Philadelphia Recycling Do’s and Don’ts

Please forgive my prolonged absence! I’ve been in a funk this past week with all motivation zapped to do anything productive, including blogging. Naturally, I spent the week curled up in bed rereading the Harry Potter series wishing I was a witch and Harry was my best friend. Anyways, I’m (almost) ready to rejoin the real world and be an adult again (of the Muggle kind, sadly…).

A week and a half ago before my hibernation from the real world, I came across Philadelphia’s recycling guide and wanted to share with you all.

I’ve been called a recycling nazi once or twice in my life, but I have to admit, even I get confused on what is recyclable and what is not at times. And each city has differing standards and rules so it can get rather confusing. Broken light bulbs? Styrofoam? Batteries? Pizza boxes with grease? Do they go in the recycling bin or the trash???

I should have done my due diligence sooner but when in doubt, I usually just put it in the recycling rather than the trash. Until recently I finally found THE LIST of Do’s and Don’ts of Philadelphia single stream recycling. It’s not an exhaustive list by any means but it does clear up a lot of confusion on certain things. At least it did for me.

I know plenty of people who don’t recycle for various reasons but for those who do and who kind of care about recycling, hope the list below is kinda sorta enlightening.

***YES, can be recycled***

Aluminum and tin cans
Empty aerosol cans
Empty paint cans and lids
Aluminum foil
Pie tins/baking tins
Metal bottle caps

Glass jars and bottles

Paper and Cardboard
Newspaper and magazines
Cardboard boxes – flattened
Mail (junk and personal) – window envelopes are okay
Phone books
Hardcover and softcover books
Wrapping paper
Computer paper
Empty pizza boxes
Soda and beer cartons
Milk/OJ/Juice cartons
Ice cream cartons
Aseptic foil cartons
Paper coffee “cans”
Comet brand scrubber “cans”
Dishwasher detergent boxes (with the metal spout)

Plastics #1 – #7
5-gallon buckets/kitty litter buckets
Bottle caps
Small plastic toys

***NO, can’t be recycled***

Styrofoam (includes egg cartons, clamshell containers, plates, cups and meat trays)
Packing peanuts
Plastic films or bags
Big PVC pipes
Compostable plastics
Light bulbs
Window panes/mirrors/pyrex
Pots and pans
Paper drink containers with wax (plastic) liner
Coffee cup lids
Plastic cutlery
Plastic 6-pack rings
Waxed paper and waxed cardboard
Empty deodorant sticks
Coat hangers (plastic or metal)

***Please note, this is for the city of Philadelphia only! If you live in a different city or state, I’m 99.9% sure the respective recycling do’s and don’t list for your city can be found online with a quick google search. I’m not sure how other cities do it, but the best thing about recycling in Philly is its single stream recycling which means you don’t have to separate the glasses from the bottles from the papers, etc. Makes things so much more easier, all you have to toss everything into the blue bin :)

I also found out that the current national recycling rate hovers around 34%, which means two out of three things that can be recycled and made into something useful ends up in the landfill, again where it will sit for eternity (aka, hundreds and thousands of years, it’ll still be there long after we’re gone). Pretty depressing stats, I’d say…

While I do promote recycling as a part of a responsible and greener lifestyle, a more enduring and sustainable way of life would be to consume less and bring less things into the home. We’ll talk more about that… Until then, happy recycling!


3 thoughts on “Philadelphia Recycling Do’s and Don’ts

  1. Sharon

    WHAT?? Why is styrofoam not part of the list? I’ve been putting styrofoam in the recycling bin, like styrofoam egg cartons and take out boxes (there’s a recycling sign on the bottom of all of them).
    What are Plastics #1-7?

    1. Caroline Post author

      I know right?? I’ve always put numbered styrofoam in the recycling too and was pretty surprised that they’re not accepted… I did read that there’s a place in the city that you can take all your styrofoam to be recycled, but you’ve gotta be seriously dedicated for that. Wish the city made it easier and just allowed styrofoam in the single stream :/
      Most plastics have a number on them (inside the recycling sign), which signifies what kind of plastic it is. Most are numbered between 1 through 7, which is accepted for recycling.


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