You Probably Didn’t Know You Could Recycle These Things—Here’s How To Do It
Learn How to Recycle Almost Everything
On a daily basis, we are faced with the growing problem of waste and how to get rid of it or manage it.
Recycling may not be a cure-all to pollution and landfill issues—ideally, we would like to reuse the things we use in our homes as much as possible in order to reduce the waste we create and help out our environment as much as possible. But for recyclable items already out there, recycling is the best way to do whatever possible to keep those items from damaging natural resources.
This is easy for some household items such as newspapers, plastic bottles, plastic containers and such, but what if you’re faced with an item which is difficult to recycle? What do you do then?
Maintaining a recycling system, learning how to recycle difficult items, and becoming familiar with recycling symbols can do a lot to help the planet, as can figuring out how to recycle everything possible (even those things you didn’t know you could recycle).
Learn how to recycle almost everything, from batteries to yogurt cups, with this A to Z guide
What makes an item ‘Hard To Recycle’?
Hard to recycle items require special processing before being recycled. This can involve disassembly, managing hazardous components or access to specialty recycling markets. It also includes items banned from the landfill.
Apple Products: Apple GiveBack is a trade-in and recycling program that’s good for you and the planet. If your trade-in device is eligible for credit, you can offset the purchase price of a new one. If it’s not eligible for credit, you can recycle if for free! If it’s in good shape, they will help it go to a new owner. If not, they will send it to their recycling partner for you.
Appliances: Depending on the condition and efficiency of your appliance, the most eco-friendly option is to donate or sell it second-hand. If you are purchasing a new appliance for your home, you can often request the pickup of your old unit from the retailer. Not replacing an appliance, but still need to get rid of it? Contact your local recycling center for a bulk pick up or some local energy providers will often offer pick-up services!
Batteries: To ensure your batteries get properly recycled call or go online to your local recycling center to find out about your communities collection program or upcoming event. Recycle your batteries effortlessly by dropping them off at your local nation wide electronic store.
Pro Tip: You can reduce your need for disposing of single-use batteries by purchasing rechargeable batteries instead. These can be used more than 1,000 times and recycled at no cost to you.
Bicycles: Depending on the condition donating your unwanted bicycles to second hand stores, or a local organization is the most environmentally friendly action to giving your unwanted bicycle a new life!
Bras: Stop throwing away your old bras! About 85 percent of textiles produced in the U.S. end up in landfills on an annual basis. You can donate your bras (in any condition) to give back to women in need. Free The Girls, The Bra Recyclers, Be a Dear and Donate a Brassiere are just a few brands that are making a difference repurposing and recycling bras.
Carpet: Check with your local waste management company to see if they accept carpet recycling. Another alternative is dropping it off at a designated carpet collector that will properly recycle and reuse your unwanted, and even dirty carpet!
Pro Tip: DIY what you can! If your carpet is still in good condition considering reusing the fabric for a fun new project around the house. From a new welcome mat, cat scratcher, to a funky car mat the reusable possibilities are endless!
Cereal/snack cardboard boxes: Cereal boxes are acceptable at recycling centers; they fall under the paper category. All you have to do is ensure that the boxes are indeed empty, flatten them, and, if possible, chop them into tiny pieces
CD’s/ DVD’s: Discs can not just be discarded in your local recycling bin. CDs or DVDs improperly placed in recycling bins and end up on the conveyor belt get caught or shattered while going through the sorting process. Your local nation wide electronic store will have an e-waste recycling program where you can drop off that piled-to-the-top box of CD’s in person to. For a small shipping fee Green Disk will accept your recycling donations by mail, and properly discard of them, effortlessly!
Crayons: You can send your old, cracked, and no longer usable crayons to Colorado owned and operated Crazy Crayons! All you have to do is send them via mail and they will take care of the rest. Since opening they have recycled over 120,000 pounds of unwanted crayons.
Diapers: You read that correctly! Since diapers are made with plastic Knowaste focuses on recycling all of those used diapers and even separates the waste from the plastic so it can be reused in another capacity.
Eye Glasses: Donate your unwanted or excess eye glasses to your local community! Take your old glasses to any second-hand store. Be mindful some stores will accept them, or pass them along to another non-profit. At the end of the day you can feel good knowing you’re giving back to your community and planet.
Pro Tip: If you need to recycle large quantities of glasses, non-profit organizations such as: One Sight, New Eyes, and Eyes of Hope all accept donations, in any condition to be repurposed, and reused for people in need around the world.
Fire Extinguisher: Although you are not able to recycle these curbside you can contact your local recycling center or fire department for proper disposal.
Greeting Cards: St. Jude’s Ranch for Children accepts new and used, all-occasion greeting cards all year. They recycle the cards and then create new ones from them. Money raised from selling the new cards helps fund programming for abused, neglected or homeless children, young adults and families.
Glass Jars: You’ve got to the bottom of a jar of jam, marmalade, mayonnaise, or olives. Now what do you do with the jar? Try to find a way to reuse the bottle around the house BEFORE you recycle them. Simply wash them out and see what you create! From a new vase, lantern, storage container, piggy bank, candle, cocktail glass, the reusability is endless! Glass bottles represent the quickest recycled-packaging process, as a bottle can be recycled and back on store shelves in 30 days. Careful to not break the glass bottles, as there is no intuitive for recycling broken glass.
Hangers (wire): Some dry cleaners and Laundromats will reuse them. Otherwise, they can be recycled with other household metals, but be sure to remove any attached paper or cardboard first.
Hearing Aids: Send your old hearing aids to the Starkey Hearing Foundation to give the gift of hearing to those in need and contribute to a healthy environment. Any make or model, regardless of age, can be donated.
Inhalers: More than 46 million people throw away their inhalers every year. Recycling inhalers is as easy as picking up your next prescription. Just drop off your used inhalers to your local pharmacy and your done! It will be broken down into aluminum and plastic.
Ink Cartridges: 375 million printer cartridges are tossed in the trash every year. It may be a surprise at how easy, and effortless they can be recycled. Most commonly used ink cartridge companies have recycling initiative programs with free shipping! If you want to go in person you can drop your ink cartridges off at any name brand office supply store for them to be properly recycled.
Pro Tip: Buy refillable ink cartridges to avoid contributing to single use waste, saving the planet, and you money.
Juice Pouches: Most name brand juice pouches unfortunately are a combination of a plastic polymer and aluminum, these are not recyclable. However, TerraCycle will donate 2 cents for each Honest Kids, Capri Sun, and Kool-Aid Drink pouch and 1 cent for any other brand you collect while up-cycling and turning them into colorful purses, totes, and pencil cases The organization provides free shipping, too.
Keys & Key Fobs: With the proper disposal metal keys can be recycled into scrap metal. Key fobs are a different story. Since they contain batteries that need proper disposal, key fobs can be brought to your local household hazardous waste collection sites for free.
Light Bulbs: While your curbside pickup recycling program may accept LED light bulbs, it is commonly known to be illegal to dump any lightbulbs containing mercury. You can bring all lightbulbs containing toxic materials to your local household hazardous waste collection sites for free.
Lottery Tickets: Although you should always look up your local recycling laws, If they do not have foil or plastic on them, lottery tickets may be placed in your curbside recycling bin.
Mattresses: More than 50,000 mattresses end up in U.S. landfills each day. Bye Bye Mattress will help you find the closest mattress recycling facility near you. If you are currently in the market for a new mattress considering talking to your store of choice about their recycling programs. Recycled mattresses are used to make fiber for scrap metal, wood chips, clothing, and foam products.
Milk cartons with plastic spouts and caps: Take off and throw away the cap (don’t worry about the spout―it will be filtered out during the recycling process). As for the carton, check your local recycling rules to see whether you should toss it with plastics and metals or with paper.
Notebooks (spiral): It may seem weird to toss a metal-bound notebook into the paper recycling, but worry not―the machinery will pull out smaller nonpaper items. One caveat: If the cover is plastic, rip that off. It’s a larger contaminant.
Office Envelopes: Padded envelopes cannot be recycled with office paper or single-stream recycling due to the plastic content. Many padded envelopes may actually provide information about proper recycling guidelines. Scan the envelope for recycling information. Another easy effort to ensure your envelopes get properly recycled is by bringing them to your local post office. The United States Postal Service has a recycling program so strong that it reported recycling 220,000 tons of envelopes, wastepaper, and other materials in one recent year alone
Packing Peanuts: Although often labeled as “recyclable” these messy packaging protectants can not be disposed of curb side. Instead, you can go one step further and donate your unnecessary packing peanuts to your local shipping stores! Make sure to separate all contents out of the peanuts!
Paint: Some cities have paint-recycling programs, in which your old paint is taken to a company that turns it into new paint. Go to Earth911 to see if a program exists in your area.
Pizza boxes: If cheese and grease are stuck to the box, rip out the affected areas and recycle the rest as corrugated cardboard. Food residue can ruin a whole batch of paper if it is left to sit in the recycling facility and begins to decompose.
Prescription Pill Bottles (plastic):Plastic prescription bottles are recyclable, usually through local municipal programs. Your pharmacy may also accept these containers for recycling.
Router/ Modem: Routers and modems should not be placed in the trash because they have circuit boards. You can safely and responsibly dispose of any brand router or modem to your local nation-wide electronic store.
Shopping bags (paper): Even those with metal grommets and ribbon handles can usually be recycled with other paper.
Shopping bags (plastic): If your town doesn’t recycle plastic, you may be able to drop them off at your local grocery store. Safeway, for example, accepts grocery and dry-cleaning bags.
Sports Equipment: Even if you’ve retired from a sport, your gear might still have life. Donating sports equipment offers it a second chance to touch lives, rather than resigning it to a landfill forever. Lets Play It Forward is a not-for-profit organization that collects and donates used sports equipment to children and organizations in need. They have donated 84,000 pieces of gently used sports equipment to children in need.
Sneakers: 300,000,000 pairs of shoes are thrown out every year. You can prevent your unwanted pair of kicks from ending up in a landfill by donating them in any condition. If they are gentle worn and still in good shape, give them to someone in need and repurpose the pair by donating them to your local thrift store.
Shaving Razors: An estimated 2 billion razors thrown away every year. Until recently, there has not been a multitude of recycling initiatives for disposable shaving razors. Gillette has partnered with TerraCycle to offer the World’s First National Razor Recycling program. The best part? Any brand razors and blades are accepted, and you can send them out directly from your home! It’s almost too easy…..
Tinfoil: It’s aluminum, not tin. So rinse it off, wad it up, and toss it in with the beer and soda cans.
Tires: You can often leave old tires with the dealer when you buy new ones (just check that they’ll be recycled). Worn-out tires can be reused as highway paving, doormats, hoses, shoe soles, and more.
Tissue boxes with plastic dispensers: The plastic portion will be filtered out during the recycling process, so you can usually recycle tissue boxes with cardboard.
Tooth Brushes: Colgate has a partnership with TerraCycle to recycle unwanted toothbrushes, toothpaste tubes, dental floss containers, and the packaging those items come in. They turn them into plastic lumber and other types of consumer products. To recycle your toothbrushes and related items, all you have to do is mail them to TerraCycle using the instructions on their website.
Umbrellas: If it’s a broken metal one, drop the metal skeleton in with scrap metal (remove the fabric and the handle first). Plastic ones aren’t accepted.
Used clothing: Some towns recycle clothing into seat stuffing, upholstery, or insulation. Also consider donating clothing to animal boarders and shelters, where it can be turned into pet bedding.
Utensils (plastic): Local recycling programs will determine if plastic utensils are recyclable. Contact yours to see if you can toss them in the recycling bin; if not, they’ll have to be tossed.
Vinyl Records: Consider selling or donating vinyl records. The best way to bring your old records back to life is to check with local music stores, art centers, artists or schools to see if they would like to accept the donation.
Wine Corks: Put standard corks in a compost bin. They’re natural so they’re biodegradable. Plastic corks can’t be composted or recycled.
Wipes: These can’t be recycled, but sea sponges and natural sponges made from vegetable cellulose are biodegradable and can be tossed into a compost heap.
Yoga Mats: Most yoga mats are made from PVC, the same material in plumbing pipes, heavy-duty tarps, and rain boots. While many local yoga studios will accept well-loved mats and find them a new home, the company Sanuk has an appropriately squishy vision for each mat’s future: It will transform your old yoga mat into flip flops.
Yogurt Cups: Yogurt cups and tubs are accepted in many local recycling programs, provided they are empty, clean and dry. Check to see what your municipality accepts before throwing it in the recycling bin!
Zippered plastic bags: The average American family uses 500 Ziploc bags every year. The good news is that Ziploc bags are recyclable. Even better: In most communities, recycling locations are more plentiful than you might think. That means the most challenging part of recycling Ziploc bags may be getting your kids to remember to bring their empty sack lunches back home with them.
Earth911.com has a great search engine for recyclables on its website. Click on the sites selected images and type in the type of item you’d like to recycle, as well as your zip code. A list of recycling facilities will come up, and you can find a location that’s convenient for you.