Have you ever been stumped over whether an item is recyclable or not? We’ve compiled the top ten items often mistaken for potential reuse—and some of them are surprising.

1. Pizza boxes—a delivery boy drops off a pizza on Friday night. Half cheese, half pepperoni, totally delicious. You wrap up your last slice and stow it in the fridge for tomorrow’s breakfast. Now what should you do with the box? Due to the contamination of food and grease, the cardboard will not be accepted in recycling and needs to be thrown into the trash.

2. Plastic bottle caps—unless you’re holding onto bottle caps to win free stuff you really don’t need, you’ve probably chucked them into the recycling bin once or twice—sometimes still attached to the bottle. While these caps are technically recyclable, more times than not, they are made from a different plastic than the bottles they come with, and plastics cannot be mixed when recycling.

3. Wire hangers—open anyone’s closet in Cumberland County and you’ll most likely find a mix of clothes hangers—plastic, wire, or felt-wrapped. But the thing with wire hangers is that most municipalities aren’t equipped to process wire at recycling facilities. Keep them in the closet or use them in a decorative craft.

4. Styrofoam—cups, containers, and packaging—polystyrene, often referred to as Styrofoam, can actually be recycled—however most facilities don’t have the proper tools to recycle this material. And even more so, it’s cheaper to reproduce than it is to recycle and reuse!

5. Ceramics—much like the other items on this list, municipalities aren’t capable of recycling treated materials like ceramic mugs, vases, and artwork. Instead of chucking into the recycling bin, it’s unfortunately best to throw it away.

6. Plastic bags—thousands of plastic bags are put into recycling receptacles every year, and every year they wreak havoc at facilities. Most collection systems and processing equipment necessary to make use of recycling this plastic are not widely available. It’s best to avoid plastic bags altogether—take a canvas one with you to use at the store instead!

7. Broken glass—while various glass items and materials are recyclable, broken glass is not. Different products such as lightbulbs, drinking glasses, vases, and more are made from different types of glass—and when glass gets broken, it all mixes together, which poses a problem when trying to process and recycle.

8. Batteries—these are simply not recyclable due to the harmful chemicals they contain. Residue left from the inside of the batteries render them unsafe and non-reusable. Instead, dispose of batteries at one of Cumberland County’s Household & Hazardous Waste Days.

9. Straws—more than 500 million straws are used every day—in the United States alone. Like other unlabeled plastics, there’s no way to tell the type of plastic a straw is. And for this reason, they cannot be mixed and processed and have to go into the landfill.

10. Diapers—yes, diapers. The plastic in diapers are a recyclable material, like most any plastic. However, proper collection and equipment is required to efficiently process diapers so they can be recycled and reused. However, there are a few companies out there who are turning diapers into plastic roof tiles. That’s thinking outside of the box!

For more on recycling in Cumberland County, reach out to the Improvement Authority, or visit the rest of our blog for tips, tricks, and trends.

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