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5 Items You Should Not Attempt to Recycle

 Recycling is widely encouraged, and rightfully so. It reduces the amount of waste sent to landfills, conserves natural resources, prevents pollution by reducing the need to collect new raw materials, the list goes on. However, what is less frequently talked about is that there are also items that should not be recycled. In fact, attempting to recycle any of the items that appear on the list below actually causes more damage to the environment.

To prevent your efforts from going to waste, take a look at this list of 5 things you should never toss into the recycling bin, and learn what you can do instead.

1. Styrofoam5 Surprising Things That Are Non Recyclable styrofoam

Styrofoam is one of the most commonly known non-recyclable materials. It cannot be recycled because it’s made of polystyrene, a material that isn’t biodegradable. Though some parts of the country allow styrofoam-made take-out boxes, coffee cups, and the like, the most eco-friendly thing to do is to avoid using it altogether. 

There are special facilities that recycle styrofoam. So if you have styrofoam items you’d like to dispose of, you need to find a designated drop-off location rather than combining it with regular recyclables. You can find the drop-off station nearest to you by searching the AFPR website or TerraCycle.

2. Bubble Wrap5 Surprising Things That Are Non Recyclable bubble wrap

Although many types of plastic can be recycled, the particular kind that bubble wrap is made of is not one of them. The reason bubble wrap is nonrecyclable is that the thin film can tangle up recycling machines.

As with styrofoam, there are designated drop-off locations, especially for bubble wrap. You can check out PlasticFilmRecycling.org to find one that is convenient for you. If the bubble wrap is in good condition, you could also keep it and use it the next time you need to transport something fragile. 

Related: Warning: Do Not Throw These Household Items In the Garbage

3. Dishes5 Surprising Things That Are Non Recyclable ceramic dishes

According to Waste Management, most curbside recycling programs do not accept ceramics like coffee mugs and plates because they can contaminate an entire batch of recycled glass and make it unsafe for reuse. This is unfortunate because ceramics are technically recyclable. However, the safest way to dispose of ceramics is to throw them out as regular garbage.

If your local recycling yard does not accept ceramics and you don’t want your old dinnerware to end up in a landfill, ceramics are always welcome at thrift stores (if they are in a decent condition, of course).

4. Plastic grocery bags5 Surprising Things That Are Non Recyclable plastic bag

Image Source: MTSOfan / Flickr

You may have noticed a plastic recycling bin right outside your grocery store. They are so common because curbside recycling programs typically don’t accept plastic bags. Since plastic bags are usually made of high-density polyethylene, they are likely to jam up machinery and cause problems for the items that can be recycled successfully.

If you want to dispose of plastic bags, it is vital that you find a designated location for them, as simply throwing them away has serious consequences. Remember: plastic bags will take hundreds of years to decompose because the material isn’t biodegradable, and they are the number one source of marine debris.

Related: E-Cycling: The Cleanest Way To Get Rid of Old Computers

5. Mirrors5 Surprising Things That Are Non Recyclable mirror

Mirrors are tricky to recycle due to the coating used on the glass to make it reflective. Similar to ceramics, attempting to recycle mirror glass with regular glass will only damage the batch and make the regular glass impossible to reuse. 

What can you do instead? If your mirror is in one piece, try donating it. If it’s broken, you can simply throw the pieces away, but be sure to wrap them in some newspaper to prevent injuring the workers handling your garbage. 

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