List of 15+ Things That Cannot be Recycled

The greatest benefit of recycling materials or items is that it helps protect our planet. Recovering or recycling the things we use daily has become an important part of our lives. However, we can see a lot of waste all over the world that may or may not be recycled.

Glass bottles, plastics, paper, iron, and aluminium are the most commonly recycled materials. Apart from these recycling products, we also have to be aware of the things that cannot be recycled and how to handle such waste to protect our planet.

Here we are going to explain all those things that are difficult or impossible to recycle.

When it comes to non-recyclable items can be divided into several categories, including paper, plastic, and others. Let’s discuss all these things one by one to know which cannot be recycled.

Greasy or Oily Napkins & Paper Towels

Napkins and paper towels are paper products that cannot be recycled due to numerous reasons. A dirty towel or napkin contains food, grease, or liquids that could ruin the entire batch of recyclables. Grease can not be separated from the paper fibres when mixed into a watery slurry. As a result, it may form a new batch of paper as oily spots.

Most napkins and paper towels are made of recycled paper, which is also a big reason why they cannot be recycled again.

Frozen Food Boxes

The packaging of frozen food just looks like normal paper packaging, but such paper boxes keep the paper from breaking down when the paper is pulped for recycling. Food box paper is frequently contaminated with sauce and oil, which cannot be extracted while recycling. When recycling such paper, the chances are that it will get mixed with water and ruin the entire batch of paper.


We receive receipts when we buy groceries, clothing, restaurant meals, etc. All these receipts are made of thermal paper coated with Bisphenol- A ( BPA) property, making it non-recyclable.

BPA is hazardous to the reproductive systems of humans and also linked with many disorders. Thus it is hard to recycle the receipts paper as it can contaminate the whole batch of recycled paper. 

Waxed Papers

Some convenient packaging, such as juice or other drinks in cartons, is not recycled. Such papers are rejected for recycling as they contain wax fibre, which is hard to tear properly. Waxed paper, silicon backing, and other food boxes are entirely prohibited from recycling.

Hardcover Books

Recycling a book is possible, but it is also complicated. Removing the leather, plastic, and glue used to bind the book cover becomes difficult. We can recycle book pages, but hardcover books are an exception due to binding methods and non-paper components.

Plastic Toys

A toy is made of different mixtures of materials. Such materials are hard to recycle and can generally end up in landfills. Single-used plastic like beverage containers and packaging can be recycled with some effort, but it is hard to recycle the hard plastic that is mostly used in making plastic toys.

Packing Peanuts

Packing peanuts are made of 98% air-filled expanded polystyrene (EPS), also known as Styrofoam (Plastic polymer). Because EPS is a non-biodegradable plastic, it cannot be recycled. It is difficult to break down EPS at a recycling plant, and it also

takes up a lot of space because it contains only air volume and no weight.

Bubble Wrap

Technically, bubble wrap can be recycled, but not in the same way as other products. It is a low-density polyethene (LDPE) film plastic type, which is non-recyclable and should not be added to the recycling container. The plastic films with codes #2 and #4 are harmful to the machine equipment and can clog the machinery.

Clothing Hangers

The plastic coat hangers cannot be recycled normally as they are made of multiple materials. Recycling machines hardly accept a mixed material made of plastic. A plastic hanger is made of low-grade polystyrene or polycarbonate, making it difficult for recycling sorting facilities to differentiate.

Plastic Straw

We are all very familiar with plastic straws. But we never consider its negative impact on our lives. The plastic straws are made of hard, non-recyclable plastic (polypropylene and polystyrene).

Although plastic straw is made of plastic, they cannot be recycled. If we recycle the plastic straw, the other recyclables will become contaminated and the recycling process would be difficult and problematic.

Bottle Caps

As per the Beach Environmental Awareness Campaign Hawaii, it is found that plastic bottle caps are one of the ten such items that are encountered while cleaning up the marine debris beach. Recycling bottle caps is hard as, in many cities, these caps are not accepted for recycling.

Metal lids, plastic pumps for sprayers, pharmaceutical lids, and bendable lids are examples of caps that are not recyclable.


It is made from plants or fibres. Bioplastic is often advertised as being eco-friendly. It is a tricky material that cannot be recycled when it becomes dirty with food. Probably these types of plastic need to be composted in some specific conditions.


Styrofoam or Polystyrene (EPS) is not recyclable for two major reasons. The first is due to its dense nature. Because Styrofoam is 95% air, storing and shipping are difficult and expensive. The second reason it is not recyclable is that it has been contaminated with food or drink. Styrofoam’s porous nature makes cleaning and recycling difficult.

Disposable Diapers

Attempting to recycle disposable diapers is bad because diapers contain materials such as paper, plastic, absorbent material, and human waste. Attempting to recycle disposable diapers is a complete waste of time. Diapers are complete garbage and should not be disposed of in a waste composting system.

Medical Waste

As per the experts, biomedical waste is highly infectious and toxic for humans and animals and cannot be recycled. A proper disposable procedure is needed to be followed to dispose of the infectious materials. The wastage from the medical departments, like needles, syringes, razor blades, prescription containers, etc., is known as biohazards and cannot be recycled due to the difficulties involved in the sorting and cleaning procedure.  

Chemical Containers

It is hard to believe, but some household cleaning containers are also harmful and should not be recycled. Some hazardous chemical containers are bleach, motor oil, antifreeze, spray cans, etc. It is possible to recycle some chemical containers, but it is hard to recycle them all.

Broken Glass

Glass jars are recyclable, but broken glass is not. It is strange and hard to believe, but it is true. The broken glasses are not recycled per the municipality’s specific rules and requirements. Window glass, mirrors, and light bulbs contain harmful chemicals, that’s why it is hard to reuse them. Collecting and sorting the broken glass for the melting process is also hard. To be safe, such materials should be disposed of.


Throwing out an old mattress for decomposition is the best way to get rid of it. It has the potential to clog landfills and contribute to greenhouse gas emissions. When purchasing a new mattress, request that the stores and charities pick up the old one. You can also repurpose the old mattress by donating it.

Also Read: Organic Mattresses: Useful Thing to Save the Environment

Electronic Items

Some electronic items cannot be recycled, like LCD television, LCD Computer monitors, old televisions that contain mercury, and cathode ray tube televisions. These items are not recyclable, treated as hazardous waste, and not accepted for recycling.

Treated Wood

Any type of finished wood cannot be recycled because the chemicals used in the finishing process can contaminate water supplies if not disposed of properly. It is better to landfill a small amount of treated wood for safety purposes. You cannot also burn the treated timber without a permit and must notify the city’s waste management team if you plan to landfill a large amount of treated wood.


Recycling a product or item is completely based on its composition. We cannot recycle everything, it is a fact, but science is also implementing many methods that can help us recycle many things with easy procedures.

Recycling facilities are also different based on the areas and availability of services.

It is also difficult to recycle all types of materials in a single batch. An unwanted mixture of materials can cause a recyclable material to be converted into a non-recyclable material. So it has also become essential to determine which material needs to be mixed in the batch for a proper recycling process to get a fresh item.

The municipality should also make important public rules and regulations that help people distinguish between recyclable and non-recyclable items so that they can identify items before throwing them away.

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Abhay Gupta

Abhay Gupta

Hello there! I'm Abhay Gupta, a digital marketer with expertise in SEO and content creation. Helping brands to rank higher in search engine results page

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