A surprisingly large portion of the rubbish homeowners turn over to junk removal companies gets recycled or reused—at least 60 percent or higher, according to some companies’ estimates. Recovering that amount of material rather than sending it to the landfill is good for the environment, and you don’t have to take our word for it: recycling has benefits that have been demonstrated by government agencies, private organizations, and research institutions.

The nature of the benefit depends on the material being recycled. The following list includes some of the most common recyclable materials handed over to junk removal companies. Keep reading to find out why recycling them is the best thing to do for both you and the environment.

Aluminum, Plastic, Wood, and Glass: Standbys of Recycling

In general, recycling has two main benefits. First, recycling saves some of the (usually greater) amount of energy it takes to manufacture products from base materials. Second, recycling reduces the amount of trash sent to landfills. Although modern landfills have plenty of capacity and are generally more environmentally sound than the unlined dumps used until the 1970s, there are relatively few of them in the US—around 2,000, according to the EPA—and trucking over 200 million tons of waste across state lines annually leaves an enormous carbon footprint.

Aluminum is the second most used metal after steel, so recycling it saves many trips to the landfill. The recycling process is extremely efficient too, and the EPA estimates that recycling aluminum saves 95 percent of the energy necessary to make the same amount of aluminum from raw materials. Recycling plastic also conserves energy and reduces petrochemical pollution, while recycling wood products like paper is efficient and conserves timber resources. Recycling glass is least efficient, but with 30 percent energy savings over manufacturing glass from raw components, the process is still worth it.

All these materials are mainstays of municipal recycling programs, but they’re also components of the refuse picked up by junk removal professionals. Those companies will know how to extract the usable aluminum, plastic, wood, and glass from your former belongings, and they’ll send much of them to their partners in the recycling industry.

Old Textiles: They Won’t All Come Back in Style

In 2011, approximately 13.1 million tons of textile waste was generated—over 5 percent of the nation’s total municipal solid waste, according to the EPA. Since, as mentioned, hauling trash to far-off landfills wastes so much energy, there are better destinations for your old clothes, fabrics, and linens. Donation centers can be the start of a new life for clean clothing. Textiles that are too worn to be used as-is can be recycled in a variety of ways. According to the EPA, cotton fabrics can be torn up and resold as rags or reprocessed and used in high-quality paper products. Other types of fabric can be broken down into fibers and used as stuffing, insulation, and even building materials. In 2011, the combined efforts of reuse and recycling programs recovered 15.3 percent of all discarded textiles—that’s 2 million tons that would otherwise have been trucked to landfills.

Old Electronics: The Casualties of Planned Obsolescence

Old electronics contain heavy metals like mercury and lead, which are normally toxic to humans. Another environmental concern surrounding electronics, especially laptops, is their energy-intensive manufacturing process. By donating or properly recycling your used laptops, cellphones, and TVs, you’ll save trips to the landfill, prevent the release of hazardous materials into the environment, and hopefully encourage manufacturers to conserve energy and resources.

It’s not always easy to find a responsible electronics recycler. Unfortunately, some US companies outsource their electronics recycling operations to sub-Saharan African nations or southern Chinese provinces. In these poor regions, the recycling process is described as being more like scavenging, with unprotected workers of all ages burning and acid stripping electronics to remove the valuable constituent parts. Ultimately, the waste from breaking down the electronics often winds up in local waterways and soil. Homeowners who don’t want to contribute to this international problem should use the resources provided by the EPA or the Basel Action Network’s e-Stewards program to find a recycler who will dispose of their old electronics properly. If you use a professional junk remover, make sure that the company also works with a responsible electronics recycler.

Reducing our carbon footprint, releasing fewer toxins into the environment, and encouraging manufacturers to use less energy—most of us probably already knew these benefits of reusing and recycling, but it’s good to be reminded that together our actions can actually have an impact. Keep disposing of your used things responsibly, either on your own or through a junk removal company, and don’t be afraid to enumerate the benefits for anyone who’ll listen.

Click Here to View Your Local Best Pick® Junk Removal Contractors

Sources: Basel Action Network; EPA; The Seattle Times; Slate.com.

For more information on our sources, please contact us directly.