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The Ultimate List of What Can Be Recycled

Here, we're going to list the items you can (and cannot) recycle to help your business maximize the positive impacts of your recycling efforts.

Shelby Bell | May 1, 2020


If you're wondering what items can be recycled, you've come to the right place. Understanding this information will help improve your recycling efforts. Still, with several materials, rules, and bins to keep track of, we know it can be easy to lose sight of the specifics. Here, we're going to list the items you can (and cannot) recycle to help your business maximize the positive impacts of your recycling efforts. Follow along for more!

Why it is Important To Know What Can Be Recycled

Before we dive into things that can and cannot be recycled, we must discuss why it's essential to know the difference. Sometimes recycling materials correctly is a more involved process than it seems. Several factors impact this process, including mandates and regulations, material types, contamination, regional facility capabilities, and economic feasibility. Add into the mix that some of the materials containing recycling symbols, or those described as "eco-friendly," or "sustainable," may actually not be recyclable at all. There's no universal recycling code in place determining which materials are recyclable or not, and rules can vary from city to city or even business to business. Keeping track of all of these different rules can be exhausting, to say the least, but it doesn't have to be.

Taking some time to learn what can be recycled, and just as importantly, what can't be recycled, will eliminate contamination, and help your business improve its recycling process. Keeping recyclable items separated from non-recyclable items helps to retain the quality of the materials and create a more robust recycling process. See below for the ultimate list of recyclables, or click here for a downloadable version to share with your colleagues!



Items You Can Recycle

Please remember, recyclable items can vary based on location. Always check with your local program to find out which items are recyclable in your area. Below you will find a list of recyclables that are accepted by most programs. To maintain material quality, sort the following materials by stream type:

OCC (Old Corrugated Cardboard): Clean, flattened, corrugated cardboard

Commingled Materials: Plastics #1 and #2, clean water and soda bottles, milk jugs, aluminum beverage cans, tin/steel food cans, colored and clear glass bottles

Mixed Paper: Paperboard (tissue boxes, cereal boxes), copy paper, construction paper, newspaper, magazines, and envelopes

Compost: Fruits and vegetables, eggshells, coffee grounds and filters, tea bags, nutshells, yard trimmings, grass clippings, leaves, biodegradable plates and silverware



Items You Can't Recycle

Now that you have an understanding of the things you can recycle, it's just as important to understand which items you cannot recycle and why. Materials need to be clean and valuable to recycle. Tossing non-recyclable items into the same bin causes contamination, downgrading the materials, and making the whole batch non-recyclable. The following items are not recyclable and should be placed in your landfill bin:

OCC (Old Corrugated Cardboard): No grease or food contamination, frozen food or take out boxes, coffee cups, and coated cardboard

Commingled Materials: No plastic grocery bags, eating utensils, Styrofoam, plastic wrap, broken light-bulbs, electronics, paint cans, and scrap metal

Mixed Paper: No waxed cartons (containers that held liquid such as orange juice), used paper plates, used napkins, receipts, and paper cups

Compost: No plastic plates and utensils, produce stickers, plastic wrap, and tin foil

Items Requiring Special Handling

Some materials may technically be recyclable, but require special handling and should never be placed in with the regular recycling. If your business generates any of the following, RoadRunner can help you correctly dispose of them: Computer and electronics, hazardous waste, medical waste, paint, and light bulbs. Get in touch with us for more information.


If you have any questions about which items are recyclable or not in your area, feel free to drop us a comment below or email me directly at If you are interested in learning how RoadRunner can help improve your business' waste and recycling program, reach out to us at 888.871.7623 ext. 0 or schedule a free consultation with us.




Let's get the conversation started on how to drive recycling and cost savings for your business.