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Recycling at Home


Snapshot & Benefits:

Recycling is one of the easiest ways for individuals to help the environment and save energy. By recycling products you use at home, you can help reduce the amount of waste that ends up in landfills and minimize the use of natural resources and manufacturing energy.  In 2008 alone, 135 million tons of municipal solid waste was deposited into landfills in the United States.  On the positive side, 83.1 million tons of material (about 33%) was recovered through recycling and composting in 2008 and that number is constantly on the rise.  The Environmental Protection Agency has set a goal to reach a national recycling rate of 40% by the year 2011. (Sources: Municipal Solid Waste Generation, Recycling and Disposal in the U.S., 2008 and Recycling on the Go


The EPA has also initiated a "Recycling on the Go" program that helps place recycling containers in public places like parks, transportation stations, stadiums, event centers, etc. and encourages the development of a "culture of recycling" that extends from the home to the workplace and everywhere in between.  For more information about the program, click here.


Estimated Cost Savings:

Recycling is a free way to help the environment.  Depositing materials at recycling collection centers or in public bins is free of charge.  Some curbside collection programs require a small fee, but they are usually relatively inexpensive.  Some states will pay consumers for recycling materials such as cans and glass bottles.  There are also some companies that will pay for recycled cell phones, ink cartridges, computers, etc.  Some larger items and electronics may require a fee to recycle depending on the company.


While recycling has no immediate monetary savings for the homeowner, the environmental savings are monumental.  Recycling helps:

  • Prevent use of natural resources

  • Minimize energy used in processing raw materials and the production and manufacture of goods

  • Keep waste out of landfills

  • Prevents manufacturing pollution

  • Decreases greenhouse gas emissions

  • Preserve the environment


It is important to know what can and cannot be recycled.  Certain materials cannot be reprocessed for various reasons and should, therefore, be reused or disposed of properly.  Consult the following list for common items that can and cannot be recycled (from  See warnings below for certain items.








  • Paper (usually has to be sorted into white and colored)

  • Newspapers

  • Aluminum cans

  • Glass jars and bottles

  • Plastics (#1-7)1

  • Steel cans

  • Old telephone directories

  • Cardboard

  • Magazines

  • Milk and juice cartons

  • Egg cartons2

  • Plastic grocery bags3

  • Cell phones

  • Computers

  • Steel cans


  • Ceramic, clay pots, porcelain
  • Lightbulbs
  • Styrofoam
  • Foam meat/produce trays
  • Plastic food wrap
  • Paper towels and tissue paper
  • Fabrics, textiles, and clothing
  • Disposable diapers
  • Alkaline batteries
  • Needles or syringes
  • Scrap Metals

        1.     Check with your local recycling center to make sure they accept every type of plastic.

2.     Some recycling centers will not accept egg cartons.

3.     While many collection centers will not accept plastic bags because they are so light and can easily get stuck in machinery, some retailers now have collection bins at the front of the stores for plastic bags to be reused or recycled.  Take your used plastic bags with you on your next trip to the store and ask if they are collecting them.


Many recycling collection centers require you to sort your recyclables before dropping them off.  Stop by or call them to find out what categories to sort them into.


Regional Issues:

Some cities have initiated recycling programs where residents can put their recycling out with their trash for collection.  Many of these are experimental at this point and do not extend to all neighborhoods or cities.  Contact your local garbage collector to inquire about any programs in your area.  Also, some companies will collect your recycling for a fee so you don't have to go drop it off.  Check with companies in your area to find out more about their recycling services.


Installation (Getting It Done):

Recycling is one of the easiest ways to help the environment.  Set up a box or bin somewhere in your home to collect recycling in.  Consider putting one in your kitchen for bottles, cans, etc. and one in your home office for paper and newspapers.  Once your bins are full, simply empty them, sort them into categories, and take them to the nearest recycling center on your way to work or while running errands. 


To find a recycling center near you, use this state-by-state guide from the National Recycling Coalition or visit


Videos On This Topic:


Plastic Bag (18:33) - Ramin Bahrani - This short narrated film gives audiences a different perspective on landfills and what it they mean for the environment. 


More Information On This Topic:


EPA - Reduce, Reuse, Recycle


EPA - Municipal Solid Waste Generation, Recycling and Disposal in the U.S., 2008


EPA - Reducing Waste Can Make a Difference


State Recycling Resources - National Recycling Coalition





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