Recycling the right way

Below are some of the basic rules for recycling to help people make more educated decisions when recycling in Northbrook.

What can be recycled

Products made of paper, glass, steel, aluminum, cardboard and certain plastics are recyclable. Plastic products made from rigid plastic, like milk jugs and laundry detergent bottles, can be recycled. All containers must be rinsed before being recycled. Products made from paper, cardboard or other materials that have been soaked in liquid have to be dry in order to be recycled.


What cannot be recycled

Any material that contains food or liquid is not recyclable, such as half-full soda cans. Other items that cannot be recycled include flexible plastic packaging like chip bags and plastic bags since they can damage machinery. Wax-coated juice cartons cannot be recycled since the wax cannot be separated from the paper. This can cause the recycling machinery to break. Sharp items are not recyclable  because they pose a safety hazard to the workers who pick up recycling. If a product is not clearly recyclable, set it aside and research if it is recyclable in Northbrook ( 



What happens when there are attempts to recycle non-recyclable items?

When there is an attempt to recycle non-recyclable products, all the items in that recycling load, whether recyclable or not, have to be sent to a landfill. Food waste contaminates the recyclable materials and prevents them from being turned into new products. For example, when a plastic bottle, still containing liquid, is recycled, it contaminates the other recyclables by making them wet. The wet recyclables can no longer be made into new products, so they are sent to a landfill. Items such as plastic bags and cords cannot be recycled because they can jam the machinery used in the recycling program. 




TerraCycle is a company that aims to eliminate waste by making new products from materials that are not otherwise recyclable. Individuals can participate in TerraCycle’s programs, one of which is the Zero Waste Box. These boxes recycle products that normally cannot be recycled, such as coffee capsules like Keurig K-Cups, plastic snack wrappers, office materials and cosmetic containers, such as shampoo bottles and mascara tubes. Zero Waste Boxes can be bought online ( so the box can be accepted by TerraCycle when it is shipped back to them.



Advanced Disposal Website

TerraCycle publicist Alex Payne

Lisa Disbrow, spokesperson of Waste Management of Illinois Inc.