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June 10, 2024

What You Can and Can't Recycle - Expert Dispels Myths Around Recycling

A how-to guide for recycling seven of the most commonly questioned waste items

What You Can and Can't Recycle - Expert Dispels Myths Around Recycling

Recycling is a crucial practice for reducing waste and conserving our planet's resources, but it's often surrounded by myths and misconceptions. Many people are unsure about what can and cannot be recycled, leading to mistakes that can contaminate recycling streams or result in recyclable items ending up in landfills. 

Brian McDaid of Eagle Dumpster Rental aims to clear up some common recycling myths, providing straightforward tips on how to handle common waste items and advice on best practices. 

Pizza Boxes

Cardboard is one of the easiest materials to recycle, but leftover grease, cheese, and sauce can make pizza boxes seem non-recyclable. Fortunately, most recycling centers will accept pizza boxes as long as they are reasonably clean. 

“Before recycling, remove all food scraps and scrape off any leftover cheese,” advises Brian.  “Small amounts of grease or cheese are usually acceptable”.

Juice/Milk Cartons with Lids

Some drink containers can be tricky because they are made from different materials—usually a paper carton and a plastic lid. To recycle them, you need to separate the carton from the lid and remove the small plastic ring connecting the top. Make sure each component goes into the appropriate recycling bin.

Shredded Paper

Shredded paper is recyclable, but not all recycling centers can process it due to its small size. Check your local recycling guidelines to see if they accept shredded paper. For example, San Francisco residents can recycle shredded paper if it’s placed in a paper bag marked "shredded." 

“Shredded paper really depends on the locale, but alternatively, shredded paper is universally accepted for composting,” notes Brian. 

Tissues, paper towels, napkins

These items are generally not recyclable due to food and other residues. However, don’t toss them in the trash just yet—paper towels, napkins, and tissues can be composted, even with food waste on them. Place them in organic waste bins or add them to your compost pile.

“When something isn’t recyclable, it doesn't mean it needs to end up in a landfill,” says Brian. “Look into alternative ways to dispose of items, such as composting, to reduce waste. But note that these items can only be composted if what’s on them is organic material”.

Coffee pods

Many people believe coffee pods aren’t recyclable, but they can be if handled correctly. Allow the pods to cool completely before touching them. Remove the lids and recycle those with metals. Rinse the coffee grounds out of the plastic cup, and recycle it with plastics. 

"Coffee pods just take a little more work to get them to be recyclable," says Brian. "Those few minutes are better than sending the whole thing to a landfill or risking dirty or unseparated coffee pods messing up recycling centers."


Though receipts are made of paper, many cannot be recycled because they use thermal paper, which contains chemicals like BPA or BPS to print without ink. To check if your receipts are thermal, lightly scratch a white section with your fingernail. If it turns black, it’s not recyclable. 

"Whenever possible, opt to have receipts emailed to save paper waste," suggests Brian.

Wrapping Paper

Majority of wrapping paper is recyclable. However, if it has extra components such as metallics or glitter, those components make the wrapping paper non recyclable. 

“Make sure to remove any plastic tape from the paper before recycling, and consider buying paper that doesn’t have the extra non-recyclable embellishments,” notes Brian. 

Recycling Tips

Check local recycling laws: Not every country or even city has the same rules for recycling. It’s all limited in the technology that each local recycling center has. 

Go to recycling centers: Some items are not recyclable in home bins, but can be taken to centers to get properly recycled. Oftentimes these centers also have places to properly dispose of other items such as e-waste that shouldn’t be thrown in trash at home. 

Clean recyclables: It’s always a good idea to get as much food or other residue out of recyclables before disposal. This ensures that when you throw it out it can actually get recycled and doesn’t contaminate any other recyclables around it. 

When in doubt, throw it out: “Wishful recycling doesn’t do any good to the planet, in fact it can slow down recycle centers in theri processing or contaminate other actually recyclable items around it,” says Brian. “It’s actually more sustainable to put things in the trash that belong there than to hope they can magically be recycled”. 

"Understanding what can and can't be recycled is key to making a positive environmental impact," concludes Brian. "By staying informed and making a little extra effort, we can all contribute to a cleaner, greener planet."

Metal Test Magnet With Handle 18 lb N52 Grade Neodymium Rare Earth

Metal Test Magnet With Handle 18 lb N52 Grade Neodymium Rare Earth

Industrial Test Magnet 30 lb N52 Grade Neodymium Rare Earth With Handle

Industrial Test Magnet 30 lb N52 Grade Neodymium Rare Earth With Handle

Metal Test Magnet

Metal Test Magnet

Metal Test Magnet

Metal Test Magnet