If your city has a recycling program but you keep forgetting how it works, Slate has some tips for you. The best solution is to print out a copy of your city’s approved items and stick it to your fridge (doh), but the general rule of thumb is: “If in doubt, throw it out. Meaning don’t recycle.”
Slate’s reasoning is that there’s a possibility, however small, that you could cause actual damage to equipment, or ruin an otherwise acceptable batch of recyclable material. There are a couple of simple rules to help you, though:
The next time you find yourself hovering indecisively over a set of trash bins, here are some rules of thumb. Plastics marked No. 1 or No. 2 are virtually guaranteed to be accepted, so go ahead and toss them in with your recycling. Newspaper, corrugated cardboard, magazines, and office paper are almost always good to go as well. If your mystery object doesn’t fall into one of those categories, trash it.
Slate points out that your city may fine you if you start indiscriminately tossing otherwise recyclable material, so really, just print out a list of what is and isn’t acceptable. Or, “Make a list, don’t get pissed. Off by a bill from the city.” Arrgh, this is why nobody ever lets me make the signs at protests.