14 Items You Can Now Recycle

alejaeger/stock.xchngAs environmental awareness has grown, so have opportunities to recycle. Recycling is incorporated into the waste management systems of most every town in the U.S., and the list of what can be recycled has expanded due to changes in technology and marketing.

Justine Fallon of the Massachusetts Dept. of Environmental Protection describes one such change: “Aerosols used to be a safety issue (for workers). Some of the procedures in how the materials are baled now have brought about less concern." 

It is always a good idea to check with your local department of public works regarding what can be recycled where you live. There is a range of differences in each recycling plant as to what they will accept, but you might be closer to going waste-free than you think.  

Here's a list of 14 items which used to have to be thrown in the trash, but can now be recycled in many areas:

1. Water filters

Water filters are composed of a mixture of materials. Check the individual company’s website to see if they have recycling capability. For example, if you send dry, plastic-wrapped used filters back to Brita, they'll recycle the plastic portion into such items as toothbrushes, cups and cutting boards. The carbon filter and ion exchange resin contained in the filter are converted into energy. Brita will even recycle the plastic bag and box you send the filters in.

If you hire a plumber to install a whole house water filtration system, ask about filter recycling opportunities.

2. Pizza boxes

Food and grease contamination is the primary reason pizza boxes were unacceptable for recycling. Many recycling plants will now accept the box -- as long as there is no grease or cheese on it -- but not the insert that the pizza actually sits on.

3. Receipts

Many businesses' receipts are printed on thermal paper, which is reactive to heat in the machine/cash register. The heat darkens the ink on the receipt. Thermal paper is impregnated with a variety of chemicals which often make it unacceptable for recycling. Regular paper receipts are naturally fine to recycle. You can tell the difference between the two types of receipt paper, as thermal paper is usually shiny.

4. Metal and plastic bottle caps

All metal caps from soft drink and beer bottles are recyclable. Most of these types of caps are made of steel. Previously, the thin layer of polyethethylene (that plastic bit lining the cap) made it difficult to recycle. Now the layer of plastic is burned off during processing.

Many plants now accept plastic bottles with the caps. Previously, leaving the caps on the bottles was unacceptable because the caps are a different type of plastic. Mixing the two plastics in the melting process would create a lower quality material.   

5. Wine corks

Cork can’t be recycled curb-side, but a company called Terracycle will recycle cork to be made into corkboards. You can request a mailer from the company (for 15 lbs. of cork at a time). Also, most Whole Foods Markets accept corks for recycling.


A few other items you can now often recycle: 

6. The wire from around wine bottles

7. Aluminum screw tops

8. Plastic stoppers

9. Plastic and metal reusable drinking bottles

10. Clean plastic zipper bags

11. Plastic straws

12. CD/cassette cases

13. Plastic cutlery

14. Phone books.

Many towns provide routine information regarding recycling via mail and websites. Check with your DPW at least once a year for any changes and new items to recycle. "Every plant is a little bit different. It all depends on the market and who they are selling it to,” explains Fallon.

Updated October 16, 2018.

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