The ultimate guide on how to sort and recycle your waste
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The ultimate guide on how to sort and recycle your waste

In my blog post 11 simple things you can change today to help the environment, which you can read HERE. I talk about recycling and sorting your waste. 

In this blog post, I will give you the ultimate guide in the different kinds of symbols different household items are marked with and their meaning. I will also guide you in ways you can sort and recycle and help reduce your carbon footprint.

But first things first

The different recycling symbols

You might have come across different symbols on different household items. These are meant as a help in regards to what goes where when you have to decide which bin you should throw your garbage in, but often it can be more confusing.

Fear not, I am here to help you with a guide to the symbols and what they mean.

The most common symbol is this one:

The ultimate guide on how to sort and recycle your waste
The ultimate guide on how to sort and recycle your waste

This symbol means that the item can be recycled – but you probably already knew that, however, did you know that the small numbers and text that comes with the symbol indicates WHAT the item is made of and HOW it should be recycled?

Here’s a guide on what the numbers and text mean

1 / PETE – Polyethylene Terephthalate

You will often find this symbol on the bottom of your plastic bottle. This means that the plastic in the bottle is of the type PETE or polyethylene terephthalate.

Most plastic bottles are of this type. When recycled, they are granulated, cleaned and then used in new plastic products. It is not recommended that you reuse bottles of this kind. 

This type of item can be recycled in bottles and polyester fibers.

2 / HDPE – High Density Polyethylene

High-density polyethylene is used for food containers, carrying bags and pipes in the industry. They are usually labeled with HDPE or the number 2.

This type of item can be recycled in bottles and bags.

3 / PVC – Polyvinyl Chloride

PVC is made of crude oil, chlorine, and various additives. Pure PVC is very rigid. It burns easily and it quickly decomposes by light and heat. By adding different substances, the industry can make the plastic softer and more hardy.

Pure PVC contains about 57% chlorine. The high content of chlorine is one of the biggest problems with PVC. When PVC burns, chlorine (Cl) is released, and then hydrochloric acid (HCl) is formed. The hydrochloric acid provides acid rain that destroys the forests. Therefore, a lot of effort is put into cleaning the smoke at the incineration plants.

A lot of PVC waste comes from construction – including water pipes, gutters, wires and floors as well as roof tiles. There is also a lot of PVC in our own everyday life – from clothes with print, garden hoses, beach toys, bags, and toys. Previously, PVC was often used for packaging, but today it is often replaced by other types of plastic.

PVC parts are divided into hard PVC and soft PVC. The hard PVC – such as gutters, pipes and roof sheets – can be reused in the industry.

The soft PVC – such as rubber boots, rain jackets, and water hoses cannot be recycled.

Because PVC is so hard to recycle, reusing is a good alternative.

Use the items in your household that contain PVC for as long a possible, and when you’re done with them, try and donate them or resell them.

4 / (LDPE) – Low-density Polyethylene

This material is used for a lot of things, for example, grocery bags, wrappings, six-pack rings, trays, and sandwich bags. 

This can be recycled in your curbside recycling, but be aware that some areas don’t accept plastic bags. Therefore you should check with your local recycling program office.

5 / PP – Polypropylene

Plastic containers specially designed for microwave use may be made of polypropylene. They are usually labeled with PP or a five or both. They should only be used for low fat and sugar dishes if you use them in the microwave oven, according to the Plastic Industry. The material can also be found in bottles, clothing, and ropes. 

This can be recycled in bottles and fibers.

6 / PS – Polystyrene

This material can be found in Foam trays, Medical packaging, foam plant pots, ashtrays, and in cups. 

This is yet another material that is hard to recycle, do to the fact that curbside recycling programs don’t accept the material. 

However, there are ways to try and reuse the material. You can keep it yourself and use it for arts and crafts or for planting plants in your garden. You could also see if a local school or a shop would like to use it.

7 /  Other (Acrylic, Polycarbonate, Polyactic Fibers, Nylon, BPA and Fiberglass)

This category is for everything else that hasn’t already been mentioned or are a mixture of different kinds of plastic. 

Today you can and should look for baby bottles that are BPA-free – that way you don’t have to buy this kind of material. 

Avoid this is as much as you can – no one wants to recycle it.

What’s next?

Now that we have talked about the different kinds of symbols and their meaning plus the way you should recycle them, it is time to talk about what kind of recycling options you should have in your home.

Recycling waste at home

Household waste/Curbside recycling 

When you start waste sorting, the majority of the waste will fall under the category of household waste. It is all the waste that can neither be recycled, thrown in the compost nor recycled because it is dangerous.

What is household waste:

  • Leftovers from food
  • Milk Cartons
  • Diapers or sanitary waste
  • Flamingo, pizza trays and paper, cardboard or plastic that cannot be recycled because there are leftovers from food or other snacks on it.

Bio-waste and compost

A good place to start with waste sorting is in relation to bio-waste.

Many dispose of biowaste in the normal trash can, but there is a good reason why you should sort it. Bio-waste can be converted into biogas.

It can be very helpful having a Compost bin in your kitchen specifically for the bio waste you produce during the day/week. 

Have a look at this one, it is so beautiful

Utopia Kitchen Stainless Steel Compost Bin for Kitchen Countertop

Remember to use a Biodegradable bag to protect the bin from getting dirty. This type of bag will turn into compost along with the waste.

You can find a biodegradable bag here 

BioBag, The Original Compostable Bag, Kitchen Food Scrap Bags,

When the bag is full, or it starts to smell an outdoor compost bin willbe perfect.

I recommend this one

Garden Composter Bin Made from Recycled Plastic (420L)

This way you are saving the environment from the process of getting rid of the waste whilst at the same time making compost dirt that is amazing for your flower beds or vegetable garden

What is bio-waste? 

  • All food waste without food packaging both prepared and unprocessed
  • Fruit and vegetables
  • Meat, bones and (also from poultry and fish), shellfish, eggs and eggshells
  • Cut flowers and plants
  • Used paper towel, coffee and coffee filters, tea bags and tea leaves

Beware of leftovers from cooked food (they can attract rats) if you put it in the outdoor compost bin.

Garden waste

Once you have worked in the garden, you can collect garden waste in manageable piles and put it in paper bags or containers.

If you got the room for it, you can throw it in your compost bin.


Cardboard and paper should not be put in the same bin- the two materials have different properties.

Be aware that it is not all cardboard that should be sorted together in the cardboard waste.

Pizza trays and other cardboard items with food leftovers are a no-go in the cardboard waste sorting container, and also make sure that your cardboard boxes are completely emptied of flamingo.

What is cardboard waste?

  • Cardboard waste involves virtually all cardboard from the household. However, please note that cardboard waste must be in the household waste if there is food residue on it. Pizza trays should never be in the cardboard waste bin either.
  • Paper towel cardboard, shoe boxes and toothpaste packs.
  • Cardboard packaging from food that doesn’t leave a residue, such as oatmeal or chocolate boxes.


As mentioned above; materials made from paper must not be mixed with cardboard because the two materials have different properties and are therefore recycled separately.

As with cardboard, you should be aware that there are no dirty or greasy leftovers on the paper.

What is paper waste?

  • Newspapers, magazines, and advertisements
  • Envelopes, books, writing paper and wrapping paper


Plastic is one of the very bad climate sinners.

We are constantly hearing about how it threatens the environment, animal welfare, and the oceans. So besides turning down our consumption of plastic, it is also important to get it properly sorted.

When it comes to plastic, it is not all that should be sorted in the plastic waste container.

For example, plastics that contain or have been in close contact with chemicals and hazardous waste should not. It can be plastic packaging with chemicals, print cartridges and plastic from makeup. They should be sorted separately.

The same goes for un-hygienic products, such as toothbrushes and dishwashing brushes and composite products, such as videotapes – these go in the household waste/curbside recycling.

Remember to check the different kinds of symbols on the product to figure out how to recycle the material in the best way. I made a list at the top of this post in case you missed it. 

What is plastic waste?

  • Containers and canisters from milder cleaning
  • Litter boxes, wash bowl and other types of trays and containers
  • Plastic trays and bags from food without leftovers
  • Plastic bottles 
  • Service and cookware made of plastic
  • Soft plastic


Empty and clean glasses should be in the glass waste container.

As with the plastic waste, it is important to be aware of what glass you should put in the glass waste container. If you get wrong things in here, you are contaminating all the other glass in the container that could have been recycled.

All that is not plain glass – should not be put in the glass waste container. This applies to, among other things, porcelain, crystal glass, mirrors, and ovenproof glass dishes.

What is glass waste?

  • All types of glass and bottles (colored and clear)
  • Whole bottles
  • Broken glass
  • Household glass
  • Drinking glass


Metal waste containers are mostly used for small metal.

If the thing you want to throw out consists of materials other than metal, such as plastic or wood, you can still throw it in the metal trash can.

The metal is actually remelted at such high heat that other materials are burned away.

What is metal waste?

  • Candlesticks, trash cans, bowls and other items from the household
  • Tools, kitchen utensils, knives, forks, spoons 
  • Tea and canned tins from food (cleaned)


Electronics waste probably gives itself away – it is all the things that have used power, whether through a wire, battery or solar cells.

What is electronics waste?

  • Items that have used electricity
  • Kitchen appliances, such as blender or microwave
  • Electronic toys
  • Mobile phones and computers

Hazardous Waste

Hazardous waste is everything that has medicine residues to paint and electric bulbs.

It is very important to recycle hazardous waste, as it can be harmful to the environment if it is not recycled optimally.

You can for example use this 

Eagle 943BIO Biohazardous Waste Polyethylene Safety Can with Foot Lever, 6 Gallon Capacity, Red

Thank you for reading!

You have now completed reading The ultimate guide on how to sort and recycle your waste. Let me know in the comments what you think. 

Remember to subscribe to the newsletter in the sidebar on the right. That way you can stay updated on the latest blog posts. 

Sincerely, Elena

The ultimate guide on how to sort and recycle your waste
The ultimate guide on how to sort and recycle your waste

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