How to Properly Recycle in Rhode Island

Sometimes we hear conflicting things when it comes to what can and cannot be recycled. Some states have different laws or regulations on recycling, so we're here to help break things down for you so you're a pro at recycling in Rhode Island. 

The first tip we want to make sure you understand is that recycling is not the best option when it comes to being eco-friendly. It's actually one of the last options we should be using.  We have to change our mindset when it comes to waste and recycling. (We could talk about waste and living a zero-waste lifestyle - but that's a whole other story, for another time, so we'll stick to the basics of recycling in this article and only quickly mention this idea for now). Below is a helpful diagram that shows how recycling is actually toward the end of the cycle when it comes to waste. Did you know that only about 9% of recyclables are actually recycled in the U.S.? By rethinking, refusing, reducing, repurposing, and reusing BEFORE we recycle, we will actually have to recycle less. Visit Aeromatico.com for a deeper explanation of this.

Image Credit: Aeromatico

But, we know its hard to eliminate ALL waste, so it's important to recycle items that can be recycled, instead of throwing them in the garbage which will end up in the landfill. Follow the guidelines below from the Rhode Island Resource Recovery Corporation to make sure you're recycling right!

Paper, Cardboard, & Cartons

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Things you CAN recycle:

  • Paper (newspaper, computer/notebook paper, even glossy paper like magazines, junk mail, etc.)
  • Cardboard (pasta boxes, cereal boxes, pizza boxes with minimal grease are okay), toilet paper rolls & paper towel rolls
  • Milk cartons (leave the caps on), juice boxes, veggie broth cartons, etc.

Things you CAN'T recycle:

  • Receipt paper
  • Paper coffee cups and paper/cardboard takeout containers (these have a plastic lining that cannot be recycled!)
  • Stickers or paper with sticky backing
  • Tissues, napkins, paper towels
  • Shredded paper
  • Wood
  • Fabric/textiles

Metal Cans, Lids, & Foil

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Things you CAN recycle:

  • Aluminum beverage cans (soda cans, beer cans, seltzer cans, etc.)
  • Aluminum cans (and lids) from soup, beans, tomato sauce, etc. (Discard any paper wrappers/labels beforehand to make the recycling process easier and faster!)
  • Aluminum foil (make sure its clean and crumpled up into a ball!)
  • Metal lids from jars (like pasta sauce jars, pickle jars, etc.), and metal caps from beer bottles, olive oil bottles, etc. (for these small caps, place them in an aluminum soup can until half full and then crimp the top so they don't fall out - these caps are so small that they fall through machinery at recycling plants!)
  • And yes - you CAN recycle Chipotle's burrito bowl aluminum lids!!

*All items should be empty and thoroughly cleaned

Things you CAN'T recycle:

  • Other metals (frying pans and pots)
  • Dirty cans or aluminum foil

Glass

Things you CAN recycle:

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  • Glass jars (pickle jars, olive jars, jam jars, baby food jars, sauce jars, glass peanut butter jars, etc.)
  • Glass wine bottles, beer bottles, and liquer bottles
  • Glass bottles (old-fashioned Coca Cola bottles, kombucha bottles, glass lemonade bottles, Starbucks Frappucino bottles, etc.)

Things you CAN'T recycle:

  • Drinking glasses or glass dishware
  • Broken glass
  • Windows and mirrors

Plastic

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Things you CAN recycle:

  • Water bottles, soda bottles, 
  • Milk cartons
  • Yogurt cups
  • Plastic coffee cups and lids
  • Shampoo bottles
  • Plastic takeout containers 

*All items should be empty and thoroughly cleaned

Things you CAN'T recycle:

  • Plastic coat hangers
  • Plastic grocery bags, plastic bread bags*
  • Plastic casing from water bottle packages*
  • Plastic straws and stirrers
  • Plastic cutlery
  • Styrofoam containers
  • Bubble mailers (reuse these for sending out packages!)
  • Plastic tape/labels
  • Food wrappers (like chip bags, granola wrappers, candy wrappers, etc.)

*These items CAN be recycled, just not in your curbside recycling. Locations (including Stop & Shop, Walmart, and many more) actually have plastic bag drop-off locations. Check out this link for more details on how to recycle plastic bags, as well as bread bags and other plastic films!

Important Tips

  • Do NOT use a plastic trash bag to line your recycling bin. Plastic bags cannot be recycled, so this will either get thrown in the trash, or it will make the recycling process much harder for workers.

  • Crumple up water bottles if possible; this will take up less space in the recycling bin!

We hope this information will make you feel more confident with recycling, but if there's still an item that's not on this list that you're unsure whether it can be recycled or not, use the Rhode Island A-Z Search Tool to type in the item you're looking for - and it will tell you how to properly dispose of it! For example, not sure if you can recycle your laundry detergent bottle? Type that in and the website gives you a detailed response!

Image Credit: Rhode Island Resource Recovery Corporation

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