30 Ways to Recycle Just About Anything
There’s no reason household cast-offs should be destined for the dump—plenty of nearby agencies are more than willing to give your old stuff from paint to cork to teddy bears a second life. Here’s how to find them.
More than 350 million ink and toner cartridges are thrown into landfills every year, according to inkcartridges.com, where it will take 450 to 1,000 years for them to decompose. “When something is tossed in the garbage and either landfilled or incinerated, the value of that material is lost forever,” Lauren Taylor, the Global VP of Communications for TerraCycle, says. “When an object is recycled, it provides a more circular solution.” Instead of letting those cartridges spend centuries in a landfill, look for recycling instructions on the cartridge’s package. HP accepts old HP-brand cartridges via mail, or you can also physically drop them off. Staples’ ink & toner recycle program, which will give you $2 off your next cartridge purchase for bringing in your used ones, is one of the great ways to reduce waste—and save money.
Options for recycling clothes abound. Donating old garments to Goodwill and The Salvation Army might be the most obvious way to clean out a cluttered closet. If you want to make a quick buck, you can always resell nicer items on eBay or at a local secondhand store, too. But, especially when you learn what actually happens to your used clothing donations, you might want to consider giving your no-longer-needed garb a second life in your own home. “Think of old clothes differently,” Taylor says. “Before you throw them away or donate them, think about options.” Your favorite, worn-out shirt or sweater become a pillow cover, or you can make a pet bed out of old blankets or flannel sheets.
Truth be told, TVs are just one of the things thrift stores don’t really want. Luckily, chain stores like Staples and Office Depot will recycle your old TVs, as well as a variety of other electronics. Better yet, Best Buy will even remove and recycle your set when it delivers a new one to your home.
Has your well-loved sofa or coffee table seen better days? You can always donate it or sell it on Craigslist or eBay. But with some elbow grease and a bit of imagination, you can also turn it into a fabulous statement piece for your home. After all, “paint and new hardware can make anything look brand new,” Taylor says.
Most wine corks are made out of bark tissue, a natural (and biodegradable!) material. That means you can safely toss them into a compost bin—or send them into Yemm & Hart, a wine cork recycling company. They’ll pay you for the corks, which they turn into floor tiles, partitions, and a variety of other products. Now those are some extraordinary uses for objects you have lying around at home!
Old paperbacks can go in the recycling bin, but you should remove any hardcovers, which are too rigid to recycle. You can also drop them off at Goodwill, or a local library, school, charity, or shelter, or consider these other thoughtful ways to donate used books. If your books are in good condition, you can even resell them on Amazon and pocket the profit.
Say goodbye to your box full of broken and stubby Crayolas. Believe it or not, you can send your cast-off crayons to the National Crayon Recycle Program, which will melt them down and create new ones. Just make sure to leave the wrappers on. Why, you ask? “When you have black, blue, and purple crayons together without wrappers, it’s hard to tell them apart,” LuAnn Foty, the program’s founder, told RealSimple.
While plastic hangers are not always accepted at city recycling centers, you can donate them to your local thrift store. Wire hangers, on the other hand, can be recycled with other household metals—as long as you remove any attached paper or cardboard first. Some dry cleaners and Laundromats will reuse them, too.
Don’t toss that tattered teddy bear; there are plenty of kids in need who would love to give him a new home. Organizations like Beanies for Baghdad and these other donation centers that will put your old stuff to good use will send gently used stuffed animals to children in war-torn nations, refugee camps, and hospitals.
Your old junker can pick up anywhere between $200 to $500 if you bring it to a landfill, which will crush it and resell the scrap metal. But if you just want to get rid of it, junkmycar.com will pick up and remove cars, trailers, motorcycles, and other heavy equipment free of charge. Before you bid adieu to your auto, though, remember to remove the tires and clean out the car, checking the glove box and other nooks and crannies for any valuables.