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.
But what if there were other recyclable items in your home, right under your nose, that you simply didn’t know about? While we are doing A LOT, we could be doing more to increase the amount of waste we recycle, and decrease waste being sent to the landfill.
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19 Things You Can Recycle That Will Surprise You
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 the National Crayon Recycle Program in Colorado, which collects the materials for Crazy Crayons. Alternatively, you could mail them to The Crayon Initiative in California, which melts down old crayons and sends the new batch to children’s hospitals across the country.
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, fewer than 20 percent of cell phones are recycled each year. By recycling your old and outdated phones you could help survivors of domestic violence. Just send them to Cellular Recycler where they will be recycled, refurbished and resold. A portion of the resale proceeds then goes to The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence to help fund programs that empower survivors of domestic violence and help them live free from abuse.
Another worthy cause? Cell Phones for Soldiers is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to providing cost-free communication services and emergency funding to active-duty military members and veterans around the world.
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.
There was a time when nobody really recycled batteries, but now it’s much easier to recycle your used batteries. Many national retailers such as Best Buy, The Home Depot, Staples and Lowe’s accept reusable ones, as does Call2Recycle.
More than 46 million people throw away their inhalers every year. This is a huge amount of waste that can be recycled. If you bring your used inhalers to participating pharmacies, they will be broken down into plastics and aluminum.
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 good shape, donate them to needy athletes in the United States and around the world through One World Running.
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.
Cosmetic packaging probably isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when considering recycling, but compacts, tubs, tubes, and other containers can be easily recycled. Various companies have their own programs, including: Lush, M·A·C Cosmetics, Origins and Kiehl’s, to name a few.
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.
More than 50,000 mattresses end up in U.S. landfills each day. Fortunately, you can change that. Bye Bye Mattress will help you find your closest recycling facility. Recycled mattresses are used to make fiber for scrap metal, wood chips, clothing, and foam 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, so we can save more precious materials.
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.
Send those energy-sucking strands of holiday lights off to HolidayLEDs.com 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.
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.) Go to NewEyes.org to find out how to recycle your old glasses
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.
Because most are a combination of a plastic polymer and aluminum, these are not recyclable. 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.
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.
The American Birding Association collects backpacks and other field gear (binoculars, etc) and redistributes it, free of charge, to researchers, conservationists, and educators working to conserve birds and their habitats in the Neotropics.
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.
As you can see, there are so many things you can recycle, if you just do a little research.
What items in your home do you find trickiest to recycle?