common myths about recycling

MYTH: Most Americans recycle all they can.


Research shows convenience and commitment are required for maximum recycling. For instance, is there more than one location in a household to store recyclables? If not, recyclables in areas other than the kitchen get thrown away. Additionally, is there only one committed recycler in a household (usually) the person who picks up after everyone)? If so, studies indicate making this a family/partner affair, where everyone participates, allows the most recycling of the right materials.

MYTH: The recycling arrows (Mobius) on a container mean it is recyclable at a Material Recovery Facility (MRF).

ANSWER: Only in some cases Manufacturers strive to get eco-friendly information on their product labels. It sells. The FTC requires that a product have at least 60% access to local programs (like Material Recovery Facility processing) across the U.S. to include the Mobius on their products. However, the Mobius is not a reliable indicator of whether something gets recycled. There are thousands of plastic products and packaging, and each one has its own unique chemical recipe. Many plastics cannot be made into new products at this time. Recycle plastics by shape: bottles, jars, jugs, and tubs. Identify the myths of recycling and become an expert.

MYTH: Containers must be squeaky clean in order to be recycled.


While all bottles, cans, and containers should be clean, dry, and free of most food waste before you place them in your recycling container, they don’t need to be spotless. The goal is to make sure they are clean enough to avoid contaminating other materials, like paper. Try using a spatula to scrape cans and jars, or using a small amount of water and shake to remove most residue.

MYTH: Hoses, tanks, shower curtains, swing sets, etc. are made of plastic, so they must be recyclable.


If it’s not “bottles, cans, or paper” it probably doesn’t belong in your curbside mixed recycling cart and may even require special handling. Just because an item is made from plastic, or contains plastic parts, doesn’t mean recycling facilities can handle it. There are other resources (e.g., that can help answer questions about what to do with non-recyclables or household hazardous waste.

MYTH: All types of glass bottles and jars are recyclable.

ANSWER: Varies by jurisdiction

Glass recycling varies by jurisdiction. Glass collection varies widely in communities across the U.S. Some communities collect glass at drop off locations only, some collect glass separately at the curb or with other containers, and many include glass with all other recyclables. Bottle bill laws in CA, CT, OR, IA, MI, ME, VT, MA, NY allow for the return of a per-bottle deposit when bottles are returned to return-centers or retailers for recycling. Greater Greenville Sanitation does not accept glass as part of its curbside program.

MYTH: Aerosol cans are acceptable in the recycle bin.

ANSWER: Varies by jurisdiction

Most of recycling programs accept empty/dry aerosol cans. Aerosol cans without the caps are recyclable if they are empty/dry. If they are not, then they could be dangerous. Some fires are caused in baler chambers from trace amounts of can chemicals, and cans have been known to become projectiles when densified/ baled if propellant is still present. Waste Management facilities and commodity vendors accept steel, mixed metal, and aluminum aerosol packages. Multi-material aerosol packages are not recyclable. There is no gray area here from a processor standpoint. However, some cities still list aerosols on their no-recycle lists. C Greater Greenville Sanitation does not accept glass as part of its curbside program.

MYTH: All recyclables sent to a recycling facility are recycled.


On average, about 25 percent of the stuff we try to recycle is too contaminated to go anywhere but the landfill, according to the National Waste and Recycling Association, a trade group.

MYTH: Recyclables need to be washed, which wastes water.


Don't waste water!  Recyclables only need to be emptied and dried.  Rinse quickly only if soiled.

©2019 WM Intellectual Property Holdings, L.L.C. The Recycle Often. Recycle Right.

when talking about recycling it can be very difficult to separate fact from fiction

even with all the recycling we do, there are still some myths out there that generate confusion. Some myths even create contamination problems at local recycling centers