Recycling 101 | What You Can & Can’t Recycle (9/2/2022)

Feb 10, 2023 Annie Cao

If you’ve checked out our recent blog post about reading plastic recycling labels, you might have a better idea of what you can and can’t recycle. Here, we're giving a more detailed breakdown on what you should keep in mind when preparing to recycle, as well as what you can and can’t put in your curbside recycling bin.


 image via wm.com


Keep items relatively clean and dry.

If you’re recycling bottles, jars, and cans, a quick rinse with water or leftover soapy water is good enough. If there’s a sticky residue, you may need to use a brush or scraper to remove more of the product.

When it comes to paper and cardboard, crumpled and torn paper is okay to recycle. You don’t have to remove the tape from cardboard, but it’s recommended that you flatten boxes. However, wet and moldy paper should be thrown away.

Don’t put plastic bags in the recycling bin.

Plastic bags generally can’t be recycled because they usually jam the machinery at recycling facilities, but supermarkets and big-box retailers have drop-off locations for recycling. Before disposing of plastic bags, make sure to shake out any dry particles. If there is a sticky film or residue, wash and dry the plastic bag — excess water interferes with the melting process when recycling.

Keep foods and liquids out of recycling.

Just like how wet items affect the recycling process, foods and liquids can contaminate your recyclables. This means facilities won’t be able to recycle those items and they’ll end up in landfills instead. Dispose of liquids and foods properly, and compost items when possible.


image via ashevillenc.gov


What You Can & Can’t Recycle

Now that you have the basic guidelines in mind, here’s a list of what can and can’t be recycled (note: always check with your municipality since recycling options can vary).



  • Plastic bottles and containers
  • Food and beverage cans
  • Paper
  • Flattened cardboard
  • Glass bottles
  • Metals (tin, steel, aluminum)


image via heritage-enviro.com


  • Plastic bags, wrap, or film
  • Styrofoam
  • Bagged recyclables (empty the bag and reuse it)
  • Dirty diapers
  • Medical waste
  • Household items
  • Garage waste
  • Heavily soiled items


If you've been working on improving your recycling skills, hopefully this helped you out! Here at Sabai, our priority is helping out the planet, and we hope you'll share this guide with friends and family. And don't forget to check out our sustainable furniture at sabai.design! 🛒

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