Recycling rules are confusing. That much is certain. We have received hundreds of emailed questions about recycling.

Many asked about recycling things that many of us would not have thought of recycling: Jewel cases that once held CDs, rubber bands, air conditioner filters, bath mats, plastic pool covers, books and even lava lamps. Don't recycle any of these. Some of them may be reusable, however, if you are creative.

A sorter at a recycling plant has told of having to remove used diapers, sanitary pads, dead animals and used needles from recycling. It should be obvious that these aren't recyclable.

We suggest you keep it simple. The important and easier things to recycle are:

  • Cans ─ soda, soup, other cans (empty, clean and dry is the rule for all recycling) and you can leave the labels on
  • Plastic ─ water bottles, other drink bottles, clamshell fruit or take-out containers, rigid plastic like detergent bottles
  • Paper ─ junk mail (plastic windows on envelopes are fine), newspapers, office paper, shredded paper (in clear plastic bags for much of the area) and cardboard

If you have something you can't recycle, but it's still good, why not consider Freecycle? Start at to find out more. Your trash may very well be someone else's treasure.

Reduce water use in rinsing out bottles and cans by saving the cold water you might otherwise waste waiting for hot water in a bucket or pitcher. Use it to water plants after rinsing out your cans or bottles.

Consider not using plastic grocery bags if you aren't going to recycle or reuse them. See a video online showing how to make a bag out of an old T-shirt. You'll have a unique grocery bag. Go to

You can't recycle small appliances that don't work ─ if they work, try Freecycle or donating. You can take them to a landfill, however. Tucson residents can go to Los Reales landfill, 5300 E. Los Reales Road, open 6 a.m.-5 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays. County residents can use that or others, but will be charged a fee, usually about $10.

Johanna Eubank is an online content producer for the Arizona Daily Star and Contact her at