Frequently Asked Questions about Recycling
Sometimes it can be confusing to know exactly what is recyclable and what isn't. Below are the answers to some of the most common questions received.
Recycling can be confusing, but trust us, there are many good reasons why certain items are recyclable and others aren't. Finding an individual item using our search feature will often get you the answers you're looking for, but if you still have questions, we have more answers here. Click the question below to see the answer.
Recycling Worst Offenders - Not Blue-Bin Ready:
Please avoid putting the following materials in your recycling bin. While many are actually recyclable, they need to be taken to special facilities.
What are the recycling worst offenders?
How To Recycle Questions:
How much do I need to clean out recyclables?
Glass, plastic, and metal containers hold all sorts of edible and inedible materials that can leave all sorts of gunk inside afterward. Especially that darn peanut butter!
A quick rinse is nice for many things, but don't worry about getting your containers sparkling clean. The main concern is actually the paper in your bin, which food and moisture can ruin.
What about peanut butter jars?
Try this for peanut butter: if you have a soft spatula, scoop out what you can and use it to make one more sandwich. Then fill it about a quarter of the way up with water and add a drop of soap. Put on the top, give it a vigorous shake, and dump out the gunk.
Do I need to take off bottle and jar caps?
Short answer: NO.
Longer answer: Sometimes it's better to take the top off, especially if the top is made from a different material than the jar (e.g. metal tops on a glass jar). For smaller plastic bottles and their tiny caps, it doesn't make much of a difference, even if they're a different color or plastic type.
Important exception: If you bring your plastic bottles to a CRV redemption center, you'll need to remove all caps to make sure the bottles are completely empty.
Can aerosol cans be recycled?
Can cardboard containers for food be recycled?
Why is the recycling symbol on this Styrofoam or plastic coated paper or other non-recyclable product?
The recycling symbol isn't regulated, so any company can put the recycling symbol on their product.
Follow up question: WHAT?!
Yep, no one regulates the recycling symbol. Amazing that it works so well, eh? There's also the problem that some materials, such as Styrofoam, are technically made from a recyclable material (polystyrene, aka #6 plastic); however, the low weight of Styrofoam means that very few places can actually recycle it. Imagine how much a truckload of Styrofoam weighs - almost nothing!
What happens to my recyclables after my waste hauler collects them?
Depending on where you live, your recyclables may follow different routes, but they always end up at a MRF (we call them Murfs, like a smurf without an "S"). A MRF, or Materials Recovery Facility, employs people and machinery to separate the different materials from one another.
After being separated, the materials are bailed together and sold on the open market. Manufacturers use these recyclables as raw materials to make new goods.
What are the energy savings from recycling?
Take a look at our Why Recycle page for details.
Still have Questions?
If you can't find the information you're looking for here or on one of our many other Less Is More pages, please contact us and ask your question. We'll do our best to answer it.
Additionally, the national website listed below, Earth911, has more information about what is recyclable and why.
Where to go
Outside Santa Barbara County (2)
- Earth911.com - Information Only — 3481 Plano Parkway
- United States Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Resource Conservation & Recovery — 1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
- Glass Container Recycling
- Metals (other than cans) Recycling
- Paper Recycling
- Plastic Bags Recycling
- Plastics Recycling
- Teacher Resources
- Why Recycle?
November 13, 2016 by Sam Dickinson - Recycle
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January 28, 2015 by Sam Dickinson - Electronics
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October 06, 2011 by Jeff Simeon - Policies
June 13, 2011 by Jeff Simeon - Electronics
April 09, 2011 by Jeff Simeon - Recycle