Though reusing materials should be more emphasized and practiced, rather than continuously recycling, the latter does still use only a third of the energy to produce from recycled material than to create from raw, virgin material- but only if we recycle properly and responsibly.
If you're unsure, throw it in the trash!
There are lots of different materials that are recyclable. Tin, aluminum, paper, batteries, glass, used oil, tires, plastics, and household hazardous waste are all recyclable materials. But not all communities offer these services, and some plastics are recyclable and some are not; depending on the community or what the plastic's made with. So, if you are unsure and cannot find the answer through research, throw it in the trash! If you toss something that is not recyclable by your local facility into the recycle bin, then there is a chance that with enough of these non-recyclables, the entire batch will no longer be sorted and just disposed of into the landfill; including all of the recyclable material people responsibly disposed of. A huge bad! So, please do not simply recycle something because it might be recyclable; know your community's requested material. Furthermore, make sure your containers are free of food or waste, otherwise it too will contaminate the whole batch. For example, sandwich bags can be recycled if they are washed of food scraps and the Ziploc is removed. Similarly, if your paper is shredded, it's better to compost it than it is to recycle; most facilities do not accept shredded paper.
Also, get into the habit of reusing materials like a canvas shopping bag over provided paper or plastic bags, and reducing materials like gallons of spring water with compostable cups over a case of plastic water bottles when you're serving large groups. Depending on the facility, sometimes employees and sorting machines cannot sustainably handle the amount of recyclables and will ship large amounts to foreign countries to recycle or be dumped in various landfills.
There are several kinds of plastics; some are recyclable and some are not, regardless of where you're at. And some of the recyclable plastics cannot be recycled by your local facility. So it's important to know what's what. All you have to do is look for the little triangle, like the recycle symbol, and the number code found within. With this code, you can find out if your facility can recycle it. This is what those codes mean to know when doing research:
a 1 stands for PET (Polyethylene Terephthalate)
a 2 stands for HDPE (High-density Polyethylene)
a 3 stands for Vinyl
a 4 stands for LDPE (Low-density Polyethylene)
a 5 stands for PP (Polypropylene)
a 6 stands for PS (Polystyrene)
a 7 stands for OTHER (Mixed plastics)
a 7 with PLA under it means Polylactic Acid which is a corn starch and that one is compostable
Now, for quick reference on common plastics, plastic grocery bags and bread bags are usually a 2, and are best recycled when crumpled together and stuffed into one grocery bag. The thinner produce bags at grocery stores are typically a 4, and recycled in the same fashion. Saran wrap, or food storage wrap, have to be washed with soap before being recycled or it will contaminate the batch. CD jewel cases are only recyclable if there are a large number of them at once, and if the facility accepts them. Plastic bottles are a 2, and their caps are a 5- but keep them screwed on. Juice and milk cartons are usually not recyclable due to the amount of complicated lining, so research your facility. And if the plastic has nothing printed on it at all, it means it is not a recyclable product and only intended for landfills.
the other stuff
The "other stuff" includes Styrofoam, tires, crude oil, batteries, cell phones and electronics. In most cities, recycling facilities do not accept these materials. However, there are still companies and drop-off locations near you that might! Kind of like how some grocery stores accept used plastic bags to be reused for their customers. Similarly, some tire garages accept old tires and used motor oil (it takes one oil change to contaminate one millions gallons of fresh water) to be reused, bedding companies accepting old mattresses, cell phone carriers accepting used cell phones, and computer companies accepting old electronics to reuse. Household hazardous waste, like paints and cleaners, can be dropped off at local facilities that cater to just this. Batteries can be recycled by some electronic stores, or companies that accept these. If Styrofoam cannot be reused for storing or shipping items, then research local businesses and shipping companies that accepts this for their own purposes. For all this "other stuff", the internet is your friend.