Basic Material Knowledge

Plastic has many forms and check the number to determine if it is recyclable. Metal and glass and can be recycled infinitely. Cardboard and paper can be recycled however make sure there is no food or other material on them.


While there are thousands of different items that could be recycable, the majority essentially boil down to 5 materials: Plastic, paper, cardboard, glass, and metal. Today, we are going to taking a quick look into what is special about these materials, how they should be recycled, and anythign you should be looking out for.


Plastic is everywhere. And this is fine, however plastic takes thousands of years to biodegrade meaning it stays in the environment harming wildlife, the planet, and eventually us. That is why it is important to recycle plastic. But it is not that easy because plastic has many forms which are represented in the form of numbers from 1-7 and while some are recyclable, others aren’t. But, it gets worse.  Different recycling facilities have different guidelines for which numbers they accept.For example, numbers 1 and 2 are recycled by all facilities and the other numbers can differ based on where you live. Always check out app to find out how to recycle any plastic item.


Metal is commonly found in places such as soda cans and aluminum foil, however a very interesting aspect of metal is that it can be recycled infinitely. This is because, unlike other materials such as plastic and paper, metal does not lose its quality and degrade when it is recycled. Thus, there is no reason to not recycle this. Also, metal is one of the more expensive materials in this list meaning you could get a decent amount of money from recycling a metal item. For example, a soda can can get you around 10 cents.


While you likely use sheets of paper daily, paper is more commonly used in containers such as coffee cups. However, these containers usually have plastic linings and are stained from food or drink causing them to not be recyclable. These plastic linings account for less 5% of the cup, but with it the paper cannot be turned into pulp. A good check for if something has a plastic lining is if it looks “shiny” or feels very smooth. Recycling paper reduces the need to cut down virgin trees thus keeping the air cleaner as well.


Cardboard is light, yet sturdy which allows it to be used for packaging which is great because it is completely recyclable. However, cardboard is also commonly used in pizza boxes which leads to grease coated cardboard, that is in no way recyclable, but can be composted. One key thing to remember about cardboard is that you should always try to flatten it before recycling to save space in your bin and and help out your recycling facility. Cardboard boxes can also be reused for fun projects, storage, and any other creative you may think of.


Like metal, glass can be recycled infinitely, however there are some municipalities that do not recycle this material, so always check with them first. Also, it might be better to reuse glass items as they are easy to clean and rather durable. This is why a great step towards going zero waste is buying reusable glass items such as mason jars, glass plates, glass cups, etc.