Plastics You Might Not Have Known Could Be Recycled

>> Sunday, March 1, 2009

Trying to green up my personal care products the past few months has included an attempt to reduce my plastic consumption. But plastics are everywhere, and sometimes you just can't avoid buying plastic.

So what to do?...

Now, I want to make it completely clear that recycling is not the solution for the plastic problem. Recycling plastics is down-cycling, meaning that a plastic bottle is made into plastic lumber, not a new plastic bottle. Plus, recycling plastic is difficult, especially if different types of plastics are mixed.

So don't buy something thinking, "I can just recycle this." Reduce your plastic consumption first. Reuse and repair when you can, and recycle last.

Both recycling programs that I have participated in (in Silver Spring, MD and here in Raleigh) have only taken plastic bottles with a narrow neck. That is a very small category of plastics, so what do we do with all the rest of the plastic that enters our homes?

Here are some ways to reuse and recycle plastic that you might not have known about:

  • With their new Gimme 5 program, Preserve has partnered with Organic Valley and Stoneyfield Farms to collect #5 plastics, which are not collected by most city recycling programs. Gimme 5 bins are set up at select Whole Foods stores, or you can mail your #5 plastics to Preserve. Also collected through this program: Preserve toothbrushes, other Preserve products, and Brita pitcher filters.
  • Are you one of those people who leaves the cap on the bottle when you throw it in the recycling bin? I hope not! Most recycling centers do not accept the caps, and if a cap is left on the bottle, they throw the whole bottle out. But now Aveda has started collecting bottle caps! They accept any rigid cap made from polypropylene plastic (if you can bend it with your bare hands, it's not the right kind), and they recycle the caps into Aveda packaging. Just take the caps into an Aveda store.
  • Shipping stores such as The UPS Store will usually take back packing peanuts and reuse them.
  • TerraCycle collects drink pouches, cookie wrappers, energy bar wrappers, and yogurt cups and turns them into bags, backpacks, and planters. The catch is that you have to find someone or someplace that is collecting them.
  • I'm not completely sure if shoes contain plastic, but Nike has a Reuse-A-Shoe program where they collect old athletic shoes and turn the soles into surface material for playgrounds and basketball courts. You can find a drop off location by visiting their site, or mail your shoes directly to a Nike Recycling Center. They can be any athletic shoes, not just Nikes.
  • The Lions Club and the Give the Gift of Sight Foundation have partnered to collect used eyeglasses, which they clean, repair, and distribute to needy people. You can find a Lions recycling center here.
  • CollectiveGood collects cell phones, PDAs, and pagers. Devices that are still in working condition are put back into reuse; devices that are broken are taken apart, the usable parts are collected, and everything else is recycled in an environmentally responsible manner. They also recently launched a program to collect used electronics. You can trade in your old computers, printers, and gaming consoles for money, or donate the value to the charity of your choice.
  • For a small fee, Greendisk will send you a box to collect your computer related waste: CDs, DVDs, diskettes, video tapes, cords, cables, hard drives, etc.
  • Most office supply stores will recycle your old ink cartridges, and many give you a discount on your next purchase if you bring back the old one.
  • You can find a list of other computer and small electronics recyclers at
  • matches teachers with donors of equipment, supplies, and materials. Examples include computer equipment/software, TVs, VCRs, musical instruments, school supplies, sports equipment, and toys.
As a final note, I have to add that you can never underestimate the desirability of your junk. Before you throw anything in the trash, consider if someone else might want it. You'd be surprised how much of your trash could be someone else's treasure!

I would love to add to this list! Anyone else know of ways to recycle those difficult-to-recycle plastics?

Photo by cogdogblog


Maren Hansen March 2, 2009 at 3:19 PM  

I know Ikea does some recycling collection. Also, Silver Spring started recycling resins 1-7 last summer! Hooray! No plastic bags, still, so we take them to the grocery store when they make their way to us.

Erin aka Conscious Shopper March 3, 2009 at 10:39 PM  

Maren - Wow! That is awesome! Of course they would start that after I move...

Emily March 4, 2009 at 3:38 PM  

Ikea recycles batteries, plastic grocery sacks, and compact fluorescent lightbulbs.

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