How to Recycle Plastic Containers [9 Easy Steps To Follow]

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Plastic is everywhere in our daily lives, and it’s causing a big problem for the environment.

Whether it’s the bottles we drink from or the containers we use for groceries, plastic is all around us. 

Understanding the environmental impact of plastic is crucial, and recycling it responsibly can make a big difference. 

In this guide, we’ll look at why plastic is harmful, how to get it ready for recycling, simple tips to recycle plastic containers, and check out eco-friendly options instead of using plastic for storage. 

Even though plastic is convenient, it’s causing environmental issues, so let’s start by figuring out why it’s not good for the environment.

Why Plastics Are Worst For The Environment?

1. Extensive Pollution

When we don’t throw away and manage our waste properly, it adds to the problem of plastic pollution. 

Plastics end up in oceans, rivers, and landfills, forming large floating islands of debris that hurt marine life. 

Even smaller bits, called microplastics, come from breaking down larger plastic items and sneak into ecosystems, causing risks to animal and people’s health.

2. High Resource Consumption in Production

Making plastics requires a lot of fossil fuels, which leads to using up important resources and putting more greenhouse gases into the air. 

Getting and processing these fossil fuels also harms the environment, making things worse for climate change and increasing the overall impact of plastics on nature.

3. Microplastics

As time passes, bigger plastic items can gradually break into smaller particles, termed microplastics. 

These tiny fragments, usually less than 5 millimeters in size, have the potential to pollute both soil and water, presenting risks to ecosystems and wildlife. 

Microplastics have been discovered in diverse settings, ranging from oceans and rivers to the air.

4. Toxic Additives 

Lots of plastics have extra stuff like phthalates, bisphenol A (BPA), and flame retardants.

These chemicals can leak out into the environment, which isn’t good for the health of animals and people. 

When these chemicals get into water and ecosystems, they strengthen the negative effects on nature, especially on different living things.

5. Disruption of Ecosystems 

Plastic waste causes trouble in ecosystems in different ways. It tangles up marine life and changes the makeup of the soil in landfills, creating widespread problems. 

This messes with how things naturally work, putting the delicate balance of ecosystems at risk.

6. Worldwide Influence

Plastic pollution isn’t just a problem in one place – it’s a challenge for the whole world that doesn’t stick to borders. 

Because ecosystems are all connected, the environmental effects of using and throwing away plastic affect the entire planet. Solving this urgent issue requires everyone to work together.

People are trying to deal with the problems caused by plastics in the environment. 

They are doing things like telling everyone to recycle more, finding new materials to replace plastics, and asking people to be careful about how they use and throw away plastic stuff. 

But because we use so much plastic and it sticks around for a long time, it’s still a big worry for the environment.

As worries about the environment continue to rise, people have the power to do something about plastic pollution. 

One way is by being proactive and recycling plastic containers responsibly. Let’s take a look at how to recycle plastic containers.

How to Recycle Plastic Containers: 9 Simple & Easy Steps

plastic containers

1. Check Local Guidelines

Start by understanding the recycling guidelines specific to your local area. 

Recycling programs can vary, so check with your municipality or waste management facility to determine which types of plastic containers are accepted for recycling.

2. Clean and Empty Containers

Before recycling, ensure that the plastic containers are clean and empty.

Rinse out any remaining food or liquid to prevent contamination and make the recycling process more effective.

3. Take off Caps and Labels

Take off any caps, lids, or labels from the plastic container.

These parts might be composed of different materials and can be recycled on their own. 

Refer to your local guidelines to find out if caps and labels can go into recycling.

3. Identify the Resin Code

Look for the resin identification code, usually found on the bottom of plastic containers.

This code, represented by a number inside a triangle of arrows, indicates the type of plastic used. 

Common codes include PET (1), HDPE (2), PVC (3), LDPE (4), PP (5), PS (6), and Other (7).

4. Check What You Can Recycle

Make sure the plastic containers you’re tossing into the recycling are accepted by your local recycling program. 

Not all plastics can go through the recycling process, so it’s crucial to stick to the guidelines.

This helps avoid contaminating the recycling process with materials that shouldn’t be in there.

5. Decide How to Recycle

When it comes to recycling, figure out whether your local program offers a curbside pickup service, meaning they collect your recyclables directly from your curb or doorstep.

Alternatively, you might need to drop off your recyclables at a specific recycling center yourself. 

The method can vary—some areas provide dedicated recycling bins for you to use, while in others, you may be asked to use clear plastic bags when delivering your items to the recycling center. 

Understanding these details ensures that you follow the correct procedures for recycling in your community.

6. Put it in the Recycling Bin or Container

For curbside recycling, simply put your cleaned and sorted plastic containers in the assigned recycling bin. 

If you’re utilizing a drop-off center, make sure to adhere to their explicit instructions regarding the proper location for depositing your recyclables.

7. Stay Informed on Changes

Keep yourself informed about any changes in local recycling policies or guidelines.

Recycling programs may evolve, and staying updated helps you adhere to the most current practices.

8. Consider Alternatives

Whenever possible, consider alternatives to single-use plastic containers.

Opt for reusable containers, and support products with eco-friendly packaging to reduce your overall plastic consumption.

9. Encourage Others

Spread awareness about the importance of recycling plastic containers.

Encourage friends, family, and colleagues to adopt responsible recycling practices to collectively contribute to environmental sustainability.

By following these steps, you contribute to the effective recycling of plastic containers, helping to reduce the environmental impact of plastic waste.

What to Do With Plastic Containers That Can’t Be Recycled

1. Reduce 

Since not all plastics can be recycled, a wise choice is to cut down on using them.

Avoid single-use plastics such as bags and straws. 

Instead, opt for reusable alternatives like cloth bags and metal straws.

This helps reduce the need for new plastic and is a positive step for the environment.

2. Eco-Friendly Breakdown

Certain plastics, particularly those marked as bio-based, can be composted if you follow specific conditions. 

Look for instructions on composting in the packaging. This way, they break down in a manner that’s better for the environment.

3. Donate or Share 

Instead of tossing away clean and reusable plastic containers, think about sharing them.

Schools, community centers, or local organizations could make good use of them. 

It’s a way to give these plastics a longer life and lend a hand to others in the process.

4. Contact the Manufacturer 

Certain companies offer take-back programs or specific instructions for getting rid of their products.

Get in touch with the manufacturer to see if they have any guidance on what to do.

Finding new purposes for plastic containers offers inventive ways to minimize waste and promote sustainability. 

Now, let’s delve into some do-it-yourself strategies for repurposing plastics.

DIY Tips To Reuse Plastic or Plastic Containers

Have fun being creative with these easy do-it-yourself (DIY) ideas:

  • Use old yogurt containers as cute plant pots or handy pencil holders.
  • Turn empty bottles into bird feeders or watering cans.
  • Get crafty by making stencils or cool projects with cut-out plastic shapes.
  • Change plastic containers into cool planters for a touch of green in your home with a vertical garden.
  • Keep your workspace neat by using plastic containers to organize office supplies and reduce clutter.

Trying out these simple DIY ideas not only gives a new purpose to your old plastic stuff but also helps you live a more organized and eco-friendly life.

List of Plastic Recycling Companies/Programs


1. America Recycles is a national program by the U.S. EPA that raises awareness about recycling. It helps you find local recycling programs and facilities with interactive tools. 

You can download educational materials for schools and communities, and get info on recyclable stuff, including plastics. 

Plus, it shares success stories to inspire people and businesses to join in and make a difference.

2. Earth911 is like an online guide for recycling and getting rid of waste. It has a strong search tool to find places that recycle different materials, including specific types and brands of plastic. 

You can also read articles and blog posts for tips on reducing waste and recycling better.

Plus, there are podcasts and webinars where experts talk about what’s happening in waste management.

It’s a handy resource for being eco-friendly!

3. The Association of Plastic Recyclers (APR) is a nonprofit group that wants to make plastics easier to recycle and promote responsible use. 

They give guidelines on designing plastic packaging so it can be recycled well. They also offer tips for people and businesses on the best ways to recycle plastic. 

APR does research and advocates for better plastic recycling technologies. 

Plus, they keep a list of certified plastic recycling places in North America that you can easily search.

They’re working hard to make plastic recycling better!

Eco-Friendly Options for Storage Containers Instead of Plastic 

1. Glass Jars and Containers: Choose durable, reusable, and easy-to-clean glass containers for your storage needs.

2. Stainless Steel Containers: Optimal for both food storage and lunchboxes, stainless steel containers are a sustainable choice.

3. Bamboo Boxes and Baskets: Embrace stylish and eco-friendly bamboo organizers for an aesthetically pleasing storage solution.

4. Cloth Bags and Pouches: Swap plastic produce bags for washable cloth alternatives to reduce waste.

5. Ceramic Containers: Sturdy ceramic dishes serve dual purposes for storage and serving, and they are safe for microwave and oven use.

6. Silicone Containers: Choose flexible and non-toxic silicone containers as a durable and easy-to-clean alternative for food storage.

Make the shift away from plastic and incorporate these sustainable options into your storage routine. 

Whether it’s the resilience of glass, the versatility of stainless steel, the elegance of bamboo, the reusability of cloth, the multifunctionality of ceramic, or the durability of silicone, there are plenty of eco-friendly choices to suit your needs.


Taking care of our environment means being smart about how we use and recycle plastic.

It’s important to know how plastic affects nature, get it ready for recycling, and check out other options. 

If we all make small changes, like choosing wisely every day, we can make a big difference in fighting against plastic pollution and creating a better, more sustainable future.


Can old plastic containers be recycled?

Yes, many old plastic containers can be recycled.
Check for recycling symbols and follow local guidelines.
Clean them before recycling to make the process more effective.

What should be done with lids and caps?

It’s best to check with your local recycling rules.
In some places, it’s recommended to remove lids and caps before recycling, while others accept them attached to the container.
Separating them ensures better recycling.

What is BPA and its association with plastic bottles?

BPA, or bisphenol A, is a chemical sometimes used in making plastics, including some bottles.
It’s been linked to health concerns. Many plastic bottles are now labeled as BPA-free, meaning they don’t contain this chemical.
Check the label or choose alternatives like stainless steel or glass bottles if you want to avoid BPA.

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