Trash vs. Recycling: What’s the Difference?

Trash vs. Recycling: What’s the Difference?
Chicago Blue Recycle Bin

As a Chicago resident, you might have heard of the term “source-separated recycling”. The City of Chicago requires residents to separate recyclable materials from waste at the source – your home – and place it in designated recycling containers for collection. These recyclable items must be kept separate from trash until they are recycled back into consumer goods.

Recycling saves energy and raw materials, and it also reduces greenhouse gas emissions, which helps to tackle climate change. It’s not only good for the planet, but also good for your condo community. Recycling improves the aesthetics of your building, especially the waste collection area.

Studies show that diligent recyclers feel more invested in the community in general and also help keep the community cared for.

To keep you on top of the recycling rules, here are some guidelines to help.

Recycling Basics
You should rinse and recycle cartons, glass bottles and jars, metal cans and foil, clean cardboard and paper, and plastic containers. Anything in a recycle bin should be free of food, liquid and contaminants, which means a cardboard pizza box with grease stains must be put in the trash, not the recycle bin.

It helps to crush cartons and plastic containers, and to take apart cardboard boxes before putting them in the recycle container. This is the “reduce” portion of the recycling motto: Reduce, Recycle, Reuse.

Trash, not Recycling
Things that can’t be recycled include scrap metal, batteries, Styrofoam, plastic bags of all kinds, and anything that would get tangled in the sorting equipment, like power cords or twine. Broken glass should not be recycled because it causes a safety risk for workers.

Need more information? The website Recycle By City is a fun resource that gives clear guidance on what and how to dispose of just about anything, responsibly. Visit them at