Recycling 101: Everything You Need To Know

Jenna Jolls

please recycle

We all know that recycling is important, but did you know that an estimated 120 billion units of packaging are produced every year by the global cosmetics industry? And most of them are not recyclable. Here at Mother Dirt, we’re continually working towards creating a healthier (and happier) planet through our sustainability efforts, which include using recycled materials in our packaging, reduced waste and more.

Not sure where to get started? We’re breaking down the basics of recycling, why it’s important and how to recycle common household items as well as your Mother Dirt empties.

Why is Recycling Important?


Recycling keeps trash out of landfills and allows it to be made into new products. Recycling can benefit both your community and the environment. Here are just a few of the ways:

  • Reduces the size of landfills.
  • Saves energy.
  • Helps conserve valuable natural resources, like water, timber and minerals.
  • Creates employment opportunities in the recycling and manufacturing industries.
  • Reduces emissions of greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide, that contribute to climate change.
  • Prevents pollution.
  • Bring communities together.
  • Educates people on the importance of protecting the environment.

How To Recycle

recycling bin

You probably recognize the recycling symbol above, right? Making up a continuous loop, the symbol represents the three-step process of recycling.

Step 1: Collection & Processing

There are three different methods of recycling. The first is curbside collection. This is a service provided to households (typically in urban and suburban areas) where household waste and recyclables are collected and disposed of. A 2009 recycling survey revealed that 74% of the total population, or an estimated 229 million Americans, have access to some form of curbside recycling at home. Typically in this service, large dump trucks collect household waste and recyclables and deliver it to either a landfill or a recycling plant where it is processed for reuse.

The second method is drop-off centers. A drop-off center is a central location that is set up to accept recyclable materials, which homeowners transport themselves. Sometimes communities that offer curbside collection may still have drop-off centers where homeowners can bring hazardous materials such as paint and propane gas.

The third and final method of recycling is deposit/refund centers. If you’ve ever purchased a canned or bottled beverage, you have probably noticed that a deposit (typically five cents) is added to the sale price. Once the bottle or can is empty, you can then return it to a collection center and redeem it for a refund of the deposit. This can usually be done at grocery stores or at a liquor store -- just do a quick Internet search to find your local center.

Once collected, the recyclables are sent to a recovery facility where they are sorted, cleaned and processed into materials that can be used in manufacturing.

Step 2: Manufacturing

These days, many products are being manufactured with recycled content, meaning that recycled materials are used to make new products. Some of the common household items that contain recycled materials include newspapers, paper towels, plastic laundry detergent bottles, and aluminum, plastic and glass soft drink containers.

Step 3: Purchasing New Products Made From Recycled Materials

As a consumer, you help to close the recycling loop by purchasing goods that are made from recycled materials. When you go shopping, keep an eye out for products that can be easily recycled or products that contain recycled content.

There are thousands of products that contain recycled content. Here are some of the terms you should know:

  • Recycled-Content Product - This is a product that is made from recycled material that is either collected from a recycling program or from waste that was recovered during the normal manufacturing process.
  • Post-Consumer Recycled Content - Often referred to as PCR, post-consumer recycled content is very similar to recycled content. However, with PCR, material only comes from items collected through a recycling program. These are items that consumers recycle every day, including aluminum, cardboard boxes, paper, and plastic bottles. 
  • Recyclable Product - These are products that can be collected, processed and manufactured into new products. These products do not necessarily contain recycled materials but are eligible to be recycled after use.

Here are some common products that you can find that can be made with recycled content:

  • Aluminum cans
  • Cat litter
  • Cereal boxes 
  • Clothes and shoes
  • Egg cartons
  • Furniture
  • Glass containers
  • Newspapers
  • Plastic shopping carts
  • Tableware
  • Toothbrushes (handles only!)
  • Trash bags

What Can I Recycle?

recyling bins

According to Waste Management, Inc., there are three basic rules to remember when recycling.

  1. You can recycle clean bottles, cans, paper, and cardboard.
  2. Keep food and liquids out of your recycling.
  3. No loose plastic bags or bagged recyclables.

So, what exactly can you recycle?

Items Accepted in Your Recycling Bin

These items can go in your recycling bin, as long as they are clean and dry.

  • Plastic bottles and containers. Remember to clean and dry containers before tossing in the recycling bin.
  • Food and beverage cans. Empty tin, aluminum and steel cans, as well as empty aerosol cans. If the can has a plastic lid or cap, remember to remove it before recycling.
  • Paper. Including newspapers and magazines. Soiled or wet paper should be composted.
  • Flattened cardboard and paperboard. Cardboard pizza delivery boxes without oil, leftover crusts, cheese, other food, or liners can be recycled. So can cardboard toilet paper or paper towel rolls.
  • Food and beverage containers. Rules for recycling things like milk jugs, juice boxes and food cartons often vary by city, county or state, so be sure to check with your local recycling program.

Not Accepted in Your Recycling Bin

It’s recommended that you try to reduce and reuse these items instead of putting them in the trash.

  • Bagged recyclables. You should not bag recyclables because the materials inside may not get recycled. Everything must be loose in your recycling bin.
    • Plastic bags. Plastic bags are not accepted as part of curbside recycling programs - they have the ability to get tangled in equipment and put workers in danger.
    • Plastic wrap and film. You should not recycle plastic wrap, bubble wrap, sandwich bags, or freezer bags. These should be reused whenever possible.
    • Flexible packaging. Things like chip bags and juice or soup pouches cannot be recycled because the packaging is made from multiple materials.
    • Cups with wax or plastic coating. Cups with plastic or waxed coatings as well as plastic lids are not recyclable. Invest in a reusable cup instead!
    • Polystyrene foam and plastic. Plastic to-go containers and cups are made of non-recyclable materials. Packing peanuts cannot be recycled either, however, some shipping stores will accept packing peanuts back to reuse.

    Other Items

    • Items that can get tangled. Things like garden hoses, rope, leashes, wire, holiday lights, string, and chains can easily get tangled around equipment and endanger workers, so these should be donated instead.
    • Dirty diapers and pet waste. Mixing these items in will contaminate all of the recyclables, turning the load to trash. Trash these instead and remember to keep recyclables clean and dry.
    • Household items. Items such as clothing and furniture should be reused when possible or donated.
    • Medical waste. Medical waste can pose a safety hazard and should never go in curbside recycling or trash bins.
    • Garage waste. Car parts, scrap metal, tires, and the like are safety hazards. Check locally for special collection programs or take them to a local retailer or scrap recycler.

    Tips For Recycling

    bag of recyclables

    Here are some other tips to keep in mind the next time you recycle:

    1. Flatten cardboard boxes so that you can fit more recyclables into your bin.
    2. Don’t recycle anything smaller than a credit card -- including straws, bottle caps (this includes water bottle caps!), coffee pods, plastic cutlery, or paperclips.
    3. Compost all food and food-soiled paper when possible.
    4. Take all of your used batteries to a recycling facility or store that recycles batteries.
    5. Electronics should be taken to a SERI certified electronics recycling facility.
    6. Make sure your recyclables are clean, empty and dry. In the United States, food waste contaminates 25% of our recycling loads.
    7. Know your plastics. Rigid plastics are recyclable and are labeled by resin codes 1 through 7. Generally, the higher the number, the less recyclable it is. Most recycling centers recycle plastics 1 and 2, but higher than that gets tricky.
    8. If there are instructions on your recycling bin, follow them as closely as possible.
    9. NEVER put your recyclables in plastic bags.
    10. Do you research before purchasing products. Try to buy from brands that incorporate sustainability practices in their packaging.

    Recycling Your Mother Dirt Empties

    So you used up your favorite Mother Dirt what? Here’s what you need to know about recycling your empties:

    • Our products are shipped in curbside recyclable packaging.
    • Our products are packaged in recyclable components and are mostly curbside recyclable.
    • Many of our products are made with post-consumer recycled content (PCR). Our Postbiotic Revitalizing Body Wash, Postbiotic Hydrating Hair Wash and Postbiotic Hydrating Conditioner bottles are actually made from 100% PCR.
    • The cotton in the liners we use for our temp-controlled AO+ Restorative Mist direct to consumer packaging are also made from 100% PCR. They should be discarded in the trash, but don’t worry -- they are biodegradable.
    • The gel refrigerant packs which provide temperature-sensitive protection for the safe transport of our AO+ Restorative Mist are durable, reusable and non-toxic. In fact, the refrigerant in our gel packs is completely drain-safe! It can be poured right down your kitchen sink and the pouch is recyclable.
    • The metal springs in the pumps in our mist, Prebiotic Foaming Cleanser, Postbiotic Serum, Postbiotic Moisturizing Body Oil, and Prebiotic Acne Lotion need to be discarded, in addition our caps and shrink sleeves (used on the serum, acne, body oil and cleanser and the neck wrap on the mist) must be discarded to make all of the products 100% curbside recyclable.

    We hope that you have found this breakdown on recyclability useful and that you’ll use it to help guide your personal recycling efforts to make our planet, and our environment, a better place

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