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The Not-Your-Average Recycling Guide

We all know that standard bottles and cans are recyclable. Some items, on the other hand, are less obvious. Some items that you may think are recyclable are actually not. Some things need to be brought to a recycling center. Some things might be partially recyclable. 

Here is your guide to those items. These can vary from city to city and it can also depend on whether or not your city has single-stream recycling, so if you are unsure or have any questions, contact your city’s recycling department.

- Batteries usually need to be brought to a recycling center.
- Cans of cleaning supplies, like Comet or Ajax, must be separated. Remove the metal part and recycle with the scrap metal and put the rest with cardboard.
- Deodorant sticks often aren’t able to be recycled in their entirety. I thought they were, until researching this article. (My bad.) Toms of Maine deodorant can be, as they are made entirely of plastic #5.
- Envelopes vary. Standard envelopes are recyclable and even the ones with the plastic windows can be recycled, too. No need to rip the plastic off, since it will be filtered out in the recycling process. Padded envelopes with bubble wrap cannot be recycled, so don’t buy them! You can reuse them, however.
- Fake credit cards are not recyclable. You know the kinds, the ones that are in those “pre-approved!!!” deals you get in the mail. You must throw the fake card out and then you can recycle the rest.
- Floppy disks can be recycled by sending them to or, you can make fun crafts with them!
- Foil. We call it tin foil, but it’s aluminum. Rinse it off and toss it in your recycling bin. - Hardcover books must have the hardcover removed first. Paperbacks can be recycled whole.
- Greeting cards...yes, they are recyclable, but I just needed to share an interesting alternative.    St. Jude’s Ranch (a nonprofit home for abused and neglected children) runs a card reuse program where kids cut off the front covers, glue them onto new cards, and sell them to earn money. Visit their website for details.
- Juice bags, like Capri Suns, cannot be recycled through cities, but they do run a program to turn them into purses.
- Keys can be thrown in with scrap metal.
- Pendaflex folders, i.e. those folders in filing cabinets with the metal things. Both the paper can metal parts can be recycled, but you need to take them apart first.
- Plastic utensils are not recyclable. This one surprised me, as I had been recycling them. Oops.
- Post-Its are fine to recycle. The sticky part gets filtered out.
- Saran Wrap is not recyclable if it’s used.
- Shower curtains contain PVC (usually) and cannot be recycled. Throw ‘em out. 
- Small appliances, like food processors or coffee makers often are recyclable, if it is at least 50% metal.
- Takeout containers, such as pizza boxes and Chinese food containers can’t be recycled because they are usually soiled with grease. Read more about takeout containers here.
- Toothpaste tubes can be recycled if they’re the aluminum type, but the plastic kinds need to be thrown out.
- Umbrellas can be recycled if they’re the metal kind, but you must remove the handle and fabric first. Plastic ones aren’t recyclable at all.
- Wax paper cannot be recycled unless it’s made of soybeans.
- Yellow Pages. Check with your city, because some will take them. If not, the Yellow Pages website can tell you where to recycle them. It’s also wise to opt out of receiving them. 
- Yogurt containers are not always recyclable, so check with your city before tossing them in your bin, or reuse them!
- Ziploc bags are partially recyclable. The “zipper” part isn’t, so you need to snip that off. The rest of the bag can be recycled like other plastic bags. (And break yourself of the Ziploc habit...there’s a great alternative!  Thanks, Liz!)