How To Sort Your Waste- Does It Go to Landfill, Recycling, Or Compost?

How to Sort Your Waste by Planet Pods

The US creates a lot of waste

As the climate crisis persists around us, each of us has a tangible way that we contribute each day: waste. According to the EPA, the average person produces 5.91 pounds of waste per day with 1.51 pounds of that being recycled. In addition, food waste is a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions- if food waste is reduced, optimized, then composted, then we can expect the see emissions begin to draw down. If you’re looking for ways to help, you can start with your own actions. Here’s what you should know about sorting your waste into recycling, compost, and landfill.

What belongs in the recycling?

Recyclable items will vary based on your specific location and processing plant. Be sure to check local rules to see what your recycling service will and won’t recycle. This way, you can maximize your recycling efforts.

There are five categories of recycling: paper, cardboard, plastic, aluminum/metal, and glass. Here are the items that you can recycle in each. Be sure that any item recycled is empty, clean, and dry.


  • Newspaper
  • Envelopes
  • Junk mail
  • Phone books
  • Brochures
  • Magazines


  • Ream wrappers
  • File folders
  • Poster board
  • Frozen food boxes
  • Cardboard boxes
  • Corrugated shipping boxes
  • Milk cartons


  • Milk jugs (no cartons)
  • Water/soda containers
  • Shampoo/soap/detergent bottles


  • Beverage cans
  • Food cans
  • Scrap metal


  • Beverage containers
  • Glass food jars

Recycling Cardboard

What items should be composted?

Compost is defined as organic material that can be added to soil to help plants grow. According to the EPA, food scraps and yard waste currently make up more than 30 percent of what we throw away. Not only do these items take up space in landfills, but they also produce a greenhouse gas called methane, and it’s about 30 times more potent than carbon dioxide. By composting these materials instead of sending them to the landfill, we eliminate permanent waste and the release of gases responsible for the greenhouse effect.

Composting requires three basic ingredients:

  1. Browns: Materials like dead leaves, branches, and twigs
  2. Greens: Grass clippings, vegetable waste, fruit scraps, and coffee grounds
  3. Water: The right amount of water, greens, and browns is important for compost development

The following items are compostable. According to VegNews, a good way to evaluate whether an item is compostable or not is: "Can I (or my dog, or bacteria) eat this? If so, it’s compostable."

  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Eggshells
  • Coffee grounds and filters
  • Tea bags
  • Nutshells
  • Shredded newspaper
  • Kraft paper (no plastic lining)
  • Cardboard
  • Unbleached Paper
  • Yard trimmings (unless treated with chemical pesticides)
  • Grass clippings
  • Houseplants
  • Hay and straw
  • Leaves
  • Sawdust
  • Wood chips
  • Cotton and wool rags
  • Dryer and vacuum cleaner lint
  • Hair and fur
  • Fireplace ashes

Some cities may not have many options for municipal composting, but most Whole Foods locations should have compost bins available to drop off your compostable products.

What goes to the landfill?

Some items cannot be put in either recycling or composting. These items will ultimately end up in the landfill (unless they require special handling). Pay attention to the following item to make sure they end up in the right spot. Unfortunately, there has been an increase in “wishcycling,” or recycling without checking whether or not an item is recyclable. Just because you want an item to be recycled or believe that it can be does not make it true. You must check to see if it can be composted or recycled, and if not, it goes to the landfill.

Try to avoid landfill, as we see much of this impacting the environment in a harmful way. If you do need to dispose of plastics, try to consolidate plastics into an eco-brick to prevent microplastics from infiltrating wildlife environments.

  • Plastic bags
  • Styrofoam
  • Coffee Lids (PS6)
  • Textiles
  • Food storage paper or plastic (ex: takeout food containers, pizza boxes, potato chip bags, candy wrappers, bread bags, frozen food containers)
  • Diapers
  • Plastic utensils
  • Car and household batteries
  • Motor oil
  • Antifreeze
  • Tires

Landfill Aerial

What items require special handling? 

Some items should not be recycled, composted, or put in a landfill. Disposal of these items requires special handling.

  • Incandescent light bulbs
  • Florescent tubes
  • Computers and electronics
  • Needles and syringes
  • Hazardous waste
  • Toxic material containers
  • Paint

Hazardous Waste

Do your part to avoid waste

By doing your part each day to properly sort your waste, you can make a big impact on the Earth. You can help sort your garbage and reduce the amount of trash that needs processing. It’s an integral part of both the recycling and composting processes and eliminates thousands of pounds that will otherwise end up in landfills.

At Planet Pods, we’re working to end petroleum plastic for good. Our kraft tubes are unbleached and thus compostable, eliminating waste that will take years to decompose in landfills.

Emilie Scott founded Planet Pods in 2019 in effort to evolve consumer products and packaging for sustainability and environmental protection. Planet Pods started with a multi-purpose cleaner and has since been expanding to provide more lowered-carbon everyday goods.

Follow our journey @planetpods on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest.