It has become easier than ever to recycle with the introduction of single-stream recycling, which allows you to put all of your stuff in one bin to leave at the curb. But exactly how much of this will get recycled largely depends on you. Tossing an un-rinsed laundry detergent bottle into the recycling bin probably won't amount to any recycled plastic. The residue will make the plastic the container is made from less pure and maybe even keep it from being sold. Clean waste is much more likely to be recycled; after all, it's easier to reduce back into its original parts. So, cleaning out your laundry detergent bottle and discarding its cap before you toss it into the bin will increase the likelihood it actually gets recycled. Just a head's up.
Recycling applies to not only what goes out of your house but also what comes in. Everything from roof shingles to drywall can be made with some recycled content. Just keep an eye out for the words post-consumer recycled material. This means that some of the ingredients lived a former life as something else and were recycled into what you're purchasing. The higher the percentage of post-consumer recycled material in an item, the greener it is.
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There are items we consciously recycle and items we toss without a second thought. Here are 10 things you should never throw away at HowStuffWorks.