In honor of Earth Day today, we’re talking recycling! You probably already recycle all your plastic and glass bottles, cardboard packaging and metal cans. You may even have a compost pile in your yard, to recycle food waste. If you do, pat yourself on the back! Good job! Recycling helps to conserve resources, saves energy, protects the environment and reduces the amount of trash in our landfills. While we are doing A LOT, we could be doing more to increase the amount of waste we recycle.
You might be surprised at some of the things that can actually be recycled.
25 things you can recycle you might not know about:
If you have VHS tapes that you don’t use anymore (I know I do!) and they aren’t fit to donate, recycle them! There’s a company called Green Disk, who will recycle your “technotrash” for you. The tapes are taken apart and shredded and then turned into all kinds of useful things, like product packaging.
Styrofoam peanuts cannot be recycled in most areas, but many packaging stores (like UPS and Mail Boxes Etc.) accept them. To find a peanut reuser near you, go to The Plastic Loose Fill Council website.
There was a time when nobody really recycled batteries, but now it’s much easier to recycle your used batteries. Many stores, like RadioShack and Office Depot, accept reusable ones, as does the Rechargeable Battery Recycling Corporation.
Crayons aren’t as fun to use once they’re small or broken, and most of those pieces end up going right into the trash. But if you save all those unused pieces of crayons, you can donate them to an organization such as Crazy Crayons. Your old crayons are melted down and turned into new crayons.
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, fewer than 20 percent of cell phones are recycled each year, and most people don’t know where to recycle them. The Wireless Foundation refurbishes old phones to give to domestic-violence survivors. For information on other cell-phone charities, log on to Go Wireless Go Green.
Don’t know what to do with your old running shoes? Instead of throwing them out, send them to a recycling program. Nike’s Reuse-a-Shoe program accepts old sneakers (any brand) and recycles them into courts for various sports so kids around the world have a place to play. If your sneakers are still in reasonable shape, donate them to needy athletes in the United States and around the world through One World Running.
More than 46 million people throw away their inhalers every year. This is a huge amount of waste that can be recycled. You can now recycle your inhalers through the GlaxoSmithKline “Complete the Cycle” campaign. If you bring your used inhalers to participating pharmacies, they will be broken down into plastics and aluminum.
Brita water filters
The outer casing of Brita water filters is made of polypropylene plastic, which is not widely recycled. Drop off the filters at a Whole Foods store near you or mail them to Preserve Products to be made into toothbrushes.
Wine corks can be recycled and used in a variety of materials including flooring tiles, insulation, automotive parts, and sports equipment. Many Whole Foods markets have placed drop boxes inside their stores for you to dump your collection, so look for one the next time you’re grocery shopping. The organizations ReCORK and SOLE have also teamed up to repurpose your wine tops into soles for shoes and list of all the drop off locations on their site.
Panty hose & Tights
Used pantyhose can be turned into such things as park benches, playground equipment, carpets, ropes and even toys. Who knew? Hosiery company No Nonsense has started the first pantyhose recycling program. Inspired by Nike’s shoe recycling program, No Nonsense accepts all brands and color of hosiery and tights.
Some cosmetics companies have taken the initiative to encourage their customers to recycle. Lush allow customers to bring back product pots; MAC give you a free lipstick if you return the packaging from 6 of their products; Origins will accept packaging from any cosmetics company for recycling or energy recovery, and even give customers a free sample of one of their products.
Instead of letting your old mattress sit in a landfill, ask the mattress retailer if they take old mattresses for recycling or find a mattress recycling center. Recycled mattresses are used to make fiber for scrap metal, wood chips, clothing, and foam products.
Check out the Bra Recyclers website to learn more about the Bosom Buddies Program in which donated bras of all shapes and sizes are given to local shelters or redistributed to women in developing nations.
Most people simply throw away or flush old prescriptions. This can cause a number of environmental issues because drugs get into streams and leak into landfills. Take advantage of community drug take-back programs that allow the public to bring unused drugs to a central location for proper disposal.
Apple announced TODAY that it will take back any Apple product for free recycling. Apple has already been giving gift cards in exchange for used iPhones, iPads and Macs that are in good enough condition to be resold. Now this reuse and recycling program has been extended to all Apple products.
Send those energy-sucking strands of holiday lights off to HolidayLEDs to be recycled and you’ll get a 15-percent-off coupon for anything on their site, so you can get the twinkly LED lights of your dreams. The Christmas Light Recycling Program is open year round.
Cars, Boats, RVs, Motorcycles, etc
Even if these are completely unusable, they still have metal and other components that can be recycled. Call junkyards in your area, or go to junkmycar.com, which will pick up and remove cars, trailers, motorcycles, and other heavy equipment for free.
Donate your old eyeglasses and sunglasses to help people with eyesight difficulties worldwide. (Sunglasses can be non-prescription. They are needed in countries near the equator to help protect people’s eyes from sun damage.) To find a facility that collects old eyeglasses for the group OneSight, you can search by zip code on the organization’s site for the location most convenient to you.
Because most are a combination of a plastic polymer and aluminum, these are not recyclable. But 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. The organization provides free shipping, too. TerraCycle turns them into colorful purses, totes, and pencil cases that are sold at Target and Walgreens stores.
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. All donations are tax deductible and a letter of acknowledgment will be sent to all donors.
The American Birding Association accepts donated backpacks, which its scientists use while tracking neotropical birds.
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.
Brides Across America helps United States military brides by gifting them free wedding gowns. They accept wedding dresses not more than five years old as well as monetary donations. They will also take veils, tiaras and accessories. Donating your dress is a way to help another bride not have to worry about the financial strain of having her dream wedding.
The Keys for Hope Foundation is a non-profit that seeks to end hunger. The foundation helps by raising money from key drives and donations. The keys are weighed and then sold at recycling centers for scrap metal.
Most everything has some value to someone, somewhere. Even if you can’t think of a use for it, that doesn’t mean someone else can’t. List it on Freecycle, a grassroots, nonprofit network of people who are giving and getting stuff for free in their towns. There really is nothing to lose. If nobody claims it, you can throw it away later, but if someone does, you have kept that much more stuff out of a landfill.
As you can see, a lot of everyday items can be given a second chance at life. Let’s all renew our commitment on Earth Day to creating a sustainable future for everyone.