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What happens to your bottle or can once it goes into the bin? Check out our handy guide to materials below!


Aluminum cans are the most common form of aluminum which is recycled; but other products such as aluminum siding, lawn furniture frames, window frames and storm doors are also recyclable. For each pound of aluminum recovered, Americans save the energy resources needed to generate about 7.5 kilowatt-hours of electricity. That’s enough energy saved each year by recycling aluminum to meet the lighting needs of a city the size of Pittsburgh, PA for six years.An estimated 80,000,000 Hershey’s Kisses are wrapped each day, using enough aluminum foil to cover over 50 acres of space — that’s almost 40 football fields. All that foil is recyclable, but not many people realize it.

There is no limit to the amount of times an aluminum can can be recycled. At one time, aluminum was more valuable than gold! In addition, the difference in energy use between virgin aluminum and recycled aluminum is very large. Theoretically, producing recycled aluminum requires 95% less energy than producing aluminum from bauxite, an aluminum ore. In practice, energy savings achieved are closer to 75%.

Learn more about the Life of a Soda Can ! Or read blog posts about aluminum!

Information sourced from Can Manufacturers Institute and Recycling Revolution.


Just as aluminum can be recycled over and over again, so can glass! In fact, 90 percent of recycled glass is used to make new containers. Glass can even be used by glass makers and artists due to their aesthetic quality. Uses for recycled glass include kitchen tiles, counter tops, and wall insulation. Mixed glass cal be recycled into aggregate, which is a construction material used for roads and concrete.

Every metric ton of waste glass recycled into new items saves 315 additional kilograms of carbon dioxide from being released into the atmosphere! Recycling seems to be the better option especially since a modern glass bottle would take 4000 years or more to decompose — and even longer if it’s in the landfill. Also, if recycled, glass containers go from recycling bin to store shelf in as little as 30 days.

Read blog posts about glass!

Information sourced from Recycling Revolution.


Recycling plastics could theoretically also save considerable energy. Producing new plastic from recycled material uses only two-thirds of the energy required for manufacturing them from raw materials.

Yet, at the present time, only a small percentage of plastics are recycled. (Americans use 2,500,000 plastic bottles every hour in which most are thrown away.) This is because there are virtually hundreds of different types of plastics, and it is difficult to separate them. Plastics can have very different physical and chemical properties. Mixing of plastics during reprocessing can therefore weaken the recovered plastic, making it less appealing to manufacturers, especially when low-cost virgin resin is available.

Even if the plastic is sorted by type, unlike glass, aluminum, and steel which can be recycled over and over again, plastic cannot. In other words, plastic is “down-cycled”: e.g. soft drink containers are made into new products, which require a lower grade of plastic The park benches cannot be made into milk jugs again or into new benches. Also, most recycled plastic is used to produce items, such as polyester and plastic lumber, that are not themselves recyclable.

Read blog posts about plastics!

Information sourced from Recycling Revolution.

Guide to Plastics

Consumers often believe the coding symbols on plastic containers mean the item is recyclable. In fact, the symbols only identify the resin base of the plastics, not all of which are accepted by all recycling programs. These resins are as follows:

#1 Polyethylene terephthalate (PET or PETE)

Found in: Soft drink, water and beer bottles; mouthwash bottles; peanut butter containers; salad dressing and vegetable oil containers; oven-ready food trays.

Recycling: Put into a glass,metal and plastic bin.
Recycled into: Polar fleece, fiber, tote bags, furniture, carpet, paneling, straps, (occasionally) new containers

PET plastic is the most common for single-use bottled beverages, because it is inexpensive, lightweight and easy to recycle. It poses low risk of leaching breakdown products. Recycling rates remain relatively low (around 20%), though the material is in high demand by remanufacturers.

#2 High-density polyethylene (HDPE)

Found in: Milk jugs, juice bottles; bleach, detergent and household cleaner bottles; shampoo bottles; some trash and shopping bags; motor oil bottles; butter and yogurt tubs; cereal box liners

Recycling: Put into a glass, metal and plastic bin.

Recycled into:Laundry detergent bottles, oil bottles, pens, recycling containers, floor tile, drainage pipe, lumber, benches, doghouses, picnic tables, fencing. HDPE is a versatile plastic with many uses, especially for packaging. It carries low risk of leaching and is readily recyclable into many goods.

#3 Polyvinyl chloride (V or PVC “Vinyl”)

Found in: Window cleaner and detergent bottles, shampoo bottles, cooking oil bottles, clear food packaging, wire jacketing, medical equipment, siding, windows, piping

Recycling: Put into a glass, metal and plastic bin.

Recycled into: Decks, paneling, mudflaps, roadway gutters, flooring, cables, speed bumps, mats

PVC is tough and weathers well, so it is commonly used for piping, siding and similar applications. PVC contains chlorine, so its manufacture can release highly dangerous dioxins. If you must cook with PVC, don’t let the plastic touch food. Also never burn PVC, because it releases toxins.

#4 Low density polyethylene (LDPE)

Found in: Squeezable bottles; bread, frozen food, dry cleaning and shopping bags; tote bags; clothing; furniture; carpet

Recycling: LDPE is not often recycled through curbside programs, but Tufts will accept it. Plastic shopping bags can be returned to many stores for recycling.

Recycled into: Trash can liners and cans, compost bins, shipping envelopes, paneling, lumber, landscaping ties, floor tile

LDPE is a flexible plastic with many applications. Historically it has not been accepted through most American curbside recycling programs, but more and more communities are starting to accept it.

#5 Polypropylene (PP)

Found in: Some yogurt containers, syrup bottles, ketchup bottles, caps, straws, medicine bottles

Recycling: Number 5 plastics can be recycled through Tufts’ recycling program.

Recycled into: Signal lights, battery cables, brooms, brushes, auto battery cases, ice scrapers, landscape borders, bicycle racks, rakes, bins, pallets, trays

Polypropylene has a high melting point, and so is often chosen for containers that must accept hot liquid. It is gradually becoming more accepted by recyclers.

#6 Polystyrene (PS)

Found in: Disposable plates and cups, meat trays, egg cartons, carry-out containers, aspirin bottles, compact disc cases

Recycling:Put into a glass,metal and plastic bin.

Recycled into: Insulation, light switch plates, egg cartons, vents, rulers, foam packing, carry-out containers

Polystyrene can be made into rigid or foam products — in the latter case it is popularly known as the trademark Styrofoam. Evidence suggests polystyrene can leach potential toxins into foods. The material was long on environmentalists’ hit lists for dispersing widely across the landscape, and for being notoriously difficult to recycle. Most places still don’t accept it, though it is gradually gaining traction.

#7 Other: (multi-layered or mixed)

Found in: Three- and five-gallon water bottles, ‘bullet-proof’ materials, sunglasses, DVDs, iPod and computer cases, signs and displays, certain food containers, nylon

Recycling:Number 7 plastics have traditionally not been recycled, though Tufts’ program now takes them.** with the exception of PLA/bioplastics

Recycled into: Plastic lumber, custom-made products

A wide variety of plastic resins that don’t fit into the previous categories are lumped into number 7. A few are even made from plants (polyactide) and are compostable. Polycarbonate is number 7, and is the hard plastic that has parents worried these days, after studies have shown it can leach potential hormone disruptors.

A word on Biodegradable Plastics

Currently Tufts Recycles! does not recommend using bioplastics. “Bioplastics” or PLA are marked as a #7 which is technically true as “miscellaneous”, but they are not a recyclable product. Bioplastics and PET do not mix – as PLA bottles cannot be distinguished from PET bottles by the consumer there is a risk that mixing the two could cause all recycled petroleum based plastics to be rendered unusable. These plastics are also prohibited from our composting facilities due to concerns about how the chemicals in bioplastics will leach into the soil. If you come across a bioplastic — most likely in the form of a “compostable” plastic container or utensil — please throw it in the trash, where it will biodegrade. For more information, see below: