Frequent Questions

How do I know what materials are recyclable in my community, and where can I take these materials to be recycled?

Most communities employ recycling coordinators-government officials who have information on local recycling resources-who can answer specific questions about recycling and waste management in your city or town. Look in your phone book under "Recycling Coordinators," or contact the relevant city or county government office (often called Department of Sanitation or Department of Public Works). Your state Department of Environmental Protection or Department of Natural Resources also may have helpful resources. EPA's Web site has links to these state offices.

Earth 911 is another helpful resource that allows you to type in your ZIP code or find your state on a map to locate recycling centers in your community for all types of recyclables. You also can visit the National Recycling Coalition for a list of state recycling organizations.

Your local recycling program should be able to provide you with a list of materials that can be collected for recycling in your community. Following is a short list of the most common materials that are recycled in many communities:

Paper: Newspaper is almost always recovered in community recycling programs. Some communities also collect white and colored paper (sometimes combined as "mixed paper") and used cardboard boxes, such as cereal boxes.

Plastics: Not all communities recycle all types of plastic. Investigate your community's plastic collection through the resources listed above. Most communities recycle plastic items such as detergent bottles, beverage containers (e.g., soda, milk, and juice), and containers for various household products, from shampoo, lotion, and mouthwash containers to plastic peanut butter containers. Also, many grocery stores collect used plastic grocery bags on site for recycling.

Aluminum: Almost all recycling programs include aluminum beverage cans. One of the most highly recycled products, aluminum cans are made into new cans in as little as 90 days after they are collected. Some communities also collect aluminum foil for recycling.

Steel: Many steel products manufactured in the United States contain a high percentage of recycled steel. Some are even made from 100 percent recycled steel. Many communities collect soup cans and other steel food packaging containers, as well as steel aerosol cans, for recycling.

Glass: Glass food containers, such as jars and bottles for pickles, juice, jam, or wine, are usually recyclable in many communities.

Yard Trimmings/Food Scraps: Many communities have regular or seasonal programs in place to collect yard trimmings, such as leaves, branches, and grass clippings, from residents. Other communities encourage residents to practice backyard composting for yard trimmings and food scraps.

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