Recycling Questions Answered: Everything You Need to Know to Live Sustainably!

Recycling has increased dramatically in recent decades, thanks to improved awareness, a desire for sustainability, and a wish to cut down on consumption and waste. But there’s still a lot of confusion when it comes to even the most basic of recycling questions. 

What can actually be recycled? Do all recyclables need to go into separate bins? Is it true that recycling saves energy as well as resources? 

These are all incredibly important questions, and as a society, we need to ensure that everyone knows what can and can’t be recycled, as well as the (positive) effects that recycling has on the environment. 

In this article, we pose the most frequently asked recycling questions and give you the answers you’ve been looking for. Keep reading, and have your recycling questions answered! 

What is Recycling?

Recycling occurs when previously used materials are repurposed and remanufactured into entirely new products. 

Materials can be turned into the same (but new) products - such as recycled bottles and cans, for example - or they can be broken down and repurposed entirely - plastic boxes can be broken down and turned into plastic liners, for example. 

The process of recycling involves consumers separating their waste products into different recycling categories, local authorities collecting the recyclable goods, and then a recycling plant turning the materials into new items that can re-enter the supply chain. 

The main goal of recycling is to reuse materials that would otherwise end up in landfill sites, be burnt, or pollute the waterways. Recycling saves resources, saves the environment, and helps to promote a sustainable future. 

Does recycling save energy? 

Recycling clearly saves resources. Rather than extracting new materials such as tin or aluminum from the ground, materials that have already been extracted are used. But to recycle these materials, we still need to process them. So does recycling save energy?

The answer is yes. Producing materials from raw resources requires much more energy than recycling. Raw materials need much more refining, and it’s estimated that recycling uses as much as 30 percent less energy!

Can I recycle glass, plastic, cardboard, paper, and aluminum? 

The most common types of recycling are everyday household items. These are glass, plastics, cardboard, paper, and aluminum.

These are all items that your food or drink or laundry detergents are packaged in, and it’s important that you place them into the correct bins if you don’t have an all-in-one recycling bin.

For example, newspapers need to go into paper recycling bins, while glass goes to the bottle bin. You can help the recycling plant out by ensuring things are properly separated if needed, breaking cardboard down so it’s flat, and using a  can crusher to make more space for other items!

What can I not put in my recycling bins? 

Are cans recyclable? Yes, but there are plenty of other items that are not recyclable.

Each authority has its own rules on what can and cannot be recycled, but the following list is a good indication of what can’t ever be recycled:

  • Pizza boxes
  • Lightbulbs
  • Shredded paper
  • Food soiled containers
  • Aluminum foil
  • Juice boxes and milk cartons
  • Bottle caps
  • Pyrex
  • Drinking glasses
  • Ceramics
  • Hangers
  • Styrofoam

Why can’t I put some items into the recycling bin?

Putting the wrong items into the recycling bin (or bins) can seriously slow down the recycling process. 

These items need to be removed, or they can contaminate other items and cause them to be thrown away rather than recycled. This wastes resources, uses more energy than necessary, and raises the overall cost of recycling. 

There are lots of everyday items that you might think can be recycled but actually are not recyclable. The major problem is food-stained waste, which includes the pizza box. Although it’s cardboard, pizza boxes are stained with oil, cheese, sauce, and toppings - this means they can’t be recycled. 

The same goes for food cans or plastic containers, which all need to be washed out before they are placed into the recycling bin.

Is recycling the best way to manage waste? 

Recycling is categorically the best way to manage the waste products that we, as humans, create on a daily basis. Compared to traditional methods of waste disposal, such as landfill sites, burning, burying, or simply throwing things into the waterways, recycling is environmentally friendly and has the potential to be sustainable. 

However, questions about recycling rarely consider if there are any other alternatives to recycling plastic bottles or learning to  recycle cans.  There is, in fact, a much better way for us to create a sustainable future for our planet - and it’s remarkably simple.

Rather than throwing away waste or recycling it, what if we didn’t create that waste in the first place? As good citizens, the best action we can take is to reduce our waste and remove the need for waste management in the first place. That means not using plastic bags, taking your own containers to the local grocery store, and reusing and repurposing everything you can at home!

What happens if you don’t recycle? 

And finally, the ultimate question. What happens if we don’t recycle? It’s a big topic, and the answers aren’t great - which is why we need to reduce, reuse, and recycle as much as possible.

If we don’t recycle, then eventually, we’ll run out of resources and energy sources. If we don’t recycle, then the world will become one giant landfill site, oceans, lakes, and rivers will become clogged with plastic, and much of the planet’s biodiversity will be destroyed. 

That’s not to mention increased conflicts over scarce resources, a lack of drinking water, and much, much more. It sounds dramatic, but your recyclable garbage can really can save the world. 

Your recycling questions answered!

There are lots of questions when it comes down to recycling. We aren’t just talking about the big questions - how does recycling save the environment? - but the smaller, everyday questions - where to recycle plastic bottle waste or which bin does the pizza box go into?

Having a good knowledge of the answers to these important questions, both big and small, helps us to better understand the importance of recycling and how individuals can make a difference. 

Why not bookmark our guide to recycling questions so you always have the answers you need?