Top 5 Plastics to Recycle and Not Recycle

By Andrea Davis on September 11, 2020

Updated: 5/25/21

The recycling guidelines list plastic as an accepted material, so that must mean any plastic, right? Well, as it turns out, all plastic is not created equal and some of it is not recyclable with your household recycling collection or at your local recycling drop-off. Here’s a rundown on what’s ok to toss in your recycling cart and what’s not.

DO recycle

  • Food tubs—Containers for sour cream, yogurt and the like, along with their lids, are a great thing to recycle at the curb or the drop-off, as long as they’re empty and clean.
  • Plastic bottles—All types of plastic bottles, including water bottles, cleaning product bottles and shampoo bottles get the green light. Caps are ok to recycle as well, but spouts and pump tops should be trashed. All bottles should be empty and rinsed.
  • Jugs—From milk jugs to laundry detergent, jugs are good to go for household recycling. Caps and lids, but not squirt tops or pumps, can be put in as well. Make sure they’re empty and rinsed.
  • Food trays—Single-serving microwave food trays are a fine addition to your household recycling collection. Just be sure they’re empty and clean.
  • Containers—Most single-use plastic containers, such as yogurt or fruit cups, are just fine to go in household recycling, as long as they’re clean and empty.

DON’T recycle

  • Plastic bags—Plastic bags are a no-no for a few different reasons. Not only are they are different type of plastic that requires a different process for recycling, they’re harmful to recycling equipment. They get caught in machines and cause damage and shutdowns. The good news is most grocery stores accept this specialized recycling.
  • Bulky, rigid plastic—These items include buckets, toys, laundry baskets and storage bins, among other things. This type of plastic requires a different process for recycling and shouldn’t be put in your household collection. However, you can look for special collections in your area which may accept them.
  • Plastic product packaging—That plastic package your flashlight came in that’s almost impossible to open is almost impossible to recycle too. It definitely shouldn’t go in your household recycling collection.
  • Flexible packaging like pouches and snack bags—These types of packaging are convenient for storing snacks, but don’t have a lot of recycling potential, especially from your home. The problem comes from the fact that these are a hybrid of mixed materials which present a problem during recycling since they can’t easily be separated. There are a few very specialized mail-in recycling options, which can be found by searching online.
  • Foam—Whether it’s a cup, peanuts, egg carton or rectangular hunk of foam, it doesn’t belong in your recycling cart. Although we don’t accept foam at Granger, some municipal drop-offs may. Dart Container is also a good resource for foam recycling.

It should be noted that these guidelines refer to Granger household recycling. Guidelines can vary by location and collector. Be sure to reference the specific guidelines of the entity that collects your recycling to ensure you’re recycling right.