We know that recycling can be confusing! The rules around recycling are constantly changing and evolving. In this blog, we will provide some easy-to-follow tips on how to recycle properly in Massachusetts. The simplest way to determine if an item is recyclable or not in Massachusetts, is to check the Recyclopedia. This is a tool developed by RecycleSmartMA to help residents easily determine which items in their household are recyclable and which are not. Simply type in whatever household object you are looking to recycle, and the Recyclopedia will tell you if the item can be recycled along with any additional instructions you need to properly dispose of that item.

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If you are a business in Massachusetts and interested in reducing waste and maximizing recycling, reuse, and food recovery opportunities, RecyclingWorks may be able to help you!

Now, let’s jump in to some helpful recycling tips!

Tip #1: Keep plastic bags out of the recycling

Plastic bags are the #1 cause of ruined recyclables. In most cases, if you use plastic bags to bag your recyclables together, all of your recyclables are treated like trash. The reason why plastic bags are not recyclable is that they tend to get caught in machinery at recycling facilities, causing work to stop and workers to get injured. If you must bag your recyclables, make sure you empty the recyclable items that are inside the bag into your curbside bin, rather than tossing in the entire bag. While plastic bags are not recyclable in your curbside recycling bin, many grocery stores are able to recycle them, so try collecting your bags and bringing them to your local grocery store.

Tip #2: Just because it has a recycling triangle does not mean it’s recyclable

The recycling triangle can be very misleading. In the plastics industry, the triangle that resembles the recycling symbol is known as the “resin stamp,”opens PDF file which is a marking that plastics manufacturers use to indicate the type(s) of plastic an object is made from. So, while this stamp can be useful in determining what kind of plastic an object is made out of, it does not accurately determine whether something is recyclable or not.

Tip #3: Black plastic cannot be recycled

Black plastic cannot be recycled and must be thrown in the trash. This is because it does not reflect light, so it is not seen by the scanners at recycling facilities. Therefore, it can end up contaminating other materials, such as glass bottles, because it is not sorted properly. Recycling black plastic can also become very expensive, because it can only be recycled into other black plastic materials. It is much easier for manufacturers to use white or colored recycled plastic because they can be mixed together to make other colors for new products.

Tip #4: Rinse your recyclables

It’s okay to leave a little bit of residue on your recyclables, but it is important to rinse as much food residue off as possible. Excess food residue can attract critters and make it more expensive to recycle because of the resources needed to clean recyclables and to remove pests. For containers filled with sticky substances, such as honey, jelly, or peanut butter, take a few extra seconds to give them a scrub. For paper products such as pizza boxes, if it only has a few specks of grease, it can be recycled. So, try to get rid of any food remnants that might be left in the box.

Tip #5: Reduce, reuse, and THEN recycle

Reduce. Reuse. Recycle. In that exact order! While recycling is a great way to keep things out of the landfill, it should be our last line of defense. The first and best way to prevent waste from ending up in the landfill is to reduce the demand for the source material. Reduce the number of things you use by conducting an audit of the things you purchase. Decide what things you frequently use, and what things go to waste. From there, you can make informed purchasing decisions in the future. After reducing, try reusing! Check out our blog for great creative reuse ideas. Finally, everything that can not be reduced or reused can be recycled and turned into something else.


We hope that these tips were useful for you! Visit our website to learn more about how you can reduce waste at home, including tips for composting at home.