Learn about recycling terms and how they are defined.

Remember to recycle plastic bottles, jars, jugs and tubs.
Not sure where to put an item? Read the Gainesville Recycling Resource guide to learn more.


Asbestos is a deadly carcinogen that should only be handled by licensed asbestos abatement professionals. There is no way to visually know if a product contains asbestos. New and older homes may contain asbestos in roofing and flooring materials, shingles, drywall, ductwork, plumbing, fireplace materials, and corrugated sheets. The best way to handle, dispose of and recycle asbestos is to hire licensed asbestos abatement professionals. To learn more about how asbestos is recycled and how professionals safely handle and dispose of asbestos-containing materials, visit Asbestos.com.


Organic material that can be converted into basic compounds or elements by bacteria.



Process by which food scraps from a home or business are disposed of naturally to produce toxin-free and nutrient-rich fertilizer for gardening and other uses. Compost reduces your solid waste output and can save money on your garbage bill. Composting is Nature’s way of recycling. Compost is a mixture that consists largely of decayed organic matter and is used for fertilizing and conditioning land. EPA DEFINITION: The relatively stable humus material that is produced from a composting process in which bacteria in soil mixed with garbage and degradable trash break down the mixture into organic fertilizer.


Capable of undergoing biological decomposition in a compost site as part of an available program, such that the material is not visually distinguishable and breaks down into carbon dioxide, water, inorganic compounds, and biomass, at a rate consistent with known compostable materials.

Compostable Plastic

A plastic that undergoes degradation by biological processes during composting to yield CO2, water, inorganic compounds, and biomass at a rate consistent with other known compostable materials and leave no visible, distinguishable or toxic residue.

Construction & Demolition (C&D)

Building materials and solid waste from construction, deconstruction, remodeling, repair, cleanup or demolition operations, in some cases these materials can be reused.


Any material, substance or object that decreases the value of your materials or make them un-recyclable.

Electronic Waste

Unwanted electronic items are commonly referred to as e-waste. Many states have outlawed throwing e-waste in the trash because it contains hazardous materials.

Food Waste

Uneaten food and food preparation wastes from residences and commercial establishments.


Source reduction activity in which grass clippings are left on the lawn after mowing.


Garbage collection company that offers complete refuse removal service; many also collect recyclables.

Hazardous Waste

A product in a home (household hazardous waste) or business that is ignitable, corrosive, reactive or toxic (e.g. used motor oil, oil-based paint, auto batteries, gasoline, pesticides, etc). These products are damaging to the environment if disposed of improperly. Many of these products have eco-friendly alternatives.

Land Clearing Debris

Trees, stumps, branches, or other wood generated from clearing land for commercial or residential development, road construction, routine landscaping, agricultural land clearing, storms, or natural disasters.


Sanitary landfills are disposal sites for non-hazardous solid wastes spread in layers, compacted to the smallest practical volume, and covered by material applied at the end of each operating day.


Water that collects contaminants as it trickles through wastes, pesticides or fertilizers. Leaching may occur in farming areas, feedlots, and landfills, and may result in hazardous substances entering surface water, ground water, or soil.


The businesses who accept recyclable materials for reuse or processing, either for their own consumption or for resale.

Materials Recovery Facility (MRF)

A facility that processes residentially collected mixed recyclables into new products available for market.

Mixed Glass

Recovered container glass not sorted into categories (e.g. color, grade).

Mixed Paper

Recovered paper not sorted into categories such as old magazines, old newspapers, old corrugated boxes, etc.

Mixed Plastic

Recovered plastic unsorted by category.

Municipal Solid Waste (MSW)

The total waste generated by residents, businesses, and institutions.

Non-Ferrous Metals

Metals not containing iron or its alloys or compounds. Copper, brass, bronze, aluminum bronze, lead, pewter, zinc and other metals to which a magnet will not adhere.

Non-Rigid Plastics

Lighter weight plastic products that give in easily when squeezed, such as clear clamshell containers, microwavable trays, to-go cups, and thermoformed product packaging materials.


Old corrugated containers, also known as cardboard.


Old newspaper

Polylactic Acid (PLA)

A biodegradable, thermoplastic, aliphatic polyester derived from renewable resources. Corn starch (in the U.S.) or sugarcanes are the common feedstock.


A term used to describe material that is being reused/recycled after it has been in the consumer’s hands (e.g., a newspaper going back to the paper mill to be recycled into new recycled content paper products). Material or product used by the consumer for its original purpose and then discarded.


A term used to describe material that is being reused/recycled before it ever goes to market (e.g. paper scraps off of a paper mill floor going back into the next batch of paper). Waste material generated during the manufacturing process.


Products that can be collected and remanufactured into new products after they’ve been used. These products do not necessarily contain recycled materials and only benefit the environment if people recycle them after use.


Products are made from materials that would otherwise have been discarded. That means these products are made totally or partially from material contained in the products you recycle, like aluminum soda cans or newspaper. Recycled-content products also can be items that are rebuilt or re-manufactured from used products such as toner cartridges or computers.

Resin Identification Code (RIC)

A number-based coding system placed on plastics to identify the polymer for purposes of recycling, but does not necessarily denote an item as recyclable.
#1 – polyethylene terephthalate (PET) a plastic resin used to make packaging and soda bottles
#2 – high density polyethylene (HDPE) a resin used to make packaging and plastic milk and juice containers
#3 – polyvinyl chloride (PVC) A tough, environmentally indestructible plastic that releases hydrochloric acid when burned.
#4 – low density polyethylene (LDPE) widely used for manufacturing various containers, dispensing bottles, wash bottles, tubing, and plastic bags
#5 – polypropylene (PP) used for making molded articles, laminates, bottles, pipes, and fibers for ropes, bristles, upholstery, and carpets
#6 – polystyrene (PS) used to make auto parts, CD cases, electronics, toys, kitchen appliances and Expanded polystyrene foam (Styrofoam or EPS)
#7 – other (mixed plastic) acrylic, nylon, polycarbonate, and polylactic acid (a bioplastic also known as PLA), and multilayer combinations of different plastics


Using a product or component of municipal solid waste in its original form more than once; e.g., refilling a glass bottle that has been returned or using a coffee can to hold nuts and bolts.


Meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

Zero Waste

Zero Waste principles recognize a Hierarchy of Material Management in the following order from most preferred to least preferred:

  • Extended Producer Responsibility and Product Redesign
  • Reduce Waste, Toxicity, Consumption, and Packaging
  • Repair, Reuse, and Donate
  • Recycle
  • Compost
  • Down Cycle and Beneficial Reuse
  • Waste-Based Energy as disposal
  • Landfill Waste as disposal

(Definition adopted by the US Conference of Mayors)