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  • Easy & FREE Philadelphia Recycling Guide is HERE! philadelphia-recycling-bins Full view

    Easy & FREE Philadelphia Recycling Guide is HERE!

    Not sure what goes into your blue Philadelphia single-stream* recycling bin?

    You’re not alone! And we get it – you want to do the right thing! Since there’s not an easy-to-read guide, we made one for you. (You’re welcome.)

    *Let’s start at the beginning: how does single-stream recycling work?

    What is Single-Stream Recycling?

    Philadelphia has two trucks that pick up waste on trash day: one for trash, the other for single-stream recycling.

    Single-stream recycling works like this: Rather than asking residents to put separate bins for paper, plastic, cardboard, glass, etc. – everything can be placed in one single container. Once the recycling bin content is collected at curbside, the whole bunch are transported to the Material Recovery Facility (aka MRF), where everything is sorted by type. There are systems where the non-recyclables are sorted out, but wrong recyclables (like plastic bags) can get stuck in the MRF machines and cause problems.

    Philadelphia even tries making it easy to recycle by giving residents FREE recycling bins. But so many of the wrong items end up in the recycling bin. (There’s even a new term for it: wishcycling.)

    This brings us to the next dilemma – what goes INTO the recycling bin?

    Philadelphia Recycling Guide

    This infographic explains what you can and can’t recycle by category. (You can also download an 8.5×11 printable version – scroll down below.)

    Philly Single Stream Recycling Guide 2017

    Created by Samantha Wittchen, iSpring

    Print the below version and hang by your trashcan, on your fridge, in your office or a convenient place to know what should or shouldn’t be recycled in single-stream.

    Download Your FREE Printable version of the Philly recycling guide:

    *Download Instructions: After you enter your email address and hit the green “Send It” button, the button will change to a green “Download Now” button. Click “Download Now” and a new tab will open with the PDF. Right Click the page or hover over the top of the screen to save to your desktop and print!

    Want to get it shipped to you?

    We’ll ship a 8.5″ x 11″ guide (printed on 100% recycled paper, obviously) to you. Check out with Paypal and we’ll mail it:




    You can use both guides for easy do’s & dont’s. For example, you can recycle plastics like food and beverage containers but not styrofoam. Definitely, keep those plastic bags OUT of the recycling bin.

    Paper is pretty straight forward – you can recycle most printed paper. However, you can’t recycle paper once it’s soiled, if it’s soft (like tissues, paper towels, etc.) or waxed paper plates. The problem with waxed paper is that they’re often coated with plastic.

    Cardboard is mostly universally recyclable. Don’t put your greasy pizza boxes into the recycling bin – it can taint the recycling stream at the MRF.

    Glass is another (mostly) universal recycling product. However, if glass is broken (especially the tiny pieces), you cannot recycle it. Don’t toss your lightbulbs or porcelain in single-stream recycling either.

    Metal is recyclable.

    There’s also a lot of items that aren’t recyclable in single-stream, but you can often find other places to recycle. Food waste should be compost (and there are local services like Circle Compost that pick it up for you in Philadelphia!)

    For other odd objects, search our popular Where Can I Wednesday column. Is your recycling problem not listed? Shoot us an email, and we’ll answer in an upcoming column!

    Julie Hancher

    About Julie Hancher

    Julie Hancher is Editor-in-Chief of Green Philly, sharing her expertise of all things sustainable in the city of brotherly love. She enjoys long walks in the park with local beer and greening her travels, cooking & cat, Sir Floofus Drake.

    Your thoughts . . .

    • Tamara Peace

      Thank you! Nice and straightforward.

    • No problem – glad you enjoyed!