How to Recycle Everything

>> Tuesday, March 16, 2010

I say "recycle everything" a little bit tongue in cheek because obviously, it's not possible to recycle everything. The goal is simply to switch your mindset from "throw away" to "reduce, repair, and reuse" and when all else fails...recycle.

Step One: Check with your local waste collection to find out how to participate in your local recycling program.

Step Two:
Start a composting bin if your city doesn't have compost collection. Composting is short term for recycling food waste.

Step Three:
Find out what other waste collection services your area has. For example, my city has a yard waste drop-off site (and yard waste collection at certain times of the year) and multi-material drop-off sites that take scrap metal, e-waste, tires, and appliances.

Step Four:
Look for ways to recycle everything else. Here are some that I've learned about:

#5 plastics

  • With their 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.
Air bag shipping material
  • If made by Ameri-pak, you can mail the air bags back to them to be recycled. They also accept bubble wrap and polyethylene foam.
Athletic shoes
  • 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.
Baby products
  • If your old baby products are unusable or have expired (yes, car seats have expiration dates!), ship them to Baby Gear, which will disassemble them and make sure all parts are recycled properly.
Bottle caps
  • 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.
Brita pitcher filters
  • These are accepted in Preserve's Gimme 5 program. See #5 plastics above.
CDs, DVDs, diskettes, video tapes, cords, cables, hard drives, etc.
  • For a small fee, Greendisk will send you a box to collect your computer related waste.
Cell phones, PDAs, and pagers
  • 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.
  • Even threadbare clothing can be donated to Goodwill, which turns them into rags or recycles the fibers into other materials.
Computers and small electronics
  • You can find a list of computer and small electronics recyclers at
Drink pouches
  • 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.
  • 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.
Glue bottles and sticks
  • Donate them to a dry cleaner or thrift store.
Home improvement goods
Ink cartridges
  • 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.
Packing peanuts
  • Shipping stores such as The UPS Store will usually take back packing peanuts and reuse them.
Plastic bags
  • Return them to the grocery store - preferably the grocery store where you got them because different stores use different types of plastic to make their bags.
Polystyrene packaging materials
School supplies
  • matches teachers with donors of equipment, supplies, and materials. Examples include computer equipment/software, TVs, VCRs, musical instruments, school supplies, sports equipment, and toys.
Wine and champagne corks (not plastic stoppers)
  • Mail them to Yemm & Hart, which will turn them into tiles.
Anything else I should add to the list?


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Eco Yogini March 16, 2010 at 5:45 PM  

wow! what a comprehensive list! Thank you very much for this.

I was thinking of mailing my yogurt containers to the preserve people, eventually I'll be mailing my toothbrushes there (I'm amassing a collection so that it makes more sense from Canada).
My issue, of course is cost... it's EXPENSIVE to ship Canada-USA (more than the other way around). And of course.... emissions from shipping.

So- my other option could be making my own yogurt. but this might be a bit scary....

in any case, love the links here. you should make this a regular post-on your space. so people can just access it intermittently! :)

KaKi March 16, 2010 at 10:06 PM  

Eco Yogini, you might look at this site to check out making your own yogurt. I haven't tried it yet, but it looks easy? Just a thought.

Caron March 17, 2010 at 8:42 AM  

This is an amazing list! I didn't know about recycling the caps. Thanks for that info! Also, the seat etc. info is great to know, because I will be getting rid of ALOT of that kind of stuff in the next few years. Thanks!

Jessie,  March 17, 2010 at 3:47 PM  

Ok I am sooo printing this list and handing it out at the next lacrosse game. I have been adding to my green lifestyle and with our pressure on companies to oblige with recycled and.or compost friendly products it is getting easier and more dare I say less challenging and more fun! Recently I signed on to support LifeLogic /baby on the way/ and was not fully aware of all the crap I give my kids -- not just food (anything canned) but lotions, sprays, hand wipes.

I take a bit more time at Big Y, put the reading glasses on and at least scan the top three ingredients in EVERY PRODUCT. Saw more brands providing compost friendly packaging -- very cool!

Also lets remember we can ask our grocers to carry those green/all natural brands.

Erin aka Conscious Shopper March 18, 2010 at 3:08 PM  

@Eco Yogini - I make my own yogurt in a yogurt maker, but I've read that it can be done in a thermos. Yogurt is super easy to make.

zee March 19, 2010 at 7:14 AM  

Excellent list! I'm definitely passing this've got some really helpful recycling information here. :)

Thank you for telling us where to go when we need stuff recycled such as drink pouches, hangers, bottle caps. I never knew about some of these stores!

Oh, and your Step 2 regarding composting is Day 22 of our 31-day series for living greener and healthier. :)

Brooks Hall March 25, 2010 at 12:44 PM  

Thank you! I'm going to recycle more stuff, thanks to this helpful list!

Lisa Sharp March 26, 2010 at 7:19 PM  

Thanks for the list. I have a trash can outside which I use to store recycling since some goes to a local drop off (we don't have curbside), some goes to a town about an hour away (where I grocery shop once a month as my small town has VERY little organic food), some to a town almost 3 hours away (which we only go to a few times a year for vacations) and a few other places.

I hate throwing anything away so I'm always looking for new places to recycle. I also have a HUGE stash of mailing supplies in a closet. It comes in handy when we need to mail stuff but sometimes it seems a bit out of hand haha.

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