As recycling continues to become more common for a lot of people, there’s still confusion and questions about what can be recycled and what the difference is between recycling and composting. What products are “biodegradable” versus “compostable”?  What goes in the blue recycle bin? What can I compost?

We set out to answer your questions in this episode of Earth911TV.


Recycling means to treat or process things to reuse. Materials like glass, paper, metal, plastic, textiles, and electronics can all be recycled.  There are many other materials that can be recycled. Check out our recycling search to learn more.


Compostable and biodegradable are often used interchangeably. But they’re not the same thing. Biodegradable means that a product can be broken down WITHOUT oxygen and that it turns into carbon dioxide, water, and biomass within a reasonable amount of time. Now, reasonable is not really defined, but WAY less than 1000 years, which is how long it takes some plastics.

Try to stay away from plastic if at all possible when you shop. Just read the label!


Compostable means it breaks down to carbon dioxide, water, inorganic compounds, and biomass at a rate similar to paper and breaks down into small pieces in about 90 days, so that you don’t even recognize the original compost, and it leaves no toxic residue.

Look for products packaged in compostable containers. For instance, we use compostable coffee filters so that we can just throw the coffee and the filter right into the compost bin. Don’t have to mess with all the grounds, dumping them then throwing the filter away. You can even get compostable drinking cups. Just do a search for “compostable” on Amazon and see just how many products there are.


Chances are you can upcycle a lot of the items you might recycle or throw away!

You can start by checking out our recycling search to see if something can be recycled or upcycled in your area, or you can find a great DIY project and upcycle things yourself. Just think creatively. Before you send anything to the landfill…just ask yourself…can this be re-used?

What #SmallSteps are YOU taking at home? Leave a comment below!
For great ideas on recycling check out the following articles and guides:

Past Episodes:

By Luria Petrucci

Luria hosts both Earth911TV and GeeksLife. You can find her at the intersections of fun, green living, technology and the geeky lifestyle. She enjoys learning alongside you on how to make life better, easier, greener and more efficient!