Why Is Recycling Important? (Full Guide)

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Jean Richardson

Jean Richardson is a lover of knowledge, in all forms. He has spent over 15 years as a high school teacher, instructing students in history, geography, mathematics, and more.

Recycling has been one of the most popular ways to take care of planet earth for years. But many people aren’t aware of all of the benefits of recycling, or how to recycle certain materials properly. 

In this article, we are going to cover why recycling is so important and also what materials can be recycled. So read on to find out the answer!

Why Is Recycling Important?

Recycling is important because it provides reusable materials and lessens the effects of pollution. Furthermore, reusable materials are made from old recycled materials and are used to make new products. Therefore, the more materials that are reused, the less they end up in landfills and contribute to pollution. 

The following article is a detailed description of all the benefits of recycling. It also has an in-depth guide on how to recycle certain materials and tells you which materials can’t be recycled.  

What Are The Benefits Of Recycling? 

While the main benefit of recycling is making the earth look better and cleaner, that isn’t the only benefit it offers.

Below are some more examples of why recycling is so good for the environment.

It’s Good For The Economy 

Recycling positively impacts the economy. A few economic benefits of recycling have included creating more jobs and making production processes more cost-effective. 

However, the economic benefits can only be achieved on a large scale if recycling is done by the majority of the population. 

Recycling Creates Jobs

When more people recycle, more jobs are needed to process the recycled materials correctly.

Furthermore, the recycling process isn’t done once the bin is taken to the curb; the materials must be hauled away to a recycling business to be processed properly.

Recycling business is a company that separates and reuses the materials that get recycled to make new products. A few examples of a recycling business include: 

  • Paper and glass manufacturers 
  • Steel mills 
  • Collection centers 

The increased demand for skilled workers means that more people will have job opportunities, and the economy will be stimulated. 

Additionally, the recycling businesses will then generate more income and be able to expand. 

This means that they will need to take on more workers, meaning more people will have steady jobs and wages. 

Recycling Makes Material Processing Less Expensive 

Making economic goods from recycled materials is much less expensive than making them from scratch. 

This is because when companies make their products totally from raw materials, it takes a significant amount of time and money to find and extract them. 

Therefore, when they make their products from recycled materials, the cost of time and money is cut in half. 

This means the company can spend less money making the product, and consumers can buy it for less money. 

Recycling Helps To Conserve Resources And Energy 

Most materials used to make products are harvested and extracted by using heavy machinery. 

Furthermore, the machinery requires fossil fuels to run properly, which have been steadily rising in costs over the last few years. 

Therefore, more fossil fuels are used to power this machinery and there are fewer resources are available to power other economic activities. 

Additionally, using recycled materials to create products eliminates the need to mine and harvest raw materials. 

This makes the need to use machinery to find new materials obsolete, and fewer fossil fuels are used in the process. 

As a result, more energy is being conserved, and it becomes available to power other economic activities. 

More recycled materials also mean less trash in landfills and throughout nature.

This is important because landfills have slowly started to overfill to the point where trash is invading natural environments. 

This causes the environments to become uninhabitable to plants and animals, which results in fewer resources for humans. 

Furthermore, a higher amount of conservation means a higher number of clean environments for all living things.

Recycling Reduces Waste 

Even though a product might not be useful once it’s served its purpose, the material it’s made out of can be broken down and made into something new once it’s recycled. 

Furthermore, when you recycle something rather than just throwing it away, it can be used again in the production process of a new product. 

Then, when the materials are reused, it prevents the original product from taking up space in a landfill or natural environment. 

So, the more products are recycled, the less space that’s wasted in a landfill, and the less waste ends up in natural environments. 

Recycling doesn’t only pertain to materials that can no longer be used in their current state. 

If something is still in good condition, reusing it as many times as possible reduces the need for more new products being created. 

Therefore, the more products that are reused, the less waste ends up in the environment. 

Recycling Helps To Protect The Environment 

This is the most well-known benefit of recycling, but it reaches beyond just reducing the amount of human debris found in natural habitats. 

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Recycling also helps to protect the environment by helping to prevent global warming and reducing the amount of pollution that’s produced. 

How Recycling Prevents Global Warming 

A major cause of global warming and climate change is the frequent production of greenhouse gases.

Additionally, the greenhouse effect creates gases released into the atmosphere whenever fossil fuels are used as an energy source. 

They stay in the atmosphere for years and cause the earth’s climate to warm up faster. 

So, when recycled materials are used to create products, the need to look for more materials is reduced. 

Since companies don’t need to look for more materials, they don’t need to use the machines that produce greenhouse gases. 

Therefore, the fewer greenhouse gases that are in the atmosphere, the more global warming slows down. 

How Recycling Prevents Pollution

How Recycling Prevents Pollution

Pollution doesn’t only end up on land, it can also end up in water and the air, making the contaminated environment highly harmful to us and everything else that calls it home

However, recycling can help reduce the amount of pollution that ends up in the environment, making it a clean place to live for all of its inhabitants. 

Furthermore, the process of harvesting the materials used to make products contributes heavily to the amount of pollution produced in the world. 

Additionally, fossil fuels poison the air we breathe and toxic waste seeps into the water we use to stay hydrated and grow our food. 

Lastly, the non-biodegradable products that end up in the environment are eaten by the animals living in those ecosystems for years. 

Therefore, when products are recycled, it greatly reduces the chances of these pollutants ending up where they don’t belong. 

How To Recycle Different Materials 

It’s pretty clear that recycling has many benefits, but these benefits can only be fully utilized if the recycling process is done correctly. 

Furthermore, the majority of this process is done by professionals, but you can help that process by recycling each of the following materials using the correct steps. 

How To Recycle Paper

About half of the materials that are recycled in the United States are made of paper. 

However, a lot of it can’t be used to make new products because it isn’t recycled correctly. 

Fortunately, recycling paper correctly is relatively easy. You just need to know what to do and what not to do before placing it in the recycling bin. 

Types Of Paper That Can’t Be Recycled 

The main things you shouldn’t do when recycling paper include getting it wet or shredding it. 

This is because water causes the fibers inside the paper to shrink, making the paper’s structure weaker and not as valuable on the recycling market. 

Weaker materials mean weaker products, so recycling companies avoid using wet paper. 

If your paper is already wet, then putting it in the trash can is a better option. 

However, if it’s still dry, then make sure there’s nothing wet in the recycling bin that can seep into the paper. 

Washing out and drying your containers before you throw them in the recycling bin can help you avoid this. 

You should also check if there will be rain the night before garbage day, as rain can slip between the cracks in the bin and wet paper. 

Furthermore, shredded paper can’t be recycled for the same reason as wet paper, the fibers are weaker and would make for weaker products. 

So, shredded paper should go into the garbage can rather than the recycling bin. 

However, if you want to recycle paper that has important information on it, using a black marker or sharpie to block out any private information won’t lessen the recyclability of the paper.

In fact, ink is very easy to remove in the recycling process, and it prevents you from having to shred the paper. 

Types Of Paper That Can Be Recycled 

As long as the paper isn’t shredded or wet and is relatively clean, it can generally be recycled. 

However, some areas only accept certain types of paper grades, so you should always double-check what types of paper are accepted in your area. 

The five general grades of paper include: 

  • ONP, which is the thin type of paper used for flyers and newspapers 
  • OCC, which mainly includes cardboard boxes 
  • Mixed paper, which includes almost every other paper product, such as magazines and phone books 
  • High-grade deinked paper, also known as printer paper 
  • Pulp substitutes, which include paper shavings and clippings 

Some areas accept all grades of paper, but others only accept a few. 

Therefore, once you know what is and isn’t accepted in your area, placing the paper into the recycling bin and making sure it gets picked up is the easiest way to recycle paper. 

Additionally, some areas also have specific drop-off locations where certain grades of paper can be recycled. 

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Tips To Use Less Paper

Recycling paper is always a good thing to do, but finding ways to use less paper can lessen the amount of waste in the environment even more.

However, completely cutting paper from your life is not an easy task, but lessening the amount you do use by even a small amount can have a big impact. 

The most popular way to use less paper is to go the electronic way. 

So, using your computer or laptop to write down and store any important information will dramatically cut down your paper consumption.

Furthermore, if you want to save even more paper, reading electronic books or magazines is a great idea. 

If you do have to use paper, there are still ways to prevent using more than necessary. 

When it comes to printing things, using both sides of the paper can cut the amount used in half. 

Also, if there’s a lot of space left on an old, printed sheet, you can use it as scratch paper instead of getting out a fresh sheet. 

Furthermore, getting into the habit of doing these things can help to save a lot of paper over time. 

How To Recycle Plastic 

Plastic is also a very commonly recycled material, but it also requires a few extra steps to be recycled properly. 

The main step is to make sure the plastic is clean before you recycle it. 

Cleaner plastic is better for product making than dirty plastic, and it saves the recycling workers the extra effort of discarding the unusable material.

Furthermore, you should also know which plastics can and cannot be recycled in your area, along with any drop-off locations that take specific types of plastic.

If these steps are followed correctly, less plastic will end up in landfills and nature, effectively helping the planet. 

How To Clean Plastic 

This step mainly applies to plastic containers that have had food or drinks in them previously. 

Therefore, before you recycle a plastic container that’s had any food or drink in it, make sure there isn’t any left inside, and thoroughly clean it before tossing it in the bin.

However, double-checking each piece of plastic for cleanliness isn’t a bad idea. 

It’s important to make sure that the plastic is clean before it goes to the recycling center because one piece of dirty plastic can contaminate the entire load. 

If that happens, then the recycling center will be forced to throw away an entire batch. 

This means less material to reuse and more material contaminating the earth and taking up landfill space. 

Plastic That Can And Can’t Be Recycled 

Similar to paper, certain types of plastic can and cannot be recycled. 

Additionally, the types of plastic that recycling centers accept differ depending on the area you live in. 

Furthermore, the types that aren’t accepted are usually collected at designated recycling centers throughout your area. 

An easy way to determine what type of plastic is recyclable is by looking for a small number somewhere on the container. 

The numbers range from 1 to 6, but not all of them are recyclable. 

Plastic containers with a number 1 or a number 2 can always be recycled, so there’s no need to check if they are accepted in your area. 

However, if the number on the plastic container is somewhere between a number 3 and a number 6, then you should check your local area to see if these types are accepted.

If the general recycling collectors don’t take them, then you should also check for any designated collection centers that take those types of plastics. 

Tips To Use Less Plastic 

The main way you can reduce the amount of plastic you use is to avoid single-use plastics and replace them with substitutes made from different materials. 

Single-use plastics refer to any product that can only be used once before it must be thrown away.

Fortunately, each plastic product can be replaced with more easily reusable materials. For example, plastic grocery bags can be replaced with reusable grocery bags.   

Furthermore, plastic dishes and utensils can be easily replaced with more sustainable counterparts such as glass or ceramic materials. 

Additionally, replacing plastic Tupperware with containers made from glass or stainless steel will help reduce the amount of plastic used as well. 

Although Tupperware can be used more than once, the plastic material can get stained and degrade over time, and eventually, they have to be thrown out.

Glass and metal containers, however,  only need to be washed after each use and can be used again and again without their quality degrading.  

How To Recycle Metal

The last most commonly recycled material is metal. Metal usually refers to scrap metal or products that contain a small amount of metal in them. 

However, the steps to properly recycle metal are similar to the steps above regarding plastic.  

For example, we will see what metals can and can’t be recycled and how to prepare scrap metal for the bin. 

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Metals That Can And Can’t Be Recycled 

Metal is separated into two different types depending on the amount of iron it has. 

Ferrous metals have some amount of iron in them, while nonferrous metals have no iron in them. 

Furthermore, the most commonly used ferrous metals are steel and cast iron, usually for cookware and utensils. 

However, nonferrous metals can be used for everything else, such as soda or soup cans. 

Both types of metals can be recycled, but you have to recycle them separately. 

Fortunately, the method of doing so is incredibly easy as all you need is the metal product you want to recycle and a magnet. 

First, hold the magnet above the product, and if it sticks, it’s a ferrous metal. If it doesn’t, then it’s a nonferrous metal. 

The only types of metal that cannot be recycled are metallic pieces that are attached to something else. 

For example, the metallic rings that some folders and binders have can be recycled in the metal bin, just not while they are attached to the folder or binder. 

Therefore, all you have to do is separate the metal from the rest of the product, and you’re good to go. 

Preparing Scrap Metal For Recycling 

Most curbside recycling programs don’t accept scrap metal, but most areas will have a separate collection facility for scrap metal. 

All you must do is make sure the scrap metal is ready to go when you arrive. 

To start, make sure the ferrous and nonferrous metals are separated from each other. 

As most areas have separate facilities for collecting each type and will throw out anything that doesn’t fit their criteria. 

Next, when the metal is separated, make sure it’s completely clean and doesn’t have any contaminants on it. 

Oil and lubricant can contaminate the metal and make it unfit for recycling. 

However, wiping it down with a disinfectant wipe should do the job, just make sure it’s dry and free of residue before you drop it off. 

Once all these steps are completed, make sure to bring some form of identification with you when you drop it off. 

This is to prevent anyone from trying to sell stolen scrap metal, such as road signs or metallic hardware store materials. 

However, unlike paper and plastic, it isn’t easy to try to use less metal in our daily lives. 

Fortunately, metal is a much more sustainable product than plastic or paper and as long as it’s taken care of and disposed of properly, there’s no chance of it ending up in landfills or nature. 

What Materials Cannot Be Recycled? 

Now that we’ve thoroughly discussed what can be recycled and how to properly prepare it, it’s important to know what cannot be recycled.

There are a few misconceptions about what goes in the recycling bin versus the trash, and knowing for sure what can’t be recycled will make the entire process easier for everyone. 

The most common things that can’t go in recycling bins include perishable items, mainly food, and liquids. 

Perishable items waste away easily and are thus unsuitable for recycling uses. 

As a result, they go into the garbage bin to be disposed of in a landfill. 

Furthermore, products that have been touched by perishable items are also not recyclable, since they can contaminate the entire load. 

Even things that are made from recyclable materials aren’t always recyclable. 

For example, power cords are made from both metal and plastic. The metal wirings inside are protected with a thick plastic cover, and both materials are recyclable.

However, since the plastic can’t be separated from the metal, the cord isn’t recyclable since the two materials must go into separate piles.

So, if a product is made from two different recyclable materials that can’t be separated, it’s better to toss it into the garbage bin. 

To learn more, you can also read our posts on plastic recycling symbols and numbers, the number of times glass can be recycled, and the 17 recycling myths debunked.


Recycling different materials properly sound like a difficult and tedious task, but once you make it a habit, it’s a really simple way to look after the earth. Taking a little time out of each day to correctly recycle and separate materials drastically lessen pollution in our environments.

It also greatly increases the chances of a product being made from entirely recycled materials, preventing us from having to search for materials that are growing scarce. Additionally, using sustainable materials greatly lessens the amount of time needed to recycle things properly. 


  • Jean Richardson

    Jean Richardson is a lover of knowledge, in all forms. He has spent over 15 years as a high school teacher, instructing students in history, geography, mathematics, and more.

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