Much of what we throw away still has value. Over half of what we throw away is recyclable.
Here are just a few of the items that you can recycle:
- Aluminum and Tin Cans
- Food Scraps and Compostable Paper
- Mercury-Containing Products
- Metals and Appliances
- Recyclable Paper
- Yard Waste
- Non-Recyclable materials
Learn more about your recyclables:
Aluminum and Tin Cans
Aluminum and tin are non-ferrous metals which means they do not contain iron. These cans are easy and inexpensive to recycle.
*Recycling just one aluminum can saves enough energy to power a television for three hours. Over 173 million aluminum cans were disposed of at the landfill in Missoula, MT in 2008. The energy that could have been saved by recycling those cans could power a television for 59,528 years
Electronics include TVs, monitors, computers and peripherals, cameras and related supplies, radios, video and DVD players, PDAs, sound systems, phones/cell phones and CD/MP3 players. New electronic products appear on the market all the time, making existing products obsolete and creating more waste.
Many electronic products contain harmful metals, such as lead, which can cause anemia, high blood pressure, kidney damage, miscarriages, nervous system disruption and brain damage. Other heavy metals often found in electronics include mercury, arsenic, cadmium, barium, silver, selenium and chromium.
Food Scraps and Compostable Paper
Food scraps are unwanted cooking preparation and table scraps, including items such as banana peels, apple cores, vegetable trimmings, bones, egg shells, and pizza crust.
Compostable paper, sometimes called food soiled paper, usually comes from the kitchen and is not appropriate for paper recycling due to its contamination. Materials such as stained pizza boxes, uncoated paper cups and plates, used coffee filters, paper food cartons, napkins and paper towels are all compostable paper and great for recycling in the yard waste container.
You may also be putting your vegetative materials in a worm compost bin and that is another great alternative.
Green, brown and clear glass food and beverage containers are all recyclable. Once crushed into “cullet” and sold, it may be remanufactured into new glass containers, or used as aquarium gravel, a sandblasting medium, in landscaping, drain pipe bedding or asphalt paving.
Not only is it easy to recycle, glass it can be recycled indefinitely with no loss in quality or purity. Making new glass from old glass saves energy because recycled glass is processed at a lower temperature than glass made from raw materials.
Using recycled glass to make new glass saves money and reduces air pollution, such as fly ash and nitrogen oxides (NOX) that can be toxic to the environment.
Mercury is a silvery, heavy, odorless and highly toxic metal. It is the only metal that is liquid at room temperature. Mercury is used in many products such as thermometers, barometers, fluorescent bulbs and tubes, thermostats, and vehicle switches.
It is very important that we keep mercury – either in its elemental state or as a compound – out of our environment because it is toxic affecting the brain, spinal cord, kidneys and liver. Recycling or proper disposal is the only legal means for disposing of certain mercury-containing products because they are banned from disposal in King County garbage.
There are two kinds of scrap metal: ferrous (iron and its alloys) and non-ferrous (everything else). Ferrous metals are iron and steel. Nonferrous metals include aluminum, tin, lead, pewter, zinc, bronze and brass, to name the most common. Appliances include ranges, refrigerators, freezers, washers, dryers, dishwashers, trash compactors and lawn mowers.
Scrap metal in the landfill is a wasted resource. Recycling metal requires significantly fewer resources than virgin metal extraction. It is less expensive and less environmentally damaging than mining, concentrating and smelting the raw materials. Every ton of steel recycled conserves 2,500 pounds of iron ore, 1,400 pounds of coal and 120 pounds of limestone. Recycling just one aluminum can saves enough energy to power a television for three hours. Steel, tin and aluminum are some of the most recycled of all scrap metals.
Plastics are typically derived from natural gas or petroleum. A variety of plastic resins, numbered 1 through 7, differ widely in chemical composition and are used to make a vast array of products such as sandwich bags, soda bottles, football helmets and park benches. Learn more about those pesky resin codes.
Most plastics can and should be recycled because in the landfill they are a wasted resource. Some plastics are recyclable in all King County curbside programs (PDF, 1.6 MB). Other plastics are only accepted in some areas of the county, or must be taken to a collection area or drop box for recycling.
Because plastic resins vary so much, not all plastics are recyclable. The technology exists to recycle much of it, but lack of markets keeps all but the most common kinds from being recycled. The What Do I Do With page offers sources for recycling other kinds of plastic.
Newsprint, corrugated and non-corrugated cardboard, low grade paper (phone books, magazines, junk mail), high grade paper (printer and copier paper, stationery, and colored paper), books, and milk cartons are all recyclable. Kitchen paper waste is often contaminated and not suitable for paper recycling. This material can go in your yard waste container.
Wrapping paper that is heavily dyed, laminated and/or contains non-paper additives such as gold and silver lining, glitter and plastics cannot be recycled and should be put into your garbage. However, wrapping paper without foreign materials in it should be recycled.
In the landfill paper is a wasted resource. As paper and other organics decompose it generates harmful greenhouse gases such as methane. Kept out of the landfill, paper can be recycled many times, each time to a lower grade. High–grade office paper is recycled into lower grade paper such as newsprint. Newsprint may be recycled into egg cartons. Paper fibers may be recycled up to seven times! Recycling one ton of recycled paper saves 3,700 pounds of lumber and 24,000 gallons of water.