Recycling confusion: Sorted!

Things can get a little gray when it comes to the nitty gritty of recycling requirements. There are more question marks around what is and isn’t recyclable than you can shake a (reusable plastic) stick at. So, let’s do a deep dive into busting some of the most common assumptions and questions.

It has to be spotless to get recycled.

Though you do need to clean out the food items you’re recycling, they don’t need to be perfectly spotless. A simple rinse or wipe should do the job. For old soap, shampoo, or detergent bottles, simply empty the contents!

Recyclables should be bagged.

Nope! Unless you’ve been specifically asked to bag your recyclables by your city, which is rare, recycling needs to be loose and free to be sorted at the recycling facility.

Plastic bags with a recycling symbol go in your recycling.

Afraid not. Just because that plastic bag has a recycling symbol, doesn’t automatically mean it goes into your curbside bin or cart. Frustrating, we know! Best to take plastic bags back to your grocery or local retail store to be recycled separately.

If it has a recycle symbol with a number, it’s always recyclable.

Eek! Again, not quite so simple! The number lets you know which type of plastic the packaging is made from… but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’ll be recyclable in your area. You’ll need to check local recycling information to see which numbers are accepted.

A pull-quote that says, “Use your local information to understand what can be recycled.”

Plastic straws, cups and dishware can all be recycled in curbside bins.

That’s a big NO NO on all fronts! These items are rarely recyclable. Some areas may accept plastic cups and plastic dishware; however, you’ll need to check with your local recycling program before you pop it in the recycling bin.

If a bottle has a recycling symbol, you can throw the whole thing in the recycling bin.

Not necessarily! Read packages carefully for instructions about caps, sleeves, and shrink wrap. You may need to remove these. We know this can be confusing and frustrating. That’s why Unilever is committed to making all our packaging recyclable, reusable, or compostable by 2025 – that’ll make life easier! We are also working to add clear How2Recycle labels to our packaging in North America by the end of 2021.

Unsure if it’s recyclable? Chuck it in the recycling bin just in case.

Bad idea! ‘Wish-cycling’ actually does more harm than good. Contamination in the recycling bin can contaminate the whole batch, cause damage to recycling machinery, and add costs to recycling facilities. When in doubt, throw it out.

Compostable = recyclable.

Nope. These are two totally different things! In fact, compost collection isn’t readily available in most areas of the U.S. yet.

Phew! Hopefully that clears up some of the confusion and assumptions about recycling.

Where can you find local recycling information? Recycling infrastructure varies throughout the U.S., so the best first step for figuring out what can be recycled is to find your local information. If curbside recycling is available in your area, check out your municipality’s local website. There are a few other resources we like that can help you find locations to recycle near you: and are great places to start.

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