When people take steps to declutter their home or workplace, one big question tends to come up again and again: “Can I recycle this?”
It’s a big question – and around Chicago, it’s a little trickier to answer than you might think.
You see, the city and the surrounding suburbs have some pretty complicated rules about recycling. A lot of people fret, because making one little mistake with your recycling could mean having an entire haul shipped to a landfill, instead of a recycling plant. So much for saving the planet, right?
Let’s see if we can help clear things up!
Based on our research – and our countless hours spent leading residential and commercial cleanings and trash-outs all over the area – here’s a quick look at what you can and can’t recycle around Chicago.
Ready to Recycle:
When you’re recycling in the Chicagoland area, there are plenty of things you can safely put into your bin. One big thing to remember? Always be sure to keep your recyclable items loose. That means no bundling up your recycling in plastic bags! These bags tend to gum up the machines at recycling plants, so they are not accepted (instead, you can often drop off old plastic bags at grocery stores, which collect and reuse them).
But, with that in mind, here’s a list of basic items that you can recycle with confidence:
- Aluminum cans
- Tin cans
- Clean aluminum foil and baking tins
- Glass bottles and jars
- Empty aerosol cans
- Milk cartons
- Envelopes and junk mail
- Paper products (newspapers, magazines, phonebooks, printer paper, wrapping paper, sticky notes)
- Egg crates
- Cardboard boxes (including gift boxes, shoe boxes, and food boxes)
- Plastic bottles
- Clean plastic takeout containers
- Plastic buckets and jugs (up to five gallons in size)
Seek Out Specialized Handling:
Some of the items around your house can’t just be simply thrown away or recycled. Instead, you may need to reach out to a private company or a local agency to help you dispose of these items in a safe, easy, and environmentally friendly way:
- eWaste (computers, phones, and other old electronics)
- Metal tanks
- Fluorescent lightbulbs
- Leaves and yard trimmings
- Bulky items (like appliances or furniture)
- Household chemicals (cleaners, solvents, pesticides, oil-based paints, and so on)
Take It to the Trash:
The items listed below can’t be recycled, but they can be safely thrown away.
Remember, though – whenever you throw away something that isn’t biodegradable, it just goes to a landfill, where it might linger for hundreds of years. Just because you can’t toss a lot of these items into your recycling bin doesn’t mean they can’t be reused.
For example, you can collect food waste as compost, and turn it into healthy soil for your lawn or garden. Similarly, even if you don’t have a need for your old clothes, books, or kids’ toys, you don’t need to throw them out right away! There are plenty of charities that would be happy to accept your old goods as donations.
With that in mind, here are some common items that can’t be recycled:
- Polystyrene/Styrofoam containers
- Food waste (including oily or soiled pizza boxes, chip bags, or juice pouches)
- Shredded paper
- Clothing, shoes, and rags
- Disposable utensils
- Animal waste
- Vinyl products (like shower curtains and beach balls)
- VHS and cassette tapes
- Plastic toys
- Garden hoses
- Pet food and pet food bags
Need some more guidance? We get it – keeping all of this stuff straight can be confusing! Here are a few resources worth checking out if you’re ever in doubt about a question of trash vs. recycling:
- Recycle By City: Chicago
- Chicago Recycling Guide: All Materials
- Information About Chicago’s Blue Cart Residential Recycling Program
Have any more questions about cleaning or de-cluttering? Sweeping Dimensions has the answers!
At Sweeping Dimensions, we always make a sweeping effort to make life less stressful for homeowners, property managers, and business leaders. With a professionally trained and uniformed staff, all of our cleanings are fully customizable to meet your needs. We bring all of the cleaning supplies and equipment needed to clean your home or workplace, with a focus on green, environmentally sound cleaning products.
Whether you need light servicing, heavy duty cleaning, or could use one-time attention for a special occasion, we can help! Get in touch today for your free estimate!