In celebration of Earth Day—and Earth Day Texas—we're taking a closer look at recycling. Many of us recycle the basic things—paper, plastic, cans, etc—but there's a whole a world of recyclables that most of us are throwing in the garbage.
From batteries and video games, to inhalers and metal keys, here are 41 things you might not now you could be recycling.
Replacing your carpets? Have unused rolls lying around the house? Don’t throw them to the curb. New rolls can go to Habitat for Humanity. The Carpet America Recovery Effort can help you recycle the old ones. Many carpet manufacturers will help recycle your carpet, too.
Throwing away batteries can be terrible for the environment. Recycle them instead. Many office supply stores like Office Depot offer battery recycling. Even some Ikeas have it, too.
3. Cardboard boxes
People always need boxes. Try donating them to nonprofits or shelters—they’re often in dire need of cardboard boxes. Businesses that collect at least 100 boxes each month are also eligible to resell their boxes to UsedCardboardBoxes.com.
A simple scratch is enough to turn CDs into garbage. But don’t place them in the trash—The CD Recycling Center can help you recycle them instead.
Throwing out clothes is a waste. Visit your local Goodwill or other thrift store to donate them instead
6. Clothes Dryers/Washing Machines
Everything you need to know about recycling large appliances can be found here
7. Fluorescent light bulbs
Fluorescent light bulbs leak mercury into the environment when broken in landfills. Home Depot, Lowes, Ikea and similar locations commonly accept fluorescent light bulbs for recycle. Visit search.earth911.com to find a location near you.
Call your city's recycling center or a local waste management company to see if they recycle toilets. Most Habitat For Humanity locations will also accept used toilet donations.
9. Ink Cartridges
Re-manufacturing plastic ink cartridges requires 80% less energy than making new ones. In other words, be sure to reuse and eventually recycle your cartridges. Many office supply stores will refill them for you. Call the cartridge manufacturer for advice on how and where to recycle them.
Made from a variety of materials, computers are notoriously difficult to recycle. However, most computer manufacturers have take-back or trade-in programs where they’ll collect your computer in order to reuse its materials. Call your manufacturer for more details.
11. Video Games
The aforementioned CD Recycling Center will accept and then recycle any video game discs you might have. For all cartridges, Nintendo offers a take back program where they’ll recycle your games free of charge. They even take non-Nintendo brand games, too.
12. Motor Oil
The EPA has said that “If all the oil from American do-it-yourself oil changers were recycled, it would be enough motor oil for more than 50 million cars a year.” Needless to say, recycling your motor oil can make a real difference. Consult your local service station or auto shop to learn how.
13. Cell Phones
The best way to recycle your cell phone is to donate it to Verizon’s HopeLine program, which benefits survivor’s of domestic abuse.
14. Sports Equipment
Sporting equipment is best recycled through reuse. Sell or donate it to your local Goodwill, thrift store or Play It Again Sports location
15. Athletic Shoes
Don’t throw out those tattered old running shoes. Instead, send them to Nike’s Reuse-a-Shoe program, which accepts any brand of old sneaker and recycles them into various sport courts and fields so kids around the world have more places to play.
16. Cooking Oil
Many cities offer cooking oil recycling. Call your local recycling center for details.
17. Construction Wood
It’s not always been easy to recycle wood. But now there’s a great resource to show you how and where. Visit reusewood.org to learn the most efficient way to recycle all that extra wood.
Rather than tossing out your old bicycle, donate it to Bikes of the World, which collects, refurbishes and then donates bikes to lower-income people and various institutions in developing countries.
All those unused and broken crayons don’t have to end up in the trash. Crazy Crayons is an organization that will recycle your old crayons into new, fun, multicolored ones.
20. Holiday Lights
To learn how to recycle those old xmas lights, click here. Many Home Depot and Lowes locations will recycle them, too.
21. Christmas tree
There’s tons of fun ways to reuse and recycle your old xmas tree—take a look.
22. Wine Corks
Recycled wine corks can be used to make everything from insulation and car parts, to yoga mats and sports equipment. Several health food stores like Whole Foods have drop boxes for collecting corks for recycling. ReCORK is another option—they’ll recycle your corks into shoe soles and other clever products. Check their site for drop off locations.
A thorough guide on recycling your trophies can be found here.
There are several organizations that accept bras to benefit women in need. Here’s a great resource for choosing what option is best for you.
25. Greeting Cards
St. Jude’s Ranch for Children accepts greetings cards of all shapes and sizes and reuses the materials to create new ones. Funds from the new cards go to benefit abused and homeless families.
26. Packing Peanuts
Most cities don’t have options for recycling Styrofoam peanuts. However, many packaging stores like UPS will accept them for reuse. The Plastic Loose Fill Council can help you find a location near you.
27. VHS Tapes
Recycling tapes can be tricky, but it’s possible. Earth 911 is a great resource for learning how.
Millions of Inhalers go to waste every year. But there’s good news: Inhalers can now be recycled through the “Complete the Cycle” campaign.
29. Brita Water Filters
When it comes to Brita filters, there are several options to choose from when recycling them. Consult this resource for detailed instructions.
Cosmetics contain many chemicals harmful to the environment (including lead), and in most cases cannot be recycled. However, these products can be repurposed in a number of creative ways. As far as the packaging goes, many of the larger makeup retailers collect cosmetic containers for recycling—including MAC, Lush, Aveda, and Origins. Some even give gifts or gift cards in exchange.
Before tossing out your old mattress in favor of a new one, check with your mattress’ manufacturer—chances are they'll help you recycle it. However, if they don’t, you’re not completely out of luck. Check with your city, many areas have recycling centers that will take mattresses off your hands.
32. Apple Products
Apple products are one of the easiest things to recycle. Apple locations accept all their products back for free recycling.
33. Cars, Boats, and Motorcycles
Junkyards are often the best way to properly dispose of your vehicle in a way that insures most of its materials will be put to good re-use. Junkmycar.com—something of a virtual junkyard—is another viable option. Bonus: both choices are likely to earn you some extra cash.
34. Hearing Aids
The Starkey Hearing Foundation collects all makes and models of hearing aids to benefit the hearing-impaired all over the world.
The American Birding Association will take your donated backpack and give it to scientists who will use it in the field when tracking neotropical birds.
36. Wedding Dresses
Brides Across America accepts recently used wedding dresses and gifts them to United States military brides in need. In addition to dresses, the organization accepts weddings accessories like veils and tiaras, too. Why toss out your dress when it could go to a cause like that?
The Keys for Hope Foundation is a non-profit that donates 100% of its proceeds to help feed those in need by helping to stock community food pantries. Keys can also be recycled as scrap metal at your local recycling center.
Upgrading your ratty old Crocs? Take them to your local official Croc store to be recycled or reused. The company’s “Soles 4 Souls” campaign helps put shoes on the underprivileged and others in dire need of footwear.
You might be surprised to learn that hairdryers are easily recycled. Simply locate your closest scrap metal recycling center, drop it off, and you're done!
40. Juice Pouches
Strictly speaking, these aren’t recyclable. However, TerraCycle will donate 1 cent for each juice pouch collected, and donate the proceeds to the non-profit or school of your choosing. TerrarCycle provides free shipping for sending in the pouches, too
41. Ziploc Bags
Yep, you can now recycle Ziploc Bags. Just watch:
42. For everything else, TerraCycle has your back!