learn about recycling & how to get started
What can be recycled?
The story of stuff
Recycling and reusing is rewarding when you have the proper resources. Bookmark this site and share it with friends and family and you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how much you can recycle.
Before throwing items out, consider whether or not your trash might be someone else’s treasure. Remember, there is no “away” when you throw things away. They are now just buried in the ground somewhere. Ask friends or via social media if they want what you no longer do. You can give almost anything away for free, especially things in working order even if they have outlived their lifecycle in your household.
I wish recycling was as easy as just putting it in the bin like trash. It’s not. When things end up in the wrong bin, they contaminate the process, rendering it useless and it ends up in the landfill.
Don’t bag your recycling for curbside pick up! The bags get tangled in the machines, causing delays, making the process more expensive and bagged items just end up in the landfill.
To navigate this guide, use CTRL+F to search for a specific word.
35mm Slides and Film
Art teachers/professors, art students and/or artists often upcycle these into art projects.
Check with your local recycling center to find out which plastics they accept. The gray lids are made of plastic #4 and black bases are #2. These are also great for storing spices for camping trips. These are no longer as popular as they once were though.
Look for recycling bins just outside the theater, and return your 3D glasses there after the show as they sterilize and reuse the glasses.
55 Gallon Drums
Used 55-gallon barrels make great rain barrels! Some recycling centers will accept clean, nonhazardous drums for recycling. If the drum contained hazardous chemicals, it should not be reused for anything, instead, contact your local hazardous waste agency for disposal instructions.
Aerosol Cans (hairspray, paint etc)
If the product is empty, you can usually recycle it along with other steel or aluminum items. Lids are plastic and should be separated/thrown away prior to recycling. Don’t remove the spray nozzle, as cans are pressurized and may pose a danger if punctured. If there is leftover material in them, use up the product, donate it to someone or an organization who would use it, or bring it to a Household Hazardous Waste Collection Site.
Aluminum, beyond cans, Tinfoil, Aluminum Foil
Many scrap metal companies are willing to pay for things like old aluminum siding.
Clean aluminum foil can usually be placed in the recycling bin with aluminum cans. It is better to crumple a lot of it together to create at least a golf ball size of it before putting it in your curbside bin.
Antifreeze, engine coolant, engine oil, gas
Check with a local auto parts store or service station, most accept old antifreeze, gas, and oil. Retailers such as AutoZone and O’Reilly Auto Parts will accept used engine oil and oil filters. Contact your local recycling center or Environmental Services at 858-694-7000 to find other private businesses that will recycle it properly.
Antiperspirant and Deodorant Sticks/Tubes
The Tom’s of Maine Natural Care Brigade program through TerraCycle recycles any brand of deodorant tubes, soap containers, and other bathroom leftovers by mailing it to them for recycling. Some deodorant tubes are accepted in curbside or local drop-off areas. If your area accepts these via curbside, remove the dial at bottom of the tube, and then rinse with soap, and water to remove any residual product.
Appliances, dishwashers, food processor, microwave, freon, stoves, refrigerators, VCR’s, dehumidifier, A/C
If they are still in working order, you can give them away, sell them or donate them to non profits. If they no longer work, recycle them, call the Appliance Recycling Centers of America at 1-800-599-5792. Your local appliance store will likely be of help too. Best Buy accepts most electronics and large appliances and will take them at no charge, reach out before hauling them to a store. The EPA’s Energy Star Program, and some local gas and electric companies, provide special offers and rebates for recycling large appliances when you purchase new Energy Star models.
Contact your city’s recycling program, and ask how they handle Freon® recycling and ask about safe disposal practices in your area.
Youth groups would be a good place for these or donate them to a local non profit organization that runs a thrift store or flea market.
Find battery-recycling locations near you with the Call2Recycle program, and drop them off while you’re running errands. Home Depot, Office Depot and Batteries Plus have information on where and how to dispose of them too. Your local municipality as many have community environment days for battery drop off/pickup.
Batteries – 12-Volt
When you buy a new vehicle battery, that business usually takes back the old one for recycling.
Batteries – 9-Volt
While transporting batteries greater than 9-volts for recycling, tape the ends so they don’t cause a fire.
Batteries – Alkaline
Your local solid waste department may instruct you to put alkaline batteries in with your regular trash. If you’re unable to find a local recycling option, you can consider mail-in recycling programs. They are also accepted for recycling at all Batteries Plus locations.
Batteries – Carbon Zinc
These batteries may safely be disposed of in your regular trash. If your community has a hazardous waste collection site, you can also take alkaline and carbon zinc batteries there.
Batteries – Hybrid Car
Check to see what type your vehicle uses, and recycle accordingly.
Batteries – Laptop
Many companies have recycling and reuse programs, including Apple, Dell and HP. You can ship your laptop batteries (or the laptop itself) directly to these manufacturers for recycling if you can’t do so locally. Stores like Best Buy are options too..
Batteries – Lead Acid
Most state laws require stores that sell these to collect used batteries for recycling. An automotive store or a local waste agency would be a good place to check for recycling.
Batteries – Lithium Ion
A number of nationwide companies take these for recycling, including Verizon Wireless, Office Depot, Home Depot and Best Buy.
Batteries – Rechargeable
Stores like RadioShack and Office Depot accept rechargeable batteries.
Beach Balls and Exercise Balls
If it is still usable, donate it to a local thrift store or children’s hospital, where others can enjoy it. If repairable, repair and reuse and/or donate it! If it’s not repairable, check your local and regional recycling programs to see if that type of plastic is recyclable in your area. Putting the wrong plastics into a recycle collection is damaging to recycling facilities.
These can be recycled in the paper bin. For hardback books, remove the cover first. Alternatively, you can donate them to your local library or Booksforsoldiers.com.
Bottle Caps (Metal & Plastic) – Glass Bottle Tops
Ask your local recycling center.
Metal Bottle Caps
Metal tops can usually be recycled. They may ask you to recycle these in an aluminum can and crimp the top of the can, so that the bottle caps are trapped and do not get caught up in the conveyor belt.
Plastic Bottle Caps
Some recycling centers accept them with other plastics. Contact yours to find out if caps can stay on the bottle, if they need to be recycled separately, or if they can be tossed.
A lot of people make their own bone broth and would be happy to have your chicken and turkey carcasses as well as beef and bison bones.
If they are 200lb crush weight (in the circle on the bottom of the box) UPS type stores will often take them. Local artists might want them for shipping fragile items. Big appliance boxes make great forts for kids and cats alike. Grab the markers and crayons and get creative with them. If you have a business that gets merchandise in a bunch of the same size boxes, offer them to people for organizing or shipping other items before just recycling them.
Bubble Wrap®, packing material, peanuts
Take it to businesses like The UPS Store, Mail Boxes Etc., or FedEx for recycling. Call ahead for specific information. Bubble mailers are often accepted at used bookstores when they mail books.
Buckets, plastic 5-Gallon and metal
These are always in demand in my community. Ask a friend or organization if they could use them rather than shredding and recycling them. Thoroughly clean out metal pails and take them to a recycling center that accepts metal. Some recycling centers accept only certain types of metal, so call ahead first. If they are rusted out on the bottom, they make great flower planters.
Most city and municipal recycling centers accept these. Make sure all the remaining pressure is released first. Vent the remaining gas and punch a whole through the sidewall using a screwdriver or other sharp object, so you can safely put it into a recycling container.
Before recycling, consider selling it, donating it or trading it in. Some photographers collect them for decoration even if they don’t work. Check for e-waste collection days for small electronics like cameras. Stores like Best Buy might also take them.
Make new candles by reusing the wax from your old candle scraps. A quick google search will tell you how, or where to donate the wax to someone who makes candles.
Candy – Chocolate bars – snack wrappers
Some candy and/or chocolate bars are wrapped in paper that is recyclable. Think before you throw. Foil wrapped candy can be collected and balled into larger pieces and recycled via curbside. You can also recycle them via TerraCycle.
If the car seat is less than 6 years old and has never been in an accident pass it on to someone else. Some places have car seat recycling drop-off centers, if not, you can take the seat apart and sort it yourself, but first make sure your local recycling facility accepts the disassembled parts. The padding could be used for pet beds, or shipping fragile items.
Check with carpet manufacturers; they may let you ship back used carpets and samples. There is also the Carpet America Recovery Effort, carpetrecovery.org.
Cassette tapes, 8-Track tapes and VHS tapes, VHS Video Tape recycling, VCR tape
Check with your local libraries, bookstores or thrift stores as they may accept them. The plastic case of the video or cassette can be recycled, but the magnetic tape needs to be removed first. Some knitters or crocheters use the tape for projects.
CDS, DVDS and Jewel Cases
Target and Best Buy have collections bins for CD’s, DVDs and jewel cases, making it easy to recycle these. The CD Recycling Center of America is an option too and art teachers/professors sometimes use them for student projects too. https://earth911.com/recycling-guide/how-to-recycle-cds-tapes/
Cell phones, Smartphones
Most cell phone companies like Verizon, Office Depot, and Amazon offer trade-ins. Or, consider donating your no-longer-used phone to a local non profit that benefits survivors of domestic violence or Cell Phones for Soldiers. You can also repurpose it as an external hard drive. Staples offers you gift cards in exchange for them.
When cut on a diagonal, they make good paper storage like a magazine holder. Check out Pinterest for more ideas.
Christmas trees are biodegradable, and much more eco friendly than fake ones. They can be recycled like yard waste and some organizations offer a pickup service for free or a small donation. Some Home Depot stores collect Christmas trees in many areas with no charge.
Chip bags, cracker bags, coffee and tea bags – these are often silver and shiny inside
I use these bags as trash bags. I have also cut these into strips, sewed them into a small pom pom and tied a string to them for my cat. It’s his favorite toy and shows no sign of ripping or tearing. You can recycle the brand Late July through TerraCycle.
Cut the metal ends off cans containing powdered cleansers, such as Ajax and Bon Ami, and put them in with other household metals. Recycle the tubes with paperboard or cardboard.
Patagonia, Nike and H&M accept returns of their used clothes for recycling or reuse. Local charities or consignment stores accept worn clothing, including those that you think may be too damaged to donate and they often work together bundling damaged items for rags or recycling. Harmony Recycling offers synthetic textile recycling.
You can mail your worn out denim jeans to the Blue Jeans Go Green recycling program, where they recycle it into denim insulation for civic buildings and new homes in communities that need it most.
Computers – Laptops
Most manufacturers have take-back and recycling options. Through a program called Dell Reconnect, you can donate your Dell to participating Goodwill stores, where they refurbish and resell or recycle your computer. FreeGeek.org is a nonprofit that accepts almost all technology with an emphasis on reuse.
Concrete can be reused as paving stones or small garden walls. Ask around. Landscape designers and homeowners may be willing to take old concrete off your hands. Also, check with local businesses that sell topsoil, gravel and other similar materials. They often accept old concrete, but may charge a small fee, but so does the dump, so why not give it a second chance. I’ve also seen stained concrete used in landscaping and it’s stunning.
Visit Earth911 to find a location near you that will recycle your vegetable oil for use in the renewable energy industry. Some towns also have bins near restaurants where you can take your used oil.
Cookware, Pots and Pan
It’s easy to give your cookware away to a new home through Facebook or Craigslist. Thrift stores like Goodwill and The Salvation Army and local non profits also take these. If not, they are scrap metal.
The Crayon Recycle Program accepts unwanted, rejected, broken crayons and recycles them into fresh, new crayons! This program has drop-off bins nationally.
Credit cards, fake and real
They’re not recyclable, so you can’t just toss them along with their paper junk-mail solicitations. Remove them first and throw them in the trash. Cut up the real ones.
A local Habitat for Humanity Restore may be able to accept drywall. Ceramic artists, clay studios or art teachers might take it for use in their classroom or studio.
Electronic or E-waste
Best Buy, Office Depot and similar retailers have trade-in options, where you can get rid of your old equipment in exchange for gift cards. Visit the EPA website for information on local electronic recycling options.
Envelopes with plastic windows
Recycle them with regular office paper. The filters will sieve out the plastic. When purchasing envelopes for your home or workplace, please buy them without the plastic window and look for recycled content.
Paper FedEx envelopes can be recycled.
Those ubiquitous mustard-colored envelopes are NOT recyclable, because goldenrod paper (as well as dark or fluorescent paper) is saturated with hard-to-remove dyes. In other words, designed for the dump. If possible, use white, light-colored or recycled envelopes instead.
The paper-padded ones filled with that material resembling dryer lint―are recyclable with other mixed papers, like cereal boxes. The exception: Goldenrod-colored envelopes must be tossed.
Metal frames can be recycled with other scrap metal, but first consider donating them to someone in need. Small quantities of collected eyewear can be dropped off at your local LensCrafters, Sears Optical or Pearle Vision locations. More info can be found at https://onesight.org and local Lions Clubs take them too.
Fabric and textiles
Many animal and homeless shelters accept machine-washable blankets and pillows. Donate Stuff might be an option in your area. Local thrift stores can resell these too.
Face Masks, gloves
If you run a business or work in healthcare, you can recycle your face masks though TerraCycle. They also have a program to recycle gloves.
After separating the metal hangers from the paper, both components can be recycled accordingly.
Contact your local fire department to find out if your empty extinguisher can be refilled or exchanged for one that is ready for use, and ask about how, or if they will recycle your old one.
Floppy Disk, and 3.5” Disks
Visit floppydisc.com to see what they are currently accepting. They will reimburse the shipping costs for higher quantities, so gather them up from your friends before mailing them in.
Food Waste, Compost, Yard waste
If the food is safe to eat and has not expired, take it to a local food bank or food rescue organization.
Composting food waste at home is a great way of keeping it out of the garbage, and it makes great fertilizer for gardens. Check and see if there is a food waste collection or drop off in your area. Eggshells can also be included in your home composting bin.
Some municipalities have curbside pickup or drop off locations for yard waste. If possible, leave yard trimmings where they fall or pile them in a compost heap. Some ranchers will use leaves and compost to feed their animals. Ask around.
Donate formal wear and prom dresses to catherinescloset.org and provide these for someone who cannot afford to buy one. Your local thrift or consignment shops or non profit organizations may have a similar program.
Consider upcycling large furniture items to give them new life. Organizations like the Salvation Army will take old furniture; some will even pick it up. And, with Facebook and Craigslist, it’s easy to find new homes for almost anything.
The e-Stewards website will help you to find a recycler.
By cutting off the ends, they can be recycled in some cities. They can be reused in a variety of ways like protecting outside electric cords.
Gift cards from companies like Chipotle, LL Bean and Wal-Mart are biodegradable corn-based cards that will naturally decompose in a compost pile. If you are a business, consider making them out of paper, and reuse them once the balance has been used.
Normalize second hand. Regift things you don’t love, it doesn’t have to be new to be special. And when giving, fabric bags, newspaper, magazines or scarves make great wrapping paper. As a kid, we reused Christmas wrapping paper and tags so often, sometimes we’d end up with the wrong present! Memories like this are amazing.
Window and bottle glass have different melting temperatures, so they need to be recycled separately. If the windows are not broken, places like Habitat for Humanity accept them, or offer them to your community members as a lot of people build greenhouses from them.
Bottles that are marked with a #1 or #2 recycling symbols are recyclable.
Glue strips and inserts in magazines
Non paper promotional items in magazines should be removed because they jam up recycling equipment (scented perfume strips, on the other hand, are fine). Promotional stickers and stamps (think address labels), can adhere to the machinery.
Grass clippings can be used as mulch or added to your compost pile. If you need a new mower consider starting a lawnmower co-op with your friends and share the costs. Ask about local yard waste disposal.
Greeting Cards, Holiday Cards
St. Jude’s Ranch for Children recycles your used greeting cards and creates new holiday and all-occasion greeting cards. Some artists and teachers also use them.
Senior centers and similar organizations may also have a craft area where they upcycle cards into new ones for sale to help raise money. When you are ordering announcements or cards, please consider printing them on paper instead of photo paper that isn’t as easily reused or recycled. Our planet thanks you.
The easiest way to use greywater is to collect it in a dishpan when you hand wash dishes, and then use it to water your flowers, plants and trees. I use the water from dog and cat bowls this way too. You can also take a bucket into the shower with you and use that water in the same way. There are also ways to divert water directly from your washing machine.
Hangers, plastic and Wire
Plastic hangers are best donated; thrift stores are usually happy to receive extra hangers.
Metal hangers can be recycled as scrap metal after removing any paper and recycling that too, or returned to your dry cleaner. Art teachers might take them for student projects.
Most supermarkets and grocery stores have recycling bins assigned to collect plastic bags. Smaller retailers reuse them to bag items instead of buying new bags.
Your local hearing clinic will likely be able to help but, here are some more options. Lions Clubs also accept hearing aids for reuse. This is another option https://hearingaiddonations.org/give-an-aid/donate/
HolidayLEDS.com will take old Christmas lights for recycling, and will even send a coupon good for 15 percent off a future purchase. Home Depot also offers a recycling program for Christmas lighting. Woohoo! Spread the word to your city decoration committee so they know to recycle them too.
Jars, Jars, Jars, Jar Lids
Jam jars, baby food jars and jars that are smaller than these are often sought after by artists and jewelry makers to organize their beads. Plastic or glass, as long as they are clear. Bonus points if you have all the same size to give away as they are easier to stack and organize.
Gold, silver and platinum can be recycled for cash. Who doesn’t like cash? Antique stores or consignment jewelry stores may be interested in your gemstones. Thrift stores accept even low-value and costume jewelry, which often sells well. Reach out to an artist as they might be interested in your broken or unwanted jewelry to repurpose into new jewelry or art projects. I use only up-cycled glass beads in the Prairie Glass Jewelry I create.
1800gotjunk.com recycles many items. A free sign next to the items you want to give away in your front yard goes a long way. It’s easy to give things away on Facebook or Craigslist.
Junk mail can be recycled with other paper, a better choice is to cut down on how much you receive. Register at DMAchoice.org to remove your name from catalogs, magazines and other mail offers. You can also use the PaperKarma app to snap a picture of a piece of junk mail and become unsubscribed from the mailing list that generated it. This site lists other ways to reduce junk mail and direct advertising.
If you’re in the military or law enforcement, you can send your Kevlar to Brent Industries. Civilians can contact Harmony Recycling online to recycle Kevlar.
Functioning keyboards can easily be sold or given away on Craigslist or Facebook. If you would prefer to donate, World Computer Exchange is an option.
Keys can be recycled and donated as scrap metal. Local artists might want the keys. I have glued them onto the backs of things to use as hangers. They also make great windchimes.
Nonprofit organizations and churches can often put used cabinets to good use. Habitat for Humanity might also have local projects in need of cabinets. If you are having new cabinets installed, ask your contractor if he is interested in taking your old ones to resell. People often like them for garage storage too. Offering them for free via social media works great for this. And, if you don’t have an account, friends will often post for you.
Kitchen Utensils, Knifes
Since kitchen utensils and knives are commonly made of steel, an iron-chromium alloy, they can be recycled as scrap metal, but why recycle something that still works. Thrift stores accept these for resale. If you have an entire set, reach out to local non profit organizations. Knife collectors like the old and unique ones.
Leather clothes, bags or shoes in gently used condition can be donated. You can donate used leather shoes to www.soles4souls.org. If you are crafty, the material can be reused in a variety of ways, or donate them to an artist or art teacher/professor. When I was a kid, my mom took apart our leather couch after it was really sun faded. Years later, I used some of it in my sculpture Ever After and have covered journals with it too.
You can sell your Legos on eBay, Craigslist etc. Since plastic #7 can be difficult to recycle, donating them to a toy library or nonprofit organization is a great choice.
If your state does not require the old plates to be turned in, aluminum license plates can be added to your curbside bin or recycled with scrap metal. There are a lot of people who collect these, so recycling should be your last option.
Sadly, most cities do not accept traditional incandescent light bulbs and should be thrown away. And, really, what is “away”? Switch to low energy light bulbs, which are collected at stores like Home Depot.
Lipstick and Makeup
You can mix the ends of your lipsticks together for a fresh new color. A handful of smart, savvy makeup manufacturers have take-back programs that recycle containers for you, and even offer deals in return. Reach out to the manufacturers or stores where you buy them. MAC wearers receive a free lipstick from the company in return for six empty containers. Origins stores and department store counters will recycle containers from any brand of used cosmetics for you.
These used folders can be recycled with paper. If there are metal parts, be sure to remove them first and add them to your scrap metal. You can also relabel or turn it inside out to reuse it. If there isn’t any personal information, donate or give them away.
Not all cities accept mattresses for recycling, so check the regulations in your area as well as stores that sell them new. The Salvation Army and St. Vincent de Paul accept and either re-sell or recycle mattresses and you may be able to schedule a pickup if you don’t have any luck selling or giving them away.
Utilize a household hazardous waste facility or designated community pickup/drop-off days to properly dispose of and recycle mercury products.
Milk Cartons – Juice Cartons – Tetra Pak
Some recycling centers or curbside pick up will take the cartons, while others may not. Find out if cartons are recyclable in your community by visiting recyclecartons.com. Take the pledge to always recycle your cartons here. Remove the plastic cap and throw it away first.
Plastic milk jugs can be reused in the home and garden to water plants, or to cover tender seedlings. They are made from HDPE, and can be recycled with curbside pickup, or at a collection center. Be sure to rinse first. Check with your recycling center about the lids and if they are recyclable too.
Mirrors, broken plates, mugs, china
Check with your local recycling facility. They may be able to recycle mirrors, even if they are broken. Mirrors in usable condition can be donated to secondhand stores, or given away. Broken mirrors can be used by artists or art teachers/professors to create mosaics, so that’s another option
An old iPod can fetch you 10% off a new one at any Apple store. Target also accepts MP3 players in their recycling collection bins.
These can be donated or recycled as scrap metal.
The paper portion of most notebooks can be recycled with your regular paper recycling. If you have used vegetable or soy-based inks to write on it, you can compost the notebook. Remove the spiral and put it in with scrap metal or ask local artists, art studios or galleries if they know of someone who would use them.
Staples are sorted out by machinery during recycling, so you can recycle these with paper.
If the cover is plastic, remove it first and try and find a way to reuse it, or an art teacher might use it.
Nylon is a “thermoplastic” and can be recycled in some places. Old nylons also make great lint traps for washing machines that drain into a sink. I used an old bread twist tie to attach it so I could take it off and empty the lint every once in a while.
Styrofoam peanuts are not easily recycled, but stores like UPS and Mail Boxes Etc. accept them and reuse them. You can also buy them there instead of buying them new.
Paint and Paint Cans
You may be able to recycle dried Latex paint curbside, but oil-based paint is considered household hazardous waste. The paint can must be empty and all paint contents dried prior to recycling. Local mural artists and art teachers/professors would be happy to have these donated to them. Offer them for free online or to your friends who are remodeling. I dumped all my different colors of white paint cans into a 5 gallon bucket, mixed them together and poured them back into the cans, happy to have enough “white” to paint ceilings throughout our house. Check with your county to see if they have a Reuse Room where you can bring unused household items like paint. You can also use the PaintCare.org site locator to search for a drop-off site.
If they work, artists or art teachers are a good place to donate these in addition, some school programs might take them. TerraCycle recycled them through their Writing Instruments Brigade. Contact your local Staples store about recycling pens and markers.
Check with your city, because some will take them. Earth911 has good tips before putting them in the bin.
These can be put with scrap metal, or reused a few times for other cooking. Ask an art teacher if they would like them.
I have always ripped out any areas soiled by food residue like cheese or grease and recycled the rest as corrugated cardboard. New information from The Sierra Club suggests it’s ok to recycle the whole box, grease and all. Check first.
Contact your city’s recycling program to find out which plastics they recycle. If you live close to a bigger city, you might have more options for recycling there when you visit to go for an appointment. If your community recycling program accepts plastics, chances are they are the ones with the numbers 1 and 2 on the bottom, but not all places take all #1 and #2.
Plastics marked # 3 can be difficult to recycle. Search vinylinfo.org for plastic lumber makers for recycling into decks and building materials.
Plastics marked number 4 are found in squeezable bottles and plastic grocery bags. These are not often recycled through curbside programs, so check first. Plastic shopping bags can be returned to designated bins at many stores for recycling.
Number 5 plastics can be recycled through some curbside programs. You can also recycle them through Preserve’s Gimme 5 program, which accepts some types of clean #5 plastics. Drop them in containers available at select Whole Foods, or visit their website for mail in options as well as at their toothbrush takeback program.
Plastic #6, Styrofoam
Plastic number 6, or polystyrene, is difficult to recycle. Some of these #6 plastic products, such as cups, CD and DVD cases, are easier. The EPS Industry Alliance has info on where this can be recycled.
Made of mixed plastic, number 7 plastics have traditionally not been recycled, though some curbside programs now take them.
Plastic bags and Paper shopping bags
Grocery stores often have drop-off bins for plastic bags. Paper bags can be recycled with other paper products. Better yet, use a cloth bag or backpack that you already have.
Used Saran Wrap and other plastic film like dry cleaner bags are recyclable at certain facilities that take hard to recycle items. Visit www.plasticfilmrecycling.org to find out more specific types of plastic film to recycle, including toilet paper packaging.
Plastic Packaging Air Pillows – Fill Air
This link will help you recycle: Air Pillows, Bubble Wrap, Bubble Wrap Mailers, Sealed Air Instapak Foam, Sealed Air Polyethylene Foam, Korrvu packaging, Sealed Air Paper Packaging, Sealed Air Stealth Wrap cartoning film, kraft mailers and poly mailers, and food trays
If your plastic toys are in good shape, consider finding the toy a new home. Organizations like Stuffed Animals For Emergencies collect toys for children in crisis situations. Domestic Metals and Plastics accepts plastic toys of all types for recycling, and this is a link to their mail in program.
Plastic Utensils – “Disposable” Cutlery
Clean, save and reuse. I had a bucket at a wedding party with a sign asking people to put the dirty utensils in there. We washed them and passed them on to someone else. Disposable cutlery is recyclable if your curbside provider accepts plastic #6, so confirm with them. A local art teacher or art supply store may accept donations for creative projects.
Most of the time Post-its can be recycled with mixed paper recycling. Check with the recycler, because including the wrong types of materials increases recycling costs, which takes away from the success of the recycling program. Fluorescent colored paper and Post-It’s are not recyclable because of the ink, so buy wisely.
Prescription Drugs, Medication
Many communities have drug take-back programs for proper disposal of unused drugs. Check with your pharmacist. They can guide you on how to properly dispose of your unused medications, even over-the-counter kinds. Most pill bottles are made of #5 plastic, so these can be recycled too.
HP has various recycling options for used equipment, including free drop-off options. Staples will also accept old office technology, of any brand and any condition, for recycling.
Q-tips® cotton swabs are biodegradable when composted. The sleeve and tray pack is also recyclable once the window is removed. Search for options that do not have plastic packaging or plastic There are also zero waste, washable and reusable options now too.
While glass quartz is not the same as other glass products, it is recyclable. Contact your local recycling center to see if they accept glass quartz. Ask an artist or art teacher/professor if they would use it.
Rags, Sheets, Quilts and Blankets
Material can be in any condition, since it can be broken down into fibers and reused. Check locally as there may be a thrift store that accepts them. Old sheets make great handkerchiefs, napkins, and “paper” towels for the kitchen. Use pinking shears with sawtooth edges cut the edges so they don’t unravel and unwind. Most shelters for both humans and animals will take quilts and blankets.
Find a recycler at ShingleRecycling.org where you also learn about current specifications for each state.
Contact a business that manufactures rubber mulch, like Rubber Recycle, to find out where you can recycle rubber products. People also use them to build Earthships, so check out Recycler’s World to trade or exchange used tires. You may be able to return surplus tires to either a tire retailer or a local recycling facility.
Donate Rubber Bands to a local school, whose teachers are sure to appreciate them. Store them in the refrigerator to keep them in a like-new state.
Rugs, wool or cotton
Animal and human shelters accept rugs as do many thrift stores or friends. Wool or cotton rugs can be recycled in your garden by using them for mulch. Or visit CARE for an up-to-date map and listing on where you can recycle your rug.
I have a bucket outside my back door that I put all sorts of random metal things in that I know aren’t recyclable via curbside and donate it accordingly. There are big metal bins around my town that I dump this in every once and awhile.
Shoes, Running Shoes, Sneakers, TOMS, Chacos, Duckfeet, Crocs, Nikes
Soles4souls.org accepts donations of lightly worn shoes including Crocs in all sizes to give them a second life. Dress shoes can be donated to the Cinderella Project, a nonprofit that provides prom gowns and accessories to girls in need. Donate them to needy athletes around the world through oneworldrunning.com.
For every $3 TOMS shoes make, they donate $1. They also donate shoes to those in need.
You can resole and restrap your Chaco sandals when they wear out.
Duckfeet shoes and boots can be sent back to resole them with natural crepe soles.
You can do this through Zappos as well. Some local thrift stores also have a program to recycle old shoes, so ask there before using resources to mail them.
Ask the retailer where you bought them if they participate in this type of program.
They are not usually able to be recycled, but they can be repurposed. Old shower curtains make great paint drop cloths or tarp coverings over firewood. But first, offer these to thrift stores or other non profit organizations.
Shredded paper has less fiber value, so be sure to check with your local recycling service to see if they will accept it. If you have used non-toxic inks, you can put it in your compost pile. Shredded paper also makes great packing material and some people also use it for animal bedding.
Six-pack rings can be recycled in programs that accept plastic #4. Before you put these in your recycling bin, spend 5 seconds and make sure to cut all the circles apart. You might also consider getting a group collection together and participating in the Hi-Cone Ring Leader Recycling Program. Better yet, buy your drinks in paperboard that is much easier to recycle.
Smoke detectors, smoke alarm
Some states conduct an annual round up of smoke alarms and several manufacturers accept used ones. Curie Environmental Services offers smoke alarm recycling.
Soap, Soap dispensers, Shampoo bottles
Reuse slivers of soap to make liquid soap. If you are in the hospitality business like a hotel or bed and breakfast donate your pieces to Clean The World, a nonprofit organization that combats preventable disease in developing countries.
Many bathroom bottles are easily recyclable. Better yet, use a shampoo bar from my friend Queen of the Meadow.
A quick search for dish soap bars or tablets to mix with water eliminates plastic bottles.
Use your mismatched socks as a dust rag, drink cozy or dog toy. Animal shelters might accept clean socks for dog toys.
Synthetic sponges are not recyclable, but can be repurposed. Pinterest is full of creative ideas. They can be washed in your washing machine and used for printing, contact an art teacher/professor to see if they would use them. Sea sponges and natural sponges are biodegradable and can be composted. Natural sponges also last a lot longer! I am a big fan of https://swededishcloths.com. They are easy to wring out, dry quickly and don’t get smelly like synthetic sponges do.
Sports gear and equipment, yoga mats, golf balls, tennis balls
Trade or sell used sporting goods at local second hand stores that specialize in sporting equipment or at places like Play It Again Sports. Skis can be recycled into chairs and fences, ask around, I’m sure someone will be happy to have them for this.
Green Guru Gear collects and upcycles old worn out gear like bike inner tubes, climbing ropes, wet-suits, event tents and more. At participating bike shops, outfitters, climbing gyms, surf shops you can find Upcycling bins, which divert still useful materials from local landfills. They often provide a discount code for new purchases.
Take golf balls to any Dixon Golf retail location or mail them in for recycling. Sometimes local driving ranges sometimes purchase used balls, or you might even try Ebay.
Tennis ball recycling can be found here.
Sell or donate it as scrap metal, or visit the Steel Recycling Institute for recycling resources.
It’s easy to find paper tape and compostable tape now, which doesn’t gum up recycling machines. Use a sponge to wet the tape and it works great. It comes without fiberglass reinforcement too.
T-shirts that are made of 100 percent natural cotton are biodegradable and can be put in your compost pile. Sew up the bottom and cut off the sleeves to make a shopping bag out of a favorite t-shirt. T-shirt “yarn” makes good garden ties, and if it’s 100% cotton, you can compost these ties too.
Tablets, kindles, iPads
Companies like Verizon, Target and Best Buy offer trade-in and recycling opportunities for gift cards.
You can also donate your tech gadgets to recycleforbreastcancer.org.
Take out – To go Containers
If they are not soiled with grease, takeout containers in boxes (like Chinese food) can be recycled with cardboard. Many plastic clamshell containers are not accepted so check first. When you place your order, ask them to use foil so you can recycle it and remind them you’re eating at home and don’t need napkins, utensils or sauce packets etc.
Poly binders can be recycled once they are disassembled. Pop out the metal spine and separate the plastic from the cardboard inside, and recycle each component individually.
Toilet paper tubes, paper towel tubes, Tissue boxes with plastic dispenser
These can easily be recycled in your curbside bins. It only takes a few seconds to take it from the kitchen to the recycling bin. If you have a basement or second floor, consider adding a small bin to collect recyclable materials there too. The plastic portion will be filtered out during the recycling process, so you can usually recycle tissue boxes with cardboard.
Toothbrushes, toothpaste tubes
TerraCycle and Preserve Eco accepts toothbrushes and toothpaste tubes through their mail-back program. You can also get ahead of the game by using a toothbrush, which is made of recycled yogurt cups and ocean plastic. When you are ready to replace it, these toothbrushes can be recycled with #5 plastics or mailed back. Aluminum toothpaste tubes can be recycled. Ask your dentist to participate in this program if they don’t already!
Total Awards & Promotions offers a mail-in trophy recycling program that benefits nonprofits. Call to see what can be recycled in your area. An artist or art teacher might recycle these into something fun too.
Check with stores like Best Buy, Sony and Office Depot about removing and recycling a set when it delivers a new one. You can also sell/donate them locally as well. Some towns sponsor collection days for TVs and other electronics. Find out if one is scheduled in your area, and share that information widely.
Contact DuPont for used and printed Tyvek® for recycling into park benches and playground equipment.
Once you remove the fabric and handle from a metal umbrella, the skeleton can be recycled with scrap metal and check to see if the fabric can be recycled locally through a thrift store. Plastic umbrellas are not recyclable, but can be donated if they are still in good condition. The metal skeleton might be of interest for a Halloween costume or art project, so ask around.
Vinyl Records, LP’s
If they’re in good condition, you can sell albums through companies like Hard to Find Records, a local music store or social media sites. The cardboard sleeve can go in the recycling bin with paper items. Artists and art teachers/professors would probably be interested in them if they are too scratched to play.
Inquire at your local or regional landfill or dump area for vinyl recycling facilities. You can also search the database of recycling facilities at vinylinfo.org.
Vinyl Banners, Political signs,Yard Signs
Whether yours is a red state or a blue state, help turn your state green by responsibly recycling the thousands of corrugated plastic election signs that sprout up everywhere each campaign season. No matter who wins at the polls, we all win by recycling! This site also gives tips and suggestions on how to creatively transform election signs.
Ways to reuse vinyl banners. I have also seen companies that sew them into bags. A local sewing/alteration shop would likely do this for you too.
Visit lifenets.org/wheelchair to donate wheelchairs to others in need. Local organizations might also be interested in them, or helping you find someone locally in need.
Rinse each bottle well before putting it in the recycling bin for glass. If you are taking it to a local recycling center, you may want to separate the colored glass out, since it fetches a higher price. Before recycling, consider finding someone who cuts and recycles them into drinking glasses.
By supporting ReCORK’s recycling program, you will be giving new life to perfectly good natural cork. Visit recork.org to find a drop-off location or recycling partner. Perhaps your local liquor store has a drop off location to. If not, ask them to start one. Plastic ones can’t be recycled or composted.
Copper is the most recycled wire material. Check to see if uncovered wiring can be placed with your curbside recycling. If not, scrap metal bins around your town are a good option. Check with a local scout troop as they sometimes have collection drives. Artists or art teachers/professors might be interested.
If there is not a location near you, call your local materials reuse outlet or Habitat for Humanity ReStore. Many people use random scraps of solid wood as firewood, so ask around.
B.W. Recycling, Inc. is a nationwide X-ray recycling company that includes a free pickup and cash back for your X-ray films.
XBOX 360 / XBOX ONE
Find Microsoft-sponsored recycling opportunities near you at Microsoft.
Yarn can be carefully unraveled from a knitted sweater, and reused for any yarn project. It can be sold on eBay, or given to any knitting aficionado. Libraries and yarn stores often host knitting clubs, so they are good places to check.
Since yogurt cups are not always recyclable, check with your city to see if they are accepted. https://www.preserve.eco/pages/gimme5-overview is another option.
Contact your local scrap metal recycling service, or add your buy or sell inquiries into the Scrap Zinc Recycling Exchange on recycle.net.
As long as they are clean and dry, used Ziploc® bags can go in the same bins as plastic shopping bags at your local grocery store. Visit www.plasticfilmrecycling.org to find out more specific types of plastic film to recycle, including toilet paper packaging.
Donate your used zippers to a sewer or crafter. Places that recycle metal may be willing to take zippers if you cut off the fabric before you drop them off.
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