8 Non-Recyclable Items That You’ve Been Recycling All This Time

Let's recycle the right way!

Wait a minute, those papers and containers don’t go in the recycling bin!
While the idea to ‘reduce, reuse, and recycle’ is what the planet needs now more than ever, there are several blunders we’ve all been making unknowingly while recycling. So, keep reading to find out what items you thought were recyclable but are actually non-recyclable items!

These include items that are not recyclable because they include tiny amounts of plastic and metal. Even worse, if you try to recycle one of these products, you run the risk of ‘wishcycling,’ where you mix it in with other recyclables and contaminate them. And since no one would want that while trying to do their bit for the environment, here is a list of things that you should stop recycling, immediately.

Everyday things that cannot be recycled

From bubble wrap and egg cartons to packing peanuts and clothes hangers, here are eight surprising non-recyclable items you should stop putting in your recycling bin immediately!

1. Clothes hangers

clothes hanger on a rod
GoodGuilt / Canva

One of the most common misconceptions regarding clothes hangers is that they’re recyclable items. Unfortunately, the hook frequently catches on recycling machinery due to the peculiar shape of metal hangers. Also, the plastic hanger cannot be recycled in single-stream bins due to its mixed material composition. Unfortunately, you can’t even recycle wood hangers because of how they have been processed. So, when it comes to things that cannot be recycled, plastic hangers are a big no-no for obvious reasons.

However, you can check to see if any local thrift shops take used hangers. Ensure that the damaged hangers are only repurposed or reused in DIYs.

Related: 10 Creative Ways To Reuse And Recycle Clothes To Keep Them Out Of Landfills

2. Polystyrene and styrofoam containers

eggs kept in egg carton which are non-recyclable items
GoodGuilt / Canva

The solid and foam forms of polystyrene are widely used to protect consumer goods. However, as these styrofoam or polystyrene containers are not biodegradable and take up to 500 years to decompose, they fall into the category of things that cannot be recycled. And regrettably, if you don’t properly dispose of these non-recyclable products, you’ll just be contributing to the mountain of trash already headed for the landfills.

The list of polystyrene items includes:

  • Foam coffee cups, meat trays & plates
  • Fast food containers
  • Egg cartons

By using reusable travel cups and recycled egg cartons instead of these containers, you can vastly reduce your use of these non-recyclable items.

Related: Best Reusable Travel Mugs You Definitely Need Before Your Next Vacation

3. Packing peanuts

packing peanuts in a box, non-recyclable items
GoodGuilt / Canva

Polystyrene foam, popularly known as packing peanuts, poses a risk to our waterways, ecosystems, and health. They are those non-recyclable items that are a big no-no! They make recycling difficult as they are 95% air, all volume, and no weight. Additionally, packing peanuts are not biodegradable, which means it will take hundreds of years for them to break down in landfills.

However, this does not mean you should discard packing peanuts when you get a package containing them. Instead, consider incorporating these non-recyclable products into your kids’ DIYs or school projects.

4. Bubble wrap

bubble wrap in woman's hand, non-recyclable items
GoodGuilt / Canva

Bubble wrap, like packing peanuts, is also on this list of items that cannot be recycled. So, how come these packing materials are non-recyclable products, you may wonder? As most of us know, plastic bags and plastic wraps are well-known non-recyclable items, and bubble wrap is no exception. Due to its lightness and airiness, it cannot be recycled independently. Although bubble wrap cannot be put in curbside recycling, you can still browse Earth 911’s wide database of recycling options.

So, why not reuse bubble wrap for your next special occasion to wrap eco-friendly gifts? It will ensure that nothing is damaged while you also bid adieu to such non-recyclable items used for packaging!

5. Ceramic pieces

broken coffee mug and coffee spilling out, non-recyclable items
GoodGuilt / Canva

Contrary to popular belief, ceramics are not items that be recycled and must instead be tossed in the trash. We are aware of how simple it may be to throw away your old coffee cups or cookware, but are these things that can be recycled? Unfortunately, no! Primarily because of the technical process required to recycle ceramic objects, recycling centers refuse them. Another difficulty is that most local recycling facilities lack the equipment necessary to grind up ceramics, and the equipment they do have is inadequate to complete the job.

Alternatively, you can still use these pieces for your home’s design or decor. Or contact nearby recycling services who will take them off you.

Related: 10 Non-Toxic Cookware Brands That Are Safe For Your Kitchen And The Planet

6. Specialized paper

wrapping papers rolls kept together
GoodGuilt / Canva

Any paper with a shiny, sparkly, or velvety feel is considered as specialized paper. You may usually find these papers at your favorite art and stationery stores as:

  • Wrapping paper
  • Greeting cards
  • Gift bags
  • Shredded paper
  • Waxed paper
  • Napkins & tissues

But do these specialty papers fall into the category of things that can be recycled? Probably not. However, you can recycle it if you find white in the middle by ripping off a tiny bit of it.

So, if you ever receive cute eco-friendly gifts from your loved ones wrapped in that silky, sparkly paper, make sure to reuse them the next time. These non-recyclable products can be useful for wrapping your handmade gifts or protecting your favorite book.

Related: Best Sustainable Gift Ideas For Men That Will Leave Them Impressed

7. Broken glass or mirrors

broken glass with water is a non-recyclable item
GoodGuilt / Canva

Broken glass can be recycled, but you shouldn’t put it in your recycling container as it could damage the recyclers. But, while practically all glass jars and containers are recyclable, not all glass is made similarly. Among the glass items that cannot be recycled are pyrex baking plates, light bulbs, mirrors, and eyeglasses. As an alternative, find out from your neighborhood recycling facility whether they accept broken glass.

So, think twice the next time you’re about to recycle window glass, vases, or glass decor.

Related: 9 Easy DIYs To Reuse Old Glass Jars At Home

8. Plastic shower curtains

plastic shower curtains on rod non-recyclable items
GoodGuilt / Canva

By this point, you’re undoubtedly aware that plastic cannot be recycled. Moreover, plastic curtains? Do not even consider it. Since plastic shower curtains and liners are created using chemicals in the production of polyvinyl chloride (PVC), they are the last but not least non-recyclable products on this list. Instead, use hemp, linen, or cotton shower curtains for an eco-friendly home.

But that doesn’t mean you let go of the ones you have; instead, reuse them by giving them new life as drop cloths, drawer liners, or tablecloths.

Check the labels on things you buy, to find out if they are recyclable or not; it is one of the best methods to tell if they belong in the recycling bin. Additionally, group everything that has to go in the recycle bin rather than picking out recyclables one at a time. If you have the budget, you can even hire a local handyperson to assist you with the process of sorting things that can be recycled.

Here are more ways to recycle your used lingerie or reuse clothes to keep them out of landfills if you’re interested.

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