10 Surprising Things You Can’t Recycle

If you live with a greenie, dramatic scenes can play out over the blue recycling bin. Styrofoam can be recycled, right? Hangers for sure. Why are you putting that pizza box in the trash? For the love of Al Gore, won’t anyone think of the cardboard? (And cue silent scream.)

As it turns out, throwing certain items into the recycling that you are utterly convinced can be recycled is actually worse for the environment. Oftentimes, bad items can taint an entire bin, resulting in the whole load going into a landfill. This largely depends on how well a city’s recycling facilities can sort. But it’s enough to throw a person into high anxiety with every trip to the waste bin.

Not to worry. Here’s a quick list of 10 surprising things on the “Do we or don’t we?” list. And always, if you’re in doubt about an item, check Earth911.com for a facility near you that may take your questionable trash bit.

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Pizza Boxes I know, I KNOW. It seems like these cardboard boxes are made for the recycling bins. But pizza boxes are often tainted with food and grease. Many items are recycled using a heat and water process, which is not problem for plastic and glass. But throw some cardboard soaked in oil into the process, and you’ve got a messy muck. Terry Gellenbeck is a solid waste administrative analyst for the City of Phoenix. As he told Earth911, “The oil causes great problems for the quality of the paper, especially the binding of the fibers. It puts in contaminants, so when they do squeeze the water out, it has spots and holes.”

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