Recyclable or not recyclable? That is the question

I was sitting with my husband the other day telling him about my idea for the next article I planned to write and he said, “That’s great Deb, but what I really want to know is, can I recycle my empty yogurt containers?”

OK, so the piece on mats made from recycled hair used to clean up oil spills will have to come later. They are really interesting, but I will focus on some basic recycling facts this time.

“Can we or can’t we?” That is the question. Can we recycle yogurt containers?

“Yes, we can.”

What does it say on the Waste Management Web site when you look up the answer to this question?

“No, we can’t.”

What about when we call Waste Management?

“Yes, we can” and “No, we can’t.”

Different representatives within Waste Management gave me different answers.


This inconsistency left me confused and not just a little frustrated. At the two Waste Management buyback recycling centers I visited, they were accepting yogurt containers … but their Web site says no.

While I was at the Del Mar buyback center, at 2265 Jimmy Durante Blvd., I talked to a woman who saves all of her empty yogurt containers and hauls them over there since she’s been (incorrectly) advised that she cannot throw them into her blue bin curbside.

I keep referring to yogurt containers because they are one of the most common types of containers whose fate is misunderstood and not reliable.

Why is this information ever-changing? The answers to what can and cannot be recycled differ partially because the materials that are recyclable vary according to fluctuating demand.

The markets for Nos. 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7 are simply not as secure as Nos. 1 and 2, which are always in demand by buyers and, therefore, consistently recyclable.

Currently, there is a market (buyers) for all plastic with Nos. 1 through 7 and, as a result, you may place any of these recyclable materials (including yogurt containers!) into your blue bins.

Another question I am repeatedly asked is whether or not you will “contaminate” an entire batch of recycling material if you throw something into your bin that is not recyclable.

The answer is “Absolutely not.”

Consequently, when in doubt, do.

More surprises.

Can we recycle empty aerosol cans?

“Yes, as long as they are empty and did not contain spray paint, insect sprays (pesticides) or solvents.”

Can we recycle wax-coated milk cartons?


What about (nonaluminum) metal cans?


How about the plastic pots we buy plants in?

“No.” Take these back to the nursery where you bought the plants. They will (happily) reuse them.

What happens if we break a drinking glass? Can we recycle the broken pieces?


What about plastic cups?

“Yes, if there is a triangle with a number inside on the bottom.”

Plastic utensils? “No.”

Want to know about foil? The Waste Management Web site says “No, you can’t.” That didn’t sound right to me, so I picked up the phone and called one of the buyback centers … again, “Yes, of course clean foil is recyclable. It’s aluminum,” was the answer.

While the facts may sometimes be conflicting, it is safe to say that at this time “Yes, we can” recycle all Nos. 1 through 7.

Please e-mail me at if you are wondering about the recyclability of any particular item, or you may simply go to and type in Solana Beach or Del Mar in the box at the top of the page.

Leland, I hope you’re reading this because look what you’ve started … and “Yes” is my final answer.

Related posts:

  1. Make your holidays green by recycling waste, trees
  2. San Diego to mandate recycling for multi-unit complexes
  3. SB’s ‘bag lady’ targets dry cleaner plastic covers
  4. Residential waste/recycling service delayed by one day for week following Labor Day
  5. Where to dispose of those old batteries

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Posted by on Feb 18, 2010. Filed under Archives. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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