Common Recycling Mistakes To Avoid

Recycling isn’t always easy to figure out. With Earth Day coming up on Wednesday, April 22, we could all use a reminder on what is and what is not recyclable and how you can make the greatest impact on your community and our planet every day. Did you know that recycling helps not only reduce waste, but it also helps reduce pollution and greenhouse gas emissions? Today, people are more aware than ever of the importance of disposing of our waste properly but it’s getting recycling right that is a big deal.

Here are some of the most common mistakes people make in recycling:


Recycling rules: each state, maybe even city, have their own recycling rules. Check those out before you begin recycling to be sure you’re following them.

  • Covered in Food or Greasy Packages: greasy pizza boxes, meat packaging, takeout boxes, or other gross packaging should not be recycled. In fact, it could ruin and an entire load of recycling if the load gets rejected due to contaminating with non-recyclable items. Even if the container is recyclable, if it has food waste on or in it, it will likely be rejected. Wash out bottles, plastic containers, and tin cans.
  • “Bad” Recycling Habits: doing things like crushing cans, removing jar labels, or in some areas, separating plastic types are all things that just add time and effort FOR YOU. The machines at sorting centers can do all of that. Don’t waste your time doing these things and make recycling more of a chore.
  • Saying No to Glossy Paper: years ago, magazines were not recyclable, but, now they are! In fact, most glossy papers can be recycled. If you haven’t been recycling those, you can now.
  • Throwing Out Bottle Tops: while it is still a debated topic, most places actually take bottle tops but just want them OFF the bottle. The reason behind this isn’t because the top isn’t recyclable, it is to help prevent liquid being traped and making items heavier and harder for the machines to work properly. So, remove and toss both in the recycle bin.


  • My Disposable Coffee Cup is Recyclable: actually, most disposable coffee cups are not recyclable because they have a film of polyethylene to make them waterproof. Because of this layer, the cups can be hard to reprocess. So, this means it is best to just throw them away because they could contaminate a load of recycling. Best option? Buy yourself a reusable cup for your hot drinks! Many places including Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts will fill the cup or travel mug for the same price of a large hot coffee.
  • Just Throw Out Plastic Bags: so many people hear that plastic bags can’t be recycled and throw them out. That is not entirely the truth. Many still CAN be recycled but go through a different machine as they could clog it. Many grocery stores have collection bins for plastic bags. Save your bags, and turn them in the next time you go. Best solution? Use recycled reusable cloth shopping bags!

You may or may not have made these mistakes before, but don’t worry! Hopefully, this will help you out when it comes to recycling and make it a little easier. It shouldn’t be a lot of extra effort on your part. Know the rules, be smart about what you recycle, and let’s help the Earth out! Want more ideas on recycling better or FREE printable posters to put in your home or office? Check out Casella’s site for more information.



Author: Bailey Aines, part-time NWWVT employee