10 Surprising Items You Didn’t Know You Could Recycle

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Did you know you can recycle more than just paper, plastic and tin? Several household items that usually just get thrown in the trash can actually be processed and reused. With a little bit of research and a few extra steps, you can reduce the amount of waste in our landfills and oceans. Keep reading to learn 10 surprising items you didn’t know you could recycle.

Light Bulbs

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Most of us know we can recycle glass, plastic and paper now. But what about light bulbs? Whether or not you can recycle a light bulb depends on which kind of bulb it is. Incandescent bulbs (the old, round kind) and halogen (larger and flat, usually used outdoors) cannot be recycled since they have too many different kinds of parts. These bulbs are also not considered hazardous waste, so throwing them in the regular trash is fine. 

Compact fluorescent bulbs (CFL), LED bulbs and fluorescent tubes are all, surprisingly, considered hazardous waste because they contain mercury and should never be thrown into the garbage. You can take these bulbs to most Home Depot or other hardware stores, but check with your local store before you go to make sure they accept them. 

Some cities or counties host an annual hazardous waste collection day, which is a great option for turning in light bulbs. Call your local center for details. 

Crayons

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Do you have a big bowl of broken crayons lurking in your house? The National Crayon Recycle Program will take them off your hands. All you have to do is collect all your crayons, put them in a box, pay for shipping and send them in. They accept wrapped or unwrapped crayons of any size. If you want to go a little further, you can even sort them by color. 

Crayons are made from petroleum, which takes a long time to break down. Recycling crayons keeps them from very slowly degrading in landfills and reduces overall amounts of waste. 

Antifreeze

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Most people don’t think too much about antifreeze, but if you live in an extremely cold or hot area, you might have some extra on hand. Some brands are made from a toxic chemical, ethylene glycol, and need to be stored away from kids or pets. 

Surprisingly, antifreeze can be reused. Heavy metals and oil that get inside it can be filtered out and the antifreeze can be resold. Do not attempt to do this yourself, however. The heavy metals inside can be toxic to humans. Never pour antifreeze down a drain or toilet. 

Some county recycling centers accept antifreeze for recycling. Check out the website, Earth911, where you can enter any material you wish to recycle, along with your ZIP code, and you’ll get a list of places you can take those materials. 

Carpet

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Old carpet is made of non-renewable materials. Some are made from synthetic fibers that don’t break down in landfills, so recycling them has obvious environmental benefits. But carpet also often contains small amounts of chemicals such as lead, mercury and arsenic.

Old carpets can be recycled into new carpeting or other products like rugs or padding for furniture or automobiles. This saves energy and precious resources .

Check with the place you got your carpet to see if they offer recycling. You can also use Earth911 to find facilities where you can drop off the used carpet and pad. 

Aluminum Foil

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Aluminum foil is most commonly used as a cover for food for things like baking and grilling. It also exists combined with other materials to line food containers like juice boxes. If you can clean and separate the aluminum from the other materials, you can most likely recycle it in your regular recycling bin. Make sure there is no food stuck to the foil, and ball it up to keep it from blowing away. 

Wine Corks

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As we all become more aware of the effect humans have on the earth, several innovative ideas have been popping up to continue lessening our negative impact on the planet. ReCork is one of those initiatives.  This organization is not only working hard to get more bottle corks recycled, but it’s also campaigning to get more items made out of the sustainable and carbon-negative material. 

The next time you open a bottle of wine, consider saving your cork and dropping off a load at one of the partner sites ReCork has established. You can enter your ZIP code on their location finder and be on your way to helping reduce your impact on the planet. 

Batteries

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Many kinds of batteries do contain toxic chemicals. It’s a good idea to get in the practice of just recycling all used batteries. Home Depot has partnered with call2recycle so that you can bring used batteries to the store and drop them in designated bins. Don’t worry if you don’t live near a Home Depot — you can find other drop-off sites on the call2recycle website. 

Drop-off sites accept many kinds of batteries, including batteries from power tools, home electronics, digital cameras and even lawnmowers. 

Soap

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Why would you want to recycle soap? Most people simply use up their soap and, hopefully, recycle the plastic containers. However, if you have a large family, chances are you’re throwing out lots of partially used soap and hygiene products in plastic containers. Luckily, Clean the World has decided to do something about this problem. 

By taking all the partially used soaps, lotions, shampoos and conditioners that would otherwise be thrown in the garbage, Clean the World reduces landfill waste. They also recycle them.

Razors and Toothbrushes

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Unless you’re already using sustainable razors and toothbrushes, you likely have a couple of pounds a year of plastic that you are throwing in the garbage. There is a different way. TerraCycle has partnered with Gillette and Colgate to provide free and easy recycling of any brand of toothbrush, toothpaste tubes and caps, floss containers, razors, and even packaging. All you have to do is sign up for a TerraCycle account, collect your items, print a free shipping label and send them in. If you’re interested in doing more, you can sign up to be a public drop-off site. 

Many of the companies we mentioned offer additional programs for other items. On Earth911 and TerraCycle, you might be surprised at how easy it is to recycle even more things you would normally throw away. Spend a little time browsing the sites and you’ll see how else you can reduce your impact on the planet.

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