7 Non-Recyclable Items to Know


Colorful plastic bins for different waste types

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Reduce, reuse, recycle. It’s a saying all of us know by heart and have reused (haha, get it?) about a million and one times in our lives. But what if I suggested it be changed to “reduce, reuse, recycle— except if it’s one of the seven items that could actually cause more damage to the environment if recycled?”

Would you remember it as nicely? Probably not. But if bookmarking this list to your desktop or pinning it to a Pinterest board is your way of reminding yourself to not recycle the following items, by all means, please do! Because you wouldn’t want all your recycling efforts to go to waste! (Disclaimer: Recycling regulations vary according to location, so it’s always a good idea to check what your town or city specifies, but these are seven of the most common don’ts across the country.)

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Pots and Pans

Pots and pans, along with other scrap metal and hangers, most likely can’t be taken out with your normal recycling, but if you’re looking to dispose of them responsibly, most scrap yards will gladly take them in.


Plastic Grocery Bags

While plastic bags are recyclable if you take them to your grocery store, tossing them in with your other recycling is a no-go, since these bags will end up jamming up machinery and causing problems for the items you can recycle successfully.

You can look for a location near you to recycle your plastic bags here.



Batteries and other hazardous wastes like paints and oils should never be recycled—no excuses.


Pizza & Pastry Boxes—or Anything Food Soiled

Though you may think pizza and pastry boxes with the recycle symbol on them are safe to, you know, recycle, it’s not that simple: Sadly, once food is put inside these containers, they are no longer recyclable. Because of the leftover grease and food scraps, the items become contaminated, so you should not put them in your recycling bin.



INSIDER points out that “Styrofoam is one of the most commonly-known non-recyclable materials. It’s made of polystyrene, a material that isn’t biodegradable.” Though some parts of the country accept styrofoam, it’s best to avoid using it altogether to really be eco-friendly.


Medical Needles

Although this one might be obvious, medical needles should always be disposed of in a hazardous waste box at a designated collecting site, like a doctor’s office or a hospital.

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