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Week 23: #Waves4Change 2020 Sustainability Challenge: What can I recycle?

Last week we discussed the importance of recycling and where you can recycle if you do not have a city-wide recycling program. This week we will cover what you can recycle. It is extremely important to follow the recycling guidelines of your city to ensure that what you put in the recycling bin will be recycled. The City of Cleveland as we know has put a halt on its recycling program due to residents not understanding what can and cannot be put in the recycle bins for curbside pickup. Today will hopefully clear up some of that confusion.

There are multiple groups of items that can be recycled: glass, plastic, paper, cardboard, aluminum cans, and tin cans. See the image above for a better picture of these different groups. However, not all items that may fall into these groups are recyclable. To explain, it is probably easiest to outline what you cannot recycle.

Here are commonly misinterpreted items that are thrown into recycling that cannot be recycled. Along with identifying what cannot be recycled, an idea of how to eliminate that item from your daily use is available. Any single-use plastic or items that cannot be recycled should be minimized in use which will reduce our waste.

Items Not Recyclable: Substitute Items to Use:
Plastic Bags – this includes garbage bags, grocery bags, vegetable bags at the store, shopping bags To eliminate how many garbage bags you use, try creating a compost in your backyard to enrich soil for your garden naturally and eliminate waste

To eliminate the use of grocery bags and vegetable bags, try bringing your own re-usable bags to the store. During COVID19 initially, many places were not allowing re-usable bags. In that instance, I was either only shopping at places that had paper bags to use or I would buy a storage container I know I could utilize at home and filling that up with my grocery shopping list to buy with the groceries. This method isn’t for everyone, but it worked for me!

Plastic Wrap Invest in re-usable containers to keep your food fresh versus wrapping items in plastic wrap
Flexible Packaging – deck of cards box with a clear plastic window, mail with a clear plastic window These items are not recyclable as they contain multiple materials. The plastic film is the issue, so a suggesting is to separate the materials for proper recycling of the box.
Plastic, Polystyrene Foam, or Wax Coating Cups Avoid the use of these cups by using a re-usable to go container. I take my Yeti mug everywhere!


For more guidance, the waste management site has some great tools at A local city program would also be useful in helping figure out what you can and cannot recycle.