Recycling 101: Let’s get started with recycling basics.

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Recycle Smart

1: Recycling is not the same everywhere
Recycling can vary- some locations accept more, but Minnesota programs currently accept empty bottles and cans, dry boxes and paper. Inform yourself with the list of what is accepted in your program, and then set your home up to make recycling easy.

2: Bottles, cans, containers need to be empty
Food and liquid creates problems down the line. For messy containers that require more than a simple rinse (like yogurt or peanut butter), let them soak or use a spatula to remove food waste from containers.

3: Recycling has costs, but it also has many benefits.
There is a cost to collecting and processing recyclables but recycling delivers reduced greenhouse gases, creates jobs, and returns materials to manufacturers which reduces the need for new materials.

4: Recycling is not just an environmental issue.
Recycling is good for Minnesota’s economy. It supports more than 60 thousand jobs in our state, paying almost $3.4 billion in wages and adds nearly $15.7 billion to Minnesota’s economy. BUT, Minnesotans are still throwing away more than 850,000 tons of recyclables, with an estimated value of $153 million. What you do adds up. Reduce. Recycle only the right things. Buy items in recyclable packages and those made with recycled content.

5: The recycling arrows are a clue, not the final word on whether or not something is recyclable.
Most communities accept plastic bottles and containers in household recycling– check with your local program. More things are recyclable but only through drop-off programs. The number inside the little arrows refers to the type of plastic an item is made from, not whether or not it is recyclable.


6: Recycle plastic bottles with the cap on.
Unless your local recycling program says “no caps,” leave the plastic caps on plastic bottles. Plastics recyclers want your caps! Glass bottles, however, have corks or caps made from metal and those caps need to come off.

7: Organics can also be recycled, right?
No! Composting and recycling happen in different ways. Food waste and compostable serviceware CANNOT be recycled. If organics collection is not provided in your program, your municipality may offer support for backyard composting.

8: Keeps plastic bags and plastic wrap out of your recycling.
Just because something is plastic does not mean it can be recycled in your cart. Many retailers collect plastic bags and wrap (such as the plastic wrap around a case of water) but they don’t belong in your recycling.

9: Be a recycling hero. Recycle right.
Wishcycling (recycling items because you want your program to recycle them but they tell you they can’t) creates more waste, more cost, and can be dangerous for workers. Unaccepted materials, or accepted materials with food and liquid can damage machinery. It’s important to recycle right.

10: What happens after a truck picks up my recycling?
Collected recyclables are sorted by people and machinery and then baled to sell back to manufacturers. Your recyclables become new products. Even if your community uses the same trucks for all collection, rest assured MN has strict restrictions on landfilling materials intended to be recycled. Just like any other system, success depends on many small actions and those actions all add up! Please, recycle with care and help reduce waste.

Have more recycling questions? Get the real answers and take our quiz here.

What are the benefits of recycling?

There are a lot of reasons to recycle and it’s an easy way to make a difference every day. Recyclables hold the power to become new packages and products. Recycling happens community by community, and most communities have subtle differences in what they accept for recycling. Find out what your local recycling program accepts – at the curb, drop-off, donation, and elsewhere.

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