Some people think recycling is as easy as tossing your paper and plastic waste into a special bin, but recycling isn’t always so simple. If you want to step up your recycling game this year, make sure you aren’t making any of these mistakes:

Take lids off.

Most recycling centers have to process lids separate from the rest of the container. If you don’t take the lid off of an item before tossing it in a bin, the employees at the recycling center will have to manually go through your waste and remove the lids. Save these hard working employees the trouble by removing the lids off of all of your recyclables.

Don’t guess.

As you go through your waste and separate it into recyclables and non-recyclables, you may come across an unusual item that has you stumped. Is an old toothpaste tube recyclable? How about a shampoo bottle? If you’re ever in doubt, take the time to call your local recycling center before you toss the item in the bin. For example, recycling centers will accept products made from plastic #1 or 2, however a lot of these centers will not take plastic #3, 6, or 7, which is why you should always call prior to assuming an item is safe to recycle.

Wash bottles and containers.

Before you toss a jar, bottle, or other type of container, it’s best to wash it out to remove food or anything else that may be caked onto it. For instance, if you are recycling salad dressing bottles, give each of them a quick rinse under the sink to remove any dressing that is still lingering around inside the bottle. A lot of recycling centers will not accept products that have not been rinsed, so don’t let your recycling efforts go to waste.

Removing labels.

Did you know that most local recycling centers do not require that you remove labels from a product prior to tossing it in a recycling bin? If you’ve been peeling off labels before recycling, save yourself a little bit of time and skip this step.


Don’t recycle plastic bags.

Recycling centers typically do not accept plastic bags because they are difficult to clean and process, so don’t add these items to your recycling bin. Instead, either start using reusable bags when you do your grocery shopping, or talk to your local grocery store to see if they have a recycling program for used plastic bags.

Bag your shredded paper.

Shredded paper is recyclable, but you can’t just throw a handful of it into a recycling bin. Because the shreds are so small, they can be difficult to sort, so most recycling centers will not accept it unless you put all of it into a paper bag and label it appropriately. Call the recycling center nearest you to find out if this is an option.

What mistakes did you make when you first started recycling? Are there any common mistakes not mentioned on this list? Tell us in the comments below!