Most people living in municipalities or communities with curbside or drop-off recycling programs are familiar with the standard categories of recyclable items: paper, plastic, glass, and, in some cases, organic or food waste. But what to do with items that don’t fit clearly into one of these groups?
At the moment, consumer confusion about what can and can’t be recycled means that most uncategorized items often end up being thrown out in household trash. However, a growing number of innovative organizations are working to address this challenge and keep hard-to-classify items out of the landfill by providing alternative recycling and reuse options. Read on to learn about eight common household items you probably didn’t know you could recycle.
Getting a brand new pair of running shoes doesn’t mean your old ones have to go into the garbage. A number of corporate and non-profit organizations, including Nike and the MORE Foundation, accept donations of used sneakers, which are then refurbished and sold to support programs and services in developing countries.
If the shoes have gone through too much wear and tear to be useful as footwear, they could still live on in another form. Old running shoe soles are becoming an increasingly common building material for sports tracks.
Few households make it through a holiday season without at least one or two burned out bulbs on their strings of Christmas tree lights. This year, try taking your causalities (or any inefficient incandescent bulbs that are still in working order) to Home Depot.
This is because Home Depot launched a program in 2014 that accepts old bulbs for recycling in exchange for discounts on new, energy-efficient LED holiday lights. If there’s no Home Depot store in your community, many other local groups also accept old holiday lights for recycling.
Did you know that Crayola produces more than 12 million crayons every day? That’s a huge amount of potential garbage, and it doesn’t even include other crayon manufacturers. Fortunately, there’s now a better place for all those stubby crayon ends and unwanted colors. Based in Colorado, the National Crayon Recycling Program accepts broken or rejected crayons for recycling into new crayons.
No sorting or unwrapping is needed: consumers can simply box them up and send them. Since the National Crayon Recycling Program was launched more than 20 years ago, it has saved 105,000 pounds of crayons from being sent to the landfill.
It might surprise you to learn that the next time you walk down a new sidewalk, you might be walking on your old toilet. Fill yards in many communities now accept toilets and other porcelain fixtures for recycling. They are then crushed down to provide an aggregate base for roads and sidewalks, thus making good use of unwanted fixtures as well as avoiding the use of new natural resources for road construction.
The next time you open up a nice bottle of wine, don’t throw that cork away. Organizations like ReCORK collect and repurpose old wine corks into innovative new consumer products that take advantage of cork’s natural properties. Their offerings include a yoga block (made from 198 recycled wine corks) and a surfboard traction pad (made from 27 wine corks).
The digital era has made CDs, DVDs, and CD-ROMs a thing of the past for many, and huge numbers of these discs have ended up in the landfill over the past decade. But it is possible to recycle CDs, even though the process is complicated by the fact that the discs contain both polycarbonate and aluminum.
Many organizations, including the CD Recycling Center of America, accept discs. Most discs are ground or shredded and then melted to be separated into their components of metal and raw plastic. This, in turn, is typically used in the automotive and building industries.
Tights and stockings
Sheer hosiery might seem flimsy, but the nylon and spandex that tights and stockings are made of can take between 30 and 40 years to decompose in a landfill. And when you consider that the hosiery industry currently exceeds $1 billion in annual revenues, that’s a lot of potential waste.
To address this problem, hosiery company No Nonsense pioneered the first ever pantyhose recycling initiative in 2010. The program repurposes the material of old tights and stockings into useful infrastructure like playground equipment, running tracks, and park benches.
Diapers have long been a major environmental problem. Modern disposable diapers not only take a staggering 450 years to break down, they are also being used in huge quantities. American babies alone go through 24 million diapers every year (that’s 3.4 million tons of waste).
Canadian company Knowaste is attacking this problem with a new method that is able to strip diapers and similar products of up to 98 percent of their plastic and fiber content. This material can then be used in products like roof tiles, tubing, and recycled paper.