if placed in your home or office recycling bin. All items marked with the * have unique recycling programs in place to keep these materials out of the landfill. See our webpage called What Else Can Be Recycled to learn more.

Contact

Angelina Peone
Recycling Educator
ap2267@cornell.edu
518-372-1622 ext. 264

Last updated April 13, 2017