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Recycling is the process of separating, collecting, processing, marketing, and reusing materials that would have otherwise been thrown away. When a product has been recycled and reused as a new product, the usage loop has been closed. For example, glass is fully recyclable and can be used over and over again, without any loss of quality.

Sorting through your trash is the best way to discover where you can reduce waste. Is there anything reusable or repairable? Can you reduce the amount of disposable products you use? In addition, when you purchase goods and products, look for the three Rs.

  • What are the Three Rs?

    Reduce: your first line of action for waste management

    • When choosing between similar products, select the one with the least amount of packaging and ask yourself if it can be recycled or reused
    • Avoid the disposable versions of razors, pens, batteries, plates, cups, napkins, and similar
    • Reduce junk mail by asking that your name and address be removed from mailing lists. Send a written request to:

    Mail Preference Service
    Direct Marketing Association
    P.O. Box 9008
    Farmingdale, NY 11735

    Reuse: give it a second chance

    • Reuse or bring your own shopping bags
    • Carry food in reusable containers rather than plastic food bags
    • Leave grass clippings and leaves on your lawn or compost them
    • Invest in cloth napkins for daily use and reusable wiping cloths, towels, and plates
    • Donate unwanted furniture, appliances, clothing, and toys. This is the best way to give goods a second life

    Recycle: close the loop

    This term is used to describe the last and most important step in the recycling process. It refers to the point when a consumer buys a recycled product after it has been put into a recycling program and processed into a new item.

    • Choose recyclable containers when purchasing refreshments
    • Avoid foam cups with plastic lids and straws
    • Support recycling markets by buying and using products made from recycled materials
    • When shopping, look for the recyclable sign at the bottom of products
    • Find a recycling collection center near you
  • What Can Be Recycled?

    Check with your city or county. Many municipalities collect the following items for recycling:

    Paper (newspaper, office paper, cardboard, magazines)
    Why recycle paper? If everyone in the U.S. recycled just 1/10th of their newsprint, it would save approximately 25 million trees a year!

    Aluminum (beverage containers, canned foods containers)
    Why recycle aluminum? By recycling one aluminum can, you can save enough energy to run a TV set for three hours.

    Plastics (soda bottles, milk jugs, plastic grocery bags, detergent containers)
    Why recycle plastic? Five recycled plastic bottles makes enough fiberfill to stuff a ski jacket.

    Glass (green, clear, amber)
    Why recycle glass? Glass never wears out. For every ton of glass that is recycled, a ton of resources (sand, soda ash, limestone, and feldspar) is saved.

    Other metals (steel cans, automobile bodies, appliances)
    Why recycle steel? For every ton of steel that is recycled, 2500 pounds of iron ore, 1000 pounds of coal, and 40 pounds of limestone is preserved.

    Yard trimmings (grass, leaves, clippings all by composting)
    Why recycle yard trimmings? Reuse these to mulch your yard!

  • Got Packing Peanuts?

    Call the Plastic Loosefill Council (800-828-2214) for a list of drop-off centers. Most packaging store locations accept foam packaging peanuts for reuse.

  • What to do with Old Sneakers

    Old sneakers are recycled and reused to make new sports surfaces like running tracks and playground surfacing. Visit Nike's Reuse-a-Shoe program for more information and collection sites near you.

Additional Resources

Fact Sheets

Original website content and design created by Mark Hostetler, Elizabeth Swiman, and Sarah Webb Miller. With the help of UF/IFAS Communications, the current look and functionality was streamlined for the UF/IFAS Extension Solutions for Your Life website. Al Williamson of UF/IFAS Communications uploads the steaming video for each episode. Images on this website were taken prior to national guidelines of face coverings and social distancing. The site is currently maintained and updated by Tom Barnash and Mark Hostetler.