Surprising Paper You Can NOT Recycle

hanging pots

We have always been told that the best thing we can do for the environment is to “reduce, reuse, recycle” but there is confusion about what you can and cannot recycle. Many states have evolved their recycling programs over the years. Things that were once recyclable are no longer recyclable and vice versa. This makes things confusing when it comes time to take the recycling to the curb. Here is a list of a few common items you may or may not know shouldn’t be recycled.

Food Contaminated

Cardboard 9 times out of 10 cardboard can be recycled, so why cant cardboard contaminated with food? Because these boxes may have oils, grease, and other food waste these items can not be recycled. Grease and food waste risk damaging recycling equipment and or contaminated other recyclables. Its not only cardboard that cant be recycled if food was once in it, the same goes for containers such as Chinese take out, or milk containers. Those containers cannot be recycled because it is covered in a wax like coating as well as whatever sauce or food that it once housed.

Certain Types of Paper

While most types of papers can be recycled there are a few types that are not allowed to be recycled due to certain types of treatment.

While full sheets of paper may be recycled, paper that has been through the shredder cannot be recycled. Paper that is shredded runs the risk of getting stuck in the recycling machines disrupting the recycling process.

Wax Paper

It comes in handy when you are cooking and baking, but it cannot be recycled due to its waxy texture and is considered a “mixed paper.” The wax on the paper cannot be recycled down and can harm recycling machines.

crumpled receipt


While some receipts can be recycled, most cannot. Receipts are often printed on thermal paper which contains chemicals and resists decomposition. Receipts can also contaminate a whole batch of recycled paper with the chemicals they contain.

wrapping paper rolls

Wrapping paper

It sometimes is made of foils and glitter meaning it cannot be recycled. A trick to know if you can recycle your wrapping paper is to scrunch it, if it stays scrunched it is likely paper and can be recycled.

These are just some of the things that most people do not know cannot be recycled. Recycling factories are different in different states and cities, to find out if you should recycle certain items be sure to look up your towns/states rules.