Dummies Guide to Recycling

The Facts… Why you have to recycle

*Just over 48% of office paper is recovered for recycling. This becomes raw material for paperboard, tissue, and printing and writing papers. (Keep America Beautiful, 2006)

*Over 73% of all newspapers are recovered for recycling. Almost a third goes back into making more newsprint. The remainder is used to make paperboard, tissue, and insulation, or exported. (Keep America Beautiful, 2006)

*Approximately 1.5 million tons of construction products are made each year from paper, including insulation, gypsum wallboard, roofing paper, flooring, padding and sound-absorbing materials. (American Forest and Paper Association, 2002)

*Recycled paper can also be made into paper towels, notebook paper, envelopes, copy paper and other paper products, as well as boxes, hydro-mulch, molded packaging, compost, and even kitty litter. (EPA, 2008)

*Recycling aluminum saves 95% of the energy needed to produce new aluminum from raw materials. Energy saved from recycling one ton of aluminum is equal to the amount of electricity the average home uses over 10 years. (Keep America Beautiful, 2006)

*Recycling one aluminum can saves enough energy to run a 100-watt bulb for 20 hours, a computer for 3 hours, or a TV for 2 hours. (EPA, 2008)

*Recycling aluminum saves 95% of the energy used to make the material from scratch. That means you can make 20 cans out of recycled material with the same amount of energy it takes to make one can out of new material. Energy savings in 1993 alone were enough to light a city the size of Pittsburgh for six years.

*Americans throw away enough aluminum every month to rebuild our entire commercial air fleet.

*Recycling steel and tin cans saves 74% of the energy used to produce them.

* Americans use 100 million tin and steel cans every day.

*Americans throw out enough iron and steel to supply all the nation’s automakers on a continuous basis.

*A steel mill using recycled scrap reduces related water pollution, air pollution and mining wastes by about 70%.

How to Recycle


The very first thing you have to do in order to recycle is find out what your local rules and regulations are. Every municipality has different rules regarding how and when they will collect various recyclables.

Go to your towns website or call them and ask them about their regulations. Here is what you want to ask about:

  • What days are the pick ups? For example: Plastic may be every other Monday but newspapers are ever week on Tuesday.
  • How do the items need to be separated? For example: Can plastic and glass be in the same container? I lived in a town where you had separate your glass by color (one can for clear, green…etc.)
  • How does it need to be packaged? For example: Does newspaper have to be tied with string or can it be in a grocery bag? Can leaves be in plastic bags or do they need to be in paper bags, maybe they should not even be in bags at all just in a pile on the street?

Put a calendar of all these days up in your kitchen or by the back/side door. Wherever you are going to see it and it reminds you of what you need to do. Set a reminder in your calendar on your phone for 15 mins before you leave for work every day so it will remind you to make sure you get your recycling to the curb.


Get what you need to start collecting the items you can recycle in your town.

Here are some of the items you might need:

  • Paper lawn bags for your lawn waste
  • Twine to tie up your magazines and newspapers
  • Different containers for both indoors and out.

Be realistic when you are shopping for your items. If you tend to read your magazines in bed put a roll of twine in your nightstand so that when the pile gets big enough you will wrap it up.

Measure your spaces. If you are going to get containers for the kitchen, mudroom…etc. make sure you know what size will fit behind the door or in a cabinet. All the containers will start to look the same when you go to the store.

Organize and think about where everything should go and what is most convenient. If it is not easy you will not do it so make purchases that will help you reduce your likely-hood of not doing this.

Be willing to make the investment… do not go crazy and go buy super expensive items but be sensible about what you are doing and how important it is. Get what you need to make this something your whole family can do.


Get your house ready for the change!!!

  1. Do a clean sweep of your house and get all the magazines, catalogs, and newspapers and wrap them up
  2. Any plastic food containers to throw out? Rinse them off and put it in the new recycling bin.
  3. Empty plastic water bottles in your house, car, bags…etc. (use the water that might be left in them to water your plants) and put the containers in the new recycling bin.

While you are doing this take note of the things you are not done using but might good for recycling in the future.

Use this as an opportunity to organize part of your life. For example, you might want to start putting all magazines and catalogs in the same place in the house so they are centrally located to read and recycle.


Now you are ready to go. You know the rules and you have organized yourself to be successful in recycling.

Here is a list of many things you might not have thought about being able to recycle:

  • Plastic inside cookie packages
  • Egg containers
  • take out food containers
  • plastic bags for veggies
  • any mail that does not have personal information on it
  • plastic bags from potato’s
  • plastic bags from chips, pasta, rice, or other dry food
  • jars from sauce or salsa
  • plastic bags from your bread
  • wine, water, soda, juice bottles
  • food oil containers (like the olive oil bottle)

This is the final step and now you are ready to successfully recycle.

Please post more ideas of things you can recycle.


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