What types of waste can be recycled?

Recycling of waste is a sustainable and smart way to deal with the ever growing problem of waste management, especially solid waste management.

But it is not as if all waste can be recycled.

So, what types of waste can indeed be recycled, and what waste cannot be?

For obvious reasons, some waste like food waste and human/animal waste cannot be recycled. Other than these, other waste such as hazardous waste from industries or medical waste from hospitals also cannot be recycled – surely, you would not want to use these again in any form!

Most or almost all of the above cannot be recycled.

That still leaves us with a heck of a lot of waste that can be recycled.

  • Metals and minerals
  • Glass based products
  • Plastic – a good portion of plastics can be recycled
  • Paper – paper and paper varieties such as cardboard can be recycled if they are not contaminated/stained, and if they are not laminated with very thin films etc.
  • Cloth – from sectors/end uses that are not hazardous or pose any serious hygiene concerns.
  • Wooden objects – a good portion of wood based products can be recycled

While the above list presents the main categories of items that can be recycled, not all items within these categories can be recycled.

For instance, within paper and board, as mentioned earlier, it will be difficult to recycle some items such as napkins, tissue paper, paper towels, waxed paper etc. Paper and cloth that are highly stained might again not be considered for recycling. Similarly, many recyclers may not accept very thin wrapping paper or cardboard lined with plastic or wax. In the case of plastics, it will be difficult to recycle plastic made of polystyrene (Styrofoam containers, thermocoal all are made from polystyrene).

Overall, one can say that recycling is starting to include more items than they did previously, but there is still a good percentage that might need to just go to the landfill or be incinerated.

While on recycling, I am pleased to see at public places, in many cities around the world, multiple waste bins – one for recyclable, and the other for the rest. While I still see some folks throwing the stuff into the wrong bin, it is certainly a beginning. The only suggestion I would make is to have more images on these bins so that it is easy to quickly decide what to throw where – we are not exactly at our patient best to read fine print when we want to just get rid of something!

What types of waste can be recycled? - Cleantech Guide

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