Things That Cannot Be Recycled

Plastic pollution and juvenile fish in Indonesian waters – Things you cannot recycle

Recycling is the process of turning waste materials into new objects and/or products. In this way, we can help our environment by reducing waste and overconsumption of various raw materials when not necessary. Because of that, the slogan” reduce, reuse and recycle” has been popular since the 1970s.

Many articles are being written about various sustainable or recyclable products but fewer for things that cannot be recycled. You might even be surprised by some of them as they are not being tackled frequently. However, this list should be discussed because if people are unaware that the items couldn’t be recycled, their recycling effort will go to waste.

Things you can’t recycle

Before you start your recycling journey, get yourself durable and long-lasting recycling bins. Currently, there’s a lot of confusion regarding which things are recyclable and not. What makes it harder to distinguish is that the rules and regulations vary per region.

However, some things cannot be recycled in most places.

Here are some of them:


Batteries can actually be recycled, but the process is more complicated than conventional plastic because of the electrolyte it contains. They are also hazardous if not handled correctly. That’s why you need to call on experts such as your local council for assistance, don’t try to recycle them all by yourself. Instead, make sure to properly segregate them and inquire at your local garbage collector how to properly dispose of batteries.


Plain papers such as paper bags are straightforward to recycle. Magazine, mail, newspaper, and anything with ink on it are also still recyclable, but it will be a little bit more complicated than recycling plain paper. The most important thing to do when recycling this material is to check your area if any recycling shops take them.


Ceramics can be recycled once they are crushed, which will immensely lessen landfill waste. What you could also do, is turn old ceramics into pots for plants or containers of some kind.

Milk and Juice Cartons

Recycling milk and juice cartons are possible, but not a lot of recycling centers take them. That means that after consuming the milk or juice, the layers of paper, plastic, and aluminum might end up in the landfill. That’s why you need to check first in your neighborhood or city if there are any recycling centers available to take them.


The process of reclaiming paper and plastic in disposable diapers is not commercially feasible. Aside from that, it is also unhealthy because it is already contaminated with human waste that’s why recycling any parts is not advisable.

Medical Wastes

Scalpels, tubing, syringes, and other medical wastes should be disposed of immediately and properly because they can be hazardous when people are exposed to them as they might contain harmful medical chemicals. The proper step to do is to contact your local pharmacy, clinic, or hospital for proper disposal.

Plastic Bags/Plastic Wrap

We all know that most types of plastics are not biodegradable. This is the reason why claims that some plastic bags are biodegradable are almost scams and just lies, especially since plastic bags are so cheap that there’s no way that they are made with sustainable plastic-type.

Plastic Coated Items

Takeout boxes, paper cups, and anything that has plastic or wax linings aren’t recyclable. That’s why most Eco-friendly restaurants chose to use various alternatives, and that’s what households should also consider doing.

Plastic Bottle Caps

Bottle caps, just like the bottle themselves, can be recycled. Just make sure to separate the lid from the bottle before the recycling process. Some creative ways to reuse bottle caps include customized counter or bar tops, coasters, a design frame for mirrors, and other interior designs.


Styrofoam and polystyrene are some other things that you cannot recycle. Aside from that, they also aren’t biodegradable, this is why one must consider these facts first before considering buying materials made with styrofoam and polystyrene.


Cans made of steel such as aerosol and aluminum cans can also be recycled, but just like many of the things mentioned here, you need to look for facilities that would take them. When recycled, they can be turned into new cans, railway tracks, and even car parts.

Takeout Containers

Takeout containers can be recyclable, especially if they are what people call plastic clamshell containers. Just make sure that they are cleaned from grease as this may contaminate or damage other recyclable materials.

The best thing to do with them is to reuse them as much as possible instead of buying plastic containers to put leftovers.

Wire Clothes Hanger

All types of hangers are almost impossible to recycle. The metal hangers have odd shapes, the plastic hangers are made of mixed materials, so they also couldn’t be recycled, and wood hangers are treated; recycling them is not an option. You can either repurpose them or donate them if you want to get rid of these hangers.


Both motor oil and used cooking oil can be recycled. However, one must be knowledgeable on proper recycling measures for these materials. Used cooking oil can be converted into biodiesel which is used to power vehicles and machines. Motor oil can then be turned into fuel oils and used as a raw material for the petroleum industry.


Ovenware, bakeware, and cookware have incredibly high heat tolerance that they are almost impossible to recycle. That’s why most recycling centers turn them away. 


Lightbulbs are impractical to recycle. Plus, compact fluorescent light bulbs contain a small amount of mercury. It’s best to ask your neighborhood bin collector about the proper way of disposal. 

Pizza Boxes

Pizza boxes are made with corrugated cardboard, and when it is soiled with grease, cheese, and all other types of foods, it becomes unrecyclable. The only way to recycle a pizza box is if it is clean. 

Plastic Straws and Utensils

Plastic utensils and disposable straws are made with polystyrene, which is a tricky component to recycle. Most municipalities don’t accept products made from plastic for recycling. For that reason, you should consider using your plastic materials for DIY projects if your city rejects them and change to plastic-free items as soon as possible.

Broken Glasses

Broken glasses aren’t recyclable because they are highly hazardous to people who collect them. The proper disposal of broken glasses is to wrap them with several sheets of newspaper or seal them in a box before handing them to garbage collectors or recycling centers.


Throwing a mattress should be your last option as it clogs up landfills. Curbside services won’t pick up mattresses as well. That’s why your best option is to contact homeless shelters, local goodwill, or ask your municipality if they conduct mattress donation drives. There are even apps that could help you locate the nearest mattress recycling facility.

Final thoughts

It’s excellent to recycle as much as possible but what’s more incredible is for everyone to be aware of things that cannot be recycled because recycling them might do more harm than good. A couple of things that could happen include putting the recycling facility workers in danger, causing them to lose money because they still have to pay to throw the materials into landfills. It can also slow down the recycling process.

That’s why all of us need to be mindful of things that cannot be recycled. One way to indicate if it’s recyclable is to check the packaging labels, and if it’s not suggested there, you could also do a quick search over the internet. Ensure that you are confident in how to properly recycle or dispose of the material before doing so.