It’s like second nature to toss your aluminum cans into the recycling bin, but there are a ton of things that you’re throwing in the trash that can actually be recycled. And as nonprofit and environmental groups expand their reach, there are more recyclable things being added to the list every day. Don’t miss another opportunity to do your part in helping the environment by separating these little-known recyclables from your regular trash pile.
For a long time, pizza boxes weren’t accepted at recycling facilities. Word on the street was it had something to do with the oil that gets soaked up into the cardboard. But, according to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, pizza boxes can be recycled so long as you’ve scraped them clear of any food and broken them down to fit in your bin.
But, if you’re worried your recycling facility still won't take them, it’s worth making a simple phone call.
Used Motor Oil
You can save money by changing your motor oil at home since it’s an easy (if messy) process. But clean up doesn’t have to be leaving the container in your garage to collect dust or tossing kitty litter all over it to throw it in the trash.
Instead, you can bring motor oil to most automotive retailers for them to send off to be recycled. According to the EPA, recycled old oil can be “re-refined into lubricants, processed into fuel oils, and used as raw materials for the refining and petrochemical industries.”
If you run a small business, you know how quickly you can run out of printer ink. Don’t throw away the empty cartridges or toner boxes. Instead, recycle them. You don’t have to do any special prep work or hunt down a solitary location to drop them off. Instead, most office supply stores will take your old cartridges free of charge. In fact, some stores like Staples offer cash-back incentives to recycle at their locations.
Of all the things you think about recycling, mannequins don’t even make the top 100. But any retailer or textile hobbyist who needs to get rid of a mannequin has the chance to keep them out landfills. For example, Mannequin Madness collects used mannequins and sells them for a fraction of the cost. The more mannequins you resell, the fewer new ones have to be produced.
If you can’t find a Mannequin Madness affiliate nearby, you can also check with Recycle Nation to find local places to donate your old mannequins.
Whether you’ve got new prescriptions coming in every month or you’re finishing up that once-a-year sinus infection antibiotic, prescription bottles can pile up. Categorized as plastic #5 (polypropylene) by recycling groups, prescription bottles can be recycled at various national and local organizations.
Check in with Recycle Nation to look up what recycling groups near you accept plastic #5. But before you hand them over, make sure they’re empty and that you’ve pulled off any identifying labels with your personal information on them.
Smart Watches & Smart Phones
Your phone took an unexpected plunge into the ocean, and it’s metaphorically swimming with the fishes now. We’ve all got a few old electronics taking up space in our junk drawers because they shouldn’t be thrown away. But, there are a ton of international programs available that let you recycle your broken and obsolete tech.
For example, ERI is one of the largest electronics recycling organizations in the world. It’s so successful in part because of its mail-in program, which allows anyone to send in old electronics to be recycled no matter where they live.
Bras & Underwear
Thrifting clothes is a fast-growing industry that younger generations are paving the way with. Most ‘recycling’ with clothes just involves donating them to a store that will resell them later. But what do you do for clothes that are too far gone to have a second life?
Often, thrift stores don’t take used undergarments, but there are multiple places you can send your undies to be recycled. For example, The Bra Recycling Agency takes used bras and repurposes the material into recycled carpets.
When you smell pine needles and sap wafting on the air, you know the winter holidays are near. But, after you pull down those outdoor lights and box up your ornaments, you’re left with a dry fire hazard of a Christmas tree. Instead of tossing it out back and waiting for nature to take its course, you can find a recycling center or program to take your old Christmas trees to.
Head to Recycle Nation and look up your zip code to see what Christmas tree recycling centers are nearby.
Common Things Everyone Can Recycle
While you’ve got recycling on the brain, remember to sort through your trash for these common recyclables:
- Junk mail
- Cardboard containers
- Plastic bottles
- Glass bottles/jars
- Aluminum cans
- Aluminum foil
- Laundry detergent jugs
- Milk cartons/jugs
Check Before Putting Something New in the Recycling
While everything on this list can be recycled, it doesn’t always mean your local recycling plant has the proper equipment, staff, and size to take those items in. We know how finding a place to drop a recyclable off can be a huge deterrent for actually seeing it through. Earth911 makes it easy to find local places to drop off your recyclables.
This huge North American database operates with a simple search function. Look up the type of material you want to donate and punch in your zip code. Anything nearby that accepts those recyclables will come up in the results.
Recycle Whenever It's Possible
We haven’t cracked the code for how to recycle every product we use, but more and more things are being recycled every year. Do your part to support your community, decrease harmful environmental impacts, and reduce landfill sizes by recycling everything you can. And if you’re not sure what you can and can’t put in your bins at home, just ask.