PLANO (CBSDFW.COM) – The confusion over what or how to recycle can overwhelm some people.

With Earth Day just around the corner, perhaps it’s time to re-educate yourself on what you can and cannot recycle to make a healthy impact on our environment.

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Here are five (of many) common mistakes even the greenest of us are making every day – and what you can do to make it right from Recycling Simplified.

Recycling is the process of converting waste materials into new materials and objects. It is an alternative to “conventional” waste disposal that can save material and help lower greenhouse gas emissions. (credit: Getty Images)

1. Recycling your pizza box
Can a pizza box be recycled? It depends. Chances are, the bottom of the box is greasy, making it too contaminated to be recycled. The solution? Rip or cut the box apart. If the top of the pizza box is clean and dry, it’s recyclable. The bottom of the box with the pizza grease and leftover food can go right in the trash.

2. Confusing decluttering with recycling
If your recent decision to choose joy in your home has led to bags of perfectly wearable items, drop them off in a dedicated reuse collection bin often found in malls or school parking lots, or take it to your local Goodwill. Recycling companies don’t have the resources to direct non-recyclables like clothes, toys or books to the proper venue. Not sure whether an item is recyclable or should be donated? Visit to find out, or visit Earth911 to learn where you can donate usable items in your area.

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3. Forgetting “empty, clean and dry”
Unfortunately, many perfectly good recyclables like cardboard can be ruined when they come into contact with other items that are wet or dirty. Just one bottle of ketchup with residue can contaminate an entire truckload of items that could otherwise be recycled! An easy way ensure your recyclables don’t end up in a landfill:

  • Empty the contents (food or liquid) of the container
  • Clean with a quick rinse using only a little bit of water so the item is free of food or other residue
  • Dry up any remaining liquid

4. Plastic over paper
Contrary to popular belief, plastic grocery bags or thin plastic film are not recyclable items. Instead, reuse plastic grocery bags and when ready to discard them, place in the trash or return to your local grocery store. Even better, purchase reusable grocery bags. Finally, don’t bag your recyclables up. If you collect them in a bag, dump the bag’s contents into the recycling container loosely.

5. Recycling lawn or gardening waste
Now that spring is here, yard trimmings may be piling up in your backyard. Yard waste (flowers, green clippings and soil) and Christmas trees do not belong in the recycle container. Composting options for tree trimmings and other yard waste are offered in every community, but not via your recycling container.

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Bottom line – when in doubt, throw it out!