Americans really don’t recycle as often as they should — whether this is due to laziness, lack of accessibility of recycling bins, or just pure ignorance of the opportunity, tons upon tons of trash that could have been repurposed is instead trashed in landfills. According to data from the Environmental Protection Agency, in 2015 approximately 137.7 million tons of municipal solid waste were landfilled in the United States, much of which was from paper and plastics.
The good news is that there are simple ways to make your life more Earth-friendly — no matter how inconvenient it may seem. Realistically, it may only take a few extra minutes of sorting recyclables and delivering donated items to save the planet from hundreds of years of decomposing garbage.
Plastic containers are usually labeled with a small recycling logo. Paper is almost always recyclable, along with cardboard, glass and the other typical items. However, there are regular household items that either aren’t labeled or don’t necessarily belong in the recycling bin but that you can still recycle through other methods. These are 15 of the most common items people don’t know they can recycle.
According to the EPA, Americans throw away billions of batteries each year. That’s generating a lot of waste. Though they are safe to toss, batteries can be recycled instead. Simply donate the batteries to a collection company, such as Battery Solutions or Call2Recycle. If you live near a Staples or Ikea, they will also collect and recycle your used batteries.
Even if your bike is broken or has missing parts, you shouldn’t throw it in the trash. Organizations such as Bikes for the World make use of bicycles and their parts to make new, affordable bikes for low-income households and developing countries.
CDs might be obsolete, but their remains aren’t going away anytime soon. Unless you’re keeping them for nostalgia’s sake, you might throw away your old copies — however, they can be recycled! CDs are made from a mix of polycarbonate and aluminum, which complicates the recycling process. But some private companies like GreenDisk will still take them to keep them out of a landfill.
Millions of crayons are made and sold each year — many of which are later thrown away. The National Crayon Recycle Program makes use of all those discarded crayons by recycling them into new crayons, which are later donated to organizations that need them, such as inner city art programs, hospitals, orphanages, battered women’s shelters and homeless shelters. So far, the organization has prevented 120,000 pounds of unwanted crayons from going into landfills and allowed them to continue their coloring magic.
These devices look sleek and savvy, but they take a very long time to break down and decompose. Instead of tossing them into a landfill, give your electronics to a certified waste facility or computer store.
No matter how good or bad your eyesight, don’t throw away your old pair of eyeglasses. Eye doctors, organizations and even libraries often will collect discarded prescription glasses to repurpose their parts for those in need. Most often, your leftover lenses are given to someone with the same prescription; other times, the lenses are reground and reshaped to fit a new person’s eyes.
When the holiday season is over and it’s time to hang up the menorah and throw out the Christmas tree, you don’t have to throw away your holiday lights. If they haven’t burnt out, you can always keep them for next year. And if they have, don’t stick them in a landfill to choke up the planet with glass and plastic. Companies such as HolidayLeds will collect your old string lights and separate the recyclables from the rest. Then they repurpose the parts that aren’t recyclable. It’s a great way to spread some final holiday cheer!
Ink and toner cartridges for printers can’t be thrown in your usual recycling bin, but they can be recycled. Many office supply stores will collect the empty cartridges; some even offer rewards for turning them in.
Packing peanuts, Styrofoam and other packing materials can become incredibly wasteful, especially if you’re using all non-compostable plastics and throwing them in the trash. You can’t just toss these materials in your usual blue bin, but some mail companies — such as UPS and Mail Boxes Etc. — will collect your leftover materials to use again.
You might think the cleanest thing to do is throw your razors in your bathroom trash when you’re done with them. But there are worse sources of bacteria in your home; and razors can almost always be recycled with your glass, metals, and plastics. To make your shave even more environmentally-friendly, use peanut butter to shave with instead of pressurized shaving creams and other chemical products — yes, it really works!
Athletic shoes are made up of a variety of materials, including metal, plastic and cloth. These individual parts can all be recycled — and so can your shoes. When you’ve outgrown or worn your pair into misuse, look for a local shoe recycling dropoff, like the ones Nike maintains at most of the brand’s retail locations.
No matter what kind of exercise you enjoy, this recycling opportunity could apply to you. Yoga mats, metal weights and even basketballs can be donated to companies that recycle old sports equipment.
Tights and stockings used to be made from silk. But silk is expensive and there are other options now to mass-produce — like nylon, which is far less environmentally friendly. When you throw away a pair of nylon tights, the resulting garbage can take 40 years to decompose. Protect the environment by recycling your old pair either by repurposing them around the house or donating them to a company that will recycle them for you. No Nonsense, for example, turns used stockings into “park benches, running tracks, car insulation and playground equipment.”
It might sound gross, but somebody wants to reuse your old toothbrush. Recycling companies can use the plastic from the handle, so it won’t rot away for years in a landfill.
Even if you got wasted, your wine corks don’t have to. Donate your all-natural corks to ReCORK, an organization that puts the material to new use that benefits the environment. If you need yet another reason to feel better about your drinking habits, here are 20 health reasons you should drink a glass of wine every day.
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