Most of us want to recycle.  However, understanding what’s recyclable and what isn’t can be overwhelming.  Some communities offer support including bins to sort your items in and clear definitions about what is acceptable.  Yet other communities leave their residents alone to figure it out for themselves.  Regardless, here’s the low down on how to understand recycling and what to do with those extras like cell phones, paint cans and computers.

What is Recyclable?

Essentially just about everything is recyclable however, most recycling programs divide items into four main categories:

* Paper

* Plastic

* Metal

* Glass

Paper items include newspapers, magazines, paper bags, books, cardboard and cardstock.  Just about any type of paper can be recycled and most programs do not limit types of paper however, some do not take cardboard or glossy magazines.

Plastic is typically where it gets confusing.  Here’s a basic rundown of plastic types and how they’re labeled for recycling.

1. PET (polyethylene terephthalate): Soda and water bottles are made from this type of plastic.

2. HDPE (high-density polyethylene): Milk, juice and detergent bottles are made from this type of plastic.

3. PVC (polyvinyl chloride): Plumbing pipe, shower curtains, and some plastic toys and infant materials.

4. LDPE (low-density polyethylene): Grocery bags and food wrap are made from this plastic

5. PP (polypropylene): Many food storage containers are made from this type of plastic.

6. PS (polystyrene): Also called Styrofoam, this plastic is used to make take out containers, cups and packing materials.

7. Other: Anything labeled 7 cannot be recycled.  This includes many squeezable bottles, older reusable water bottles and dishes.  This type of plastic leaches Bisphenol A, which is toxic and best not to be used.

Metal items include cans, which commonly hold tomatoes, beans, and other vegetables, as well as soda cans and coffee cans.

Glass items include any glass bottles or jars

For those extra items like cell phones and computers or items like paint cans or car batteries, check with your local recycling center to find out if they offer special drop off days.  If they do not, often you can find recycling businesses in your community.  They may charge a small fee but it’s better than tossing them into a landfill.  Online you’ll also find many companies that will pay you for your used cell phones and computers.

Preparing Items For Recycling

The steps to recycle and to prepare your items are easy. You need to simply wash them.  Don’t worry, you don’t have to scrub them clean, a simple rinsing will get the job done.

Remove caps from plastic and glass items.  They’re not recyclable.

Recycling is a relatively easy way to be environmentally conscious.  If your community doesn’t offer curbside service then a sorting bin and a monthly trip to the recycling center while you’re running other errands will get the job done.  Don’t let recycling intimidate you, it’s easy and well worth the effort.