5 Surprising Things You Should Never Recycle

While recycling has many environmental benefits, tossing the wrong materials into your recycling bin could do more harm than good. Before you take your bin out to the curb, make sure that it doesn’t contain any of these surprising things you should never recycle.

Pizza Boxes

While many manufacturers make pizza boxes out of highly recyclable material, the cardboard ends up absorbing the grease from the food; and unfortunately, there is no way to separate this oil from the paper fibers, which makes it impossible to recycle. As such, you’re better off throwing these boxes in the trash to avoid contaminating other paper products in the recycling process.

Heavily Dyed Paper

Bright colored paper can cause problems due to its highly pigmented dyes. In the recycling process, these dyes will come off the paper and taint the other recyclables—kind of like when a red sock dyes all your white clothes pink in the washer. A better option is to compost this heavily dyed paper instead.


Most recycling facilities don’t accept ceramics. As such, you should donate all unwanted pottery, dishware, or other ceramic goods to a thrift store instead. If you have broken ceramic items, you may have luck recycling them at a facility that accepts old concrete and bricks.

Paper Cups

Many paper cups have a coat of unrecyclable plastic film. Since you cannot separate the film from the paper in the cup, you should avoid recycling your morning cup of coffee. This rule also applies to other plastic-coated materials such as juice boxes and freezer food containers.

Used Napkins and Paper Towels

Many people think they can recycle napkins and paper towels because they are paper products. However, they become unrecyclable after use due to the food particles, oils, and fluids that absorb into them.


Recycling these items wastes time, money, and energy, and can even contaminate an entire batch of previously recyclable products. As such, it is important to keep these surprising items you should never recycle out of your recycling bin.

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Written by Logan Voss

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