10 Things You Can Recycle (But Probably Don’t…Until Now)

Sure, you recycle your cans. You may even recycle magazines, glass bottles and plastic grocery bags (assuming you still use them, which you shouldn’t). But what about all of the other odds and ends that find their way into the trash can? Can they be recycled? You may be surprised to learn that a lot of the “trash” you throw away isn’t really trash at all – it can be repurposed into something better than ever. We’ve done a little research and found 10 unusual things you can recycle, but probably never thought to:

10 Uncommon Items You Can — and Should — Recycle

1. Athletic Shoes. When your gym shoes wear out, Nike will grind them into a rubber material that’s used to make running tracks and other athletic surfaces. You can turn your old sneakers in at your local Nike store. Of course, if you’ve only walked a mile in that pair of shoes, just donate them to a local shelter or charity-run thrift store.

2. Wine corks. Out of all of the things you can recycle, this is one of the least obvious – but all those corks can add up to making a big impact on the environment. After your next dinner party, don’t forget to save the wine corks! There are organizations, like Recork.org, that repurpose them into shoes and other products (so far, they’ve collected and repurposed more than 45 million corks!). Think of it as drinking wine for a good cause.

3. Resealable bags and other plastic. In many cities, plastic bags can’t be put in the same recycle bin as paper, aluminum and glass. Fortunately, many grocery stores collect clean, dry, resealable bags for recycling. Most of the locations also accept dry cleaning bags, produce bags and toilet paper, napkin and paper towel wrap. You can even join the Ziploc reward program and earn points by going online and entering the codes found inside marked packages.

4. Fluorescent light bulbs, including CFLs. Despite the political showmanship, the future of lightbulbs lies in energy-efficient compact fluorescents and LEDs. To keep going green even after the lights go out, it’s important to recycle CFLs, which contain small amounts of mercury (LEDs don’t). The EPA recommends you consult your state environmental agency for ways to recycle CFLs and other fluorescent lamps, but if you don’t feel like researching the options you can also recycle CFLs at IKEA.

5. Crayons. For a fun project with the kids, melt down broken crayons bits and recast them in cool shapes. If DIY arts projects aren’t your thing (or you just want to get rid of the clutter), there’s a company called Crazy Crayons that specializes in recycling crayons.

6. Batteries. Almost all types of batteries are recyclable. The EPA says that automotive batteries can be recycled at most automotive parts stores. Lowe’s and Home Depot collect dry-cell batteries, like the AAs in your remote control. If these options aren’t convenient, Call2Recycle.org makes it easy to find a nearby battery recycler.

7. CDs. If you’ve converted all of your music to digital files, those old CDs are probably collecting dust. Clear some space in an environmentally friendly way by sending those CDs, and their cases, for recycling.

8. Electronic equipment. Electronic equipment like televisions, computers and cell phones contain a myriad of recyclable materials. Your local Best Buy and Staples stores will accept almost any electronic device for recycling. You can also search for a place to recycle or donate electronics on the EPA’s website.

Although recycling junked electronics is better than tossing them, consider donating your tech toys that are still functional. Your gently used cell phone can provide free calls to soldiers overseas. Alternatively, a local women and children’s shelter will give your phone to someone who needs it for emergencies or job interviews.

9. Water filters. Brita runs a recycling program for its filters. Just drop them off at a Whole Foods or mail them in. Even if they aren’t Brita brand, the casing on most filters is #5 plastic, which you can recycle almost anywhere.

10. Keys. There’s a pretty good chance that your junk drawer has a few old keys in it. There are several charities – like Keys for Kindness or Key for Hope – that will recycle the keys and donate the proceeds to a good cause. And, of course, keys are just metal, so most recycling centers that accept mixed metal will take them.

These are 10 great ways to reduce the size of your carbon footprint. If there’s something not on this list that you think may be recyclable, here’s a bonus tip: On Earth 911 you can find out whether an item is recyclable, and which locations you can take it to be recycled

Know of any other things you can recycle that others living the sustainable life may not know about? If so, let us know in the comments or tweet us @BerryBreeze. We’ll tweet you back if it’s a good one!