Concentration of CO2 in the Atmosphere

Back to Basics: What is Recyclable?

Image: CSWD

By Raeann Bilow

Being a perfect recycler is tough. Recycling poses size requirements, exceptions to some common rules, and different places to bring different recyclables. And even once you feel like you’ve mastered recycling in your own local area, you find there are changes from state to state, and county to county, and by locality.

If you focus on all of those differences, it can feel so overwhelming that some can be turned off from the whole process altogether. However, by going back to the everyday items that make up the majority of recyclable materials, you’ll be able to breathe easy knowing that you’re recycling what you should be – and not recycling the wrong things.

Blue bin recycling

Let’s go back to basics. Your blue bin or cart is for a specific set of common items: Containers and paper. If you don’t get them picked up curbside, they can be taken to any nearby drop-off center.

Containers and paper are the standard items that belong in your blue bin. These two categories make up the lion’s share of the stuff that your local sorting center was designed for. Containers include cans, bottles, jars, tubs, and packaging. Think soda cans and bottles, yogurt tubs, the rigid packaging that electronics come in, whipped cream aerosol cans, and shampoo bottles. Paper includes items made of uncoated fibers. Think office paper, newspaper, junk mail, shipping boxes, and cereal boxes.

Cleanliness is important to the companies that buy recycling. The containers you bring should always be empty at a minimum and rinsed clean whenever possible. Dirty materials, once mixed in with the rest of materials at the recycling facility, can contaminate entire loads. Paper and cardboard should not have food stuck on them and should be dry.

Special recycling

Containers and paper go in your recycling bin – You get it. So, what about the many other items that are recyclable – but don’t belong in your recycling bin?

There are collection facilities that accept many other items for special recycling. Plastic bags are accepted at most grocery and hardware stores. Batteries are accepted at many retailers and local drop-off centers. Municipal and private solid waste facilities commonly collect a variety of items, including scrap metal (from wire hangers to lawn mowers), fluorescent bulbs, electronics, propane tanks, appliances, and more.

If you’re not sure about something, don’t throw it in the recycling bin. Either reach out to your local district or throw it in the trash. Here in Chittenden County, Vermont, you can call the Chittenden Solid Waste District hotline at (802) 872-8111, or check out disposal options for the hundreds of items posted on our A-Z list at

Raeann Bilow is a Marketing Specialist at Chittenden Solid Waste District.



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