How To Recycle Everything

This past Wednesday Reduce Footprints put out another Change the World Wednesday Challenge:

This week create a recycle bin for all the non-curbside recyclables – batteries, CFL bulbs, misc. plastics, etc. – and then find out where to recycle them. 


Or … 

If you’re already a recycling “guru”, please tell us about your toughest items to recycle and how you’ve managed it. And, of course, any tips and ideas you have for recycling would be wonderful!

I already have a spot in my closet for “clothing to donate” and another spot for “plastic grocery-type bag recycling”. 

In doing the de-clutter challenge last month, I came to the conclusion that I need a few more spots for non-curbside recyclables.  For me, these include:
  • miscellaneous broken electronics
  • gift cards
  • greeting cards
  • completely beat up shoes that no one could ever wear (we end up with more of these than you’d think!)
Although I love to talk about recycling.  I have to point out that it is the 3rd R in  Reduce, Reuse , Recycle.  Still a good one, but the higher on the list you can go the better.
OK, back to recycling….
Over the past few years, I have compiled quite the list of how to reuse or recycle various things.  some of these options are actually reuse, which I feel better about.  
So here is my list of odd things you CAN recycle – beyond normal curbside recycling.  I have listed what I have found local to Westford, MA, but also, where I could, gave an idea of how to find a place close to you.  I can’t stress enough that if you have curbside trash/recycling pickup, get in touch with your local municipality for information on recycling.  Trash pickup costs big bucks and they are very eager to encourage recycling where they can to reduce this budget.
Note that some of these items, especially electronics, can be recycled at large national chains that can be found across the country.
Athletic Shoes – If you have any type of athletic shoe that has completely come apart (we have a few of those), the Nike Reuse-a-Shoe program will re purpose them into play surfaces.   If you don’t have one close to you, ask shoes stores.  Some around here will recycle them for you.
Alarm ClockBest Buy will recycle numerous electronics.
Appliances, small (breadmakers, blenders, hand mixers, curling irons, irons, hair dryers, etc..) – Anyone who lives near Westford, can recycle these items at one of our 3 Electronics Recycling events.  There is a $1 fee per item.
Appliances, large (Washers, Dryers, Refrigerators, ovens, etc…)  There are several options in Westford based on whether you would like someone to pick up can drop off.  These items have a  lot of valuable metal to reclaim.  Search your local area.  You are bound to find something.
Alkaline (Single-Use)  –  NOTHING IN MA.  According to MassDEP, they can be thrown in the trash.
Button Type – They contain mercury.  Check Hardware stores or your local Board of Health.  In Westford, they can be brought to Ace, MacKay’s and the Board of Health.
Lithium Batteries – considered household hazardous waste.  in Westford, you need to wait for a household hazardous waste event.  Some locations have them more frequently.
Rechargeable batteries –  Radio Shack, Best Buy, call2Recycle locations  in many hardware stores
Books– Check your local library.  Ours has book sales 4 times per year and accept many booksReading Tree is another organization that accepts all kinds of books.
Bicycles – A Boston based organization, Bike Not Bombs, collects bikes to send to Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean or are used domestically in their youth programs on bike safety.   If you are not in the Boston area, check here.
Brita Filters  – Every WholeFoods recycles Brita filters through the Gimme 5 program.
Cables, connectors and wires– including chargers – Best Buy
CalculatorsBest Buy
Carpeting – small area rugs can generally be donated to charities.  Installed wall-to-wall type carpeting is a lot more difficult for the consumer to recycle.  Ask your new installer if they can recycle your old carpeting.
Carseats(expired) – The options are limited, but I think more recyclers are understanding that they can do something with that big hunk of plastic.  You will most likely have to disassemble it yourself and take the fabric, metal and plastic to various places, but it’s worth looking into.    I recently heard form one of our local charities that this was one of their largest sources of trash.  They then hooked up with a local recycler who can accept them!
CDs/DVDsBest Buy
CFLs– Because of the mercury content, these should never be put into the trash.  Most hardware stores and larger stores such as Home Depot will recycle these.  In Westford, Ace and Mackay’s accept them.
Clothing– Again, if they are wearable, check out a Salvation Army, Goodwill or other charity.  There are fabric recyclers.  New England Clothing Recyclers is one such company.
Cosmetic Tubes or jars – Origins Makeup Store locations
Digital Cameras and Camcorders – Best Buy
Digital Photo Frames – Best Buy
Electronics (Computers, Monitors, TVs (Tube < 32”, Flat Panel LCD, Plasma, LED), Modems/Routers/Hubs, Memory cards, Pedometers/Heart Monitors, PC game controllers, Video Game Consoles, Shredders, Software, Speakers, DVD/Blu-ray player, E-readers, GPS (portable, in-dash and outdoor), Stereo Receivers, Turntables, Two Way radios, VCRs, Webcams)
Electronics can also be brought to one of Westford’s 3 electronics drop off events.
DVDs – Best Buy
Eye glasses – The Lions Club has collection boxes in many locations or ask a local eye glass shop or eye doctor.  In Westford, locations are located at the JV Fletcher Library, Nab One Stop, Roudenbush Community Center, among others.
Fans – Best Buy
Gift Cards – Best Buy
Greeting Cards – Any greeting card can be sent to St. Jude’s for repurposing.  
Hearing AidsHelp the Children Hear gives hearing aides to children who cannot afford them.
Inkjet cartridges – Staples, you will receive $2 to use at Staples.  Many schools run fundraisers recycling used inkjet cartridges.  They are also accepted at Best Buy.
Linens – If your linens are not candidates for reuse by a charity, look into animal shelters or your local animal control.  They often need old blankets, towels and other linens for the animals.
Mercury Thermometers and Thermostats – Because of the mercury, they need to be disposed of properly.  In Westford, we can take them to our Board ofHealth in the Town Hall.
Motor Oil – Try returning used oil where you bought it.  In MA, whoever sold oil to you is required by law to take back up to two gallons of your used oil per day, without charge, provided you still have the sales receipt.   If you don’t have your receipt, try your local Fire Station.
MP3 Players – Best Buy, Target
Packing Peanuts – Most delivery type places like UPS will take these.
Pizza Box – Some recyclers will accept pizza boxes without too much grease.  THIS IS VERY RECYCLER-dependent, so ask, it could ruin lots of other recyclables.  Even if you can’t recycle greasy boxes, you can recycle part of it.
Plastic bags  Plastic bags can be recycled at most grocery stores.  I use reusable bags mostly, but there are so many more items that can be recycled  big “Plastic Bag” bins at local grocery store. Check you local grocery store.  In our area, Hannaford and Stop and Shop accept any bag labeled #2 or #4.   I have found this on carrot bags, grape bags, toilet paper wrappers, bread bags, produce bags, cauliflower wrappers and more.  Check for more information in your area.
Plastics #5 – If your local recycler does not accept these, they can be recycled at Whole Foods via the Gimme 5 program
Professional Clothing – Many local organizations will accept professional clothing, to donate to men and women applying for new jobs. In Lowell, MA, Suitability provides this service.
Prom Gowns – Many local organizations will take prom gowns or other formal gowns and redistribute them to local young ladies who cannot afford.   In our area, Priceless Prom Gowns provides this service. 
Sporting Equipment Many Boy Scouts Troops do sporting goods sales for usable equipment, Play it Again Sports is a national company that buys and sells used sports equipment.   When the sports equipment is beyond usable, there are 2 companies that will make your old equipment into chairs, wine racks and more.
Telephones – Mobil, cordless, corded phones are accepted at Best Buy.  Cell phones are also accepted at call2Recycle locations in many hardware stores.
Toys (Small) – Small toys are accepted at many charities such as Salvation Army and Big Brother Big Sister (BBBS).  In our area, BBBS will pickup from your home or you can bring them to Savers in Nashua, NH.
Toys (Large) – The only options I have found are to give away to a friend or on Freecycle or sold at yard sales.
Vacuums (Upright/canister, robot, brooms/stick) – Best Buy
Wine CorksAll Whole Foods locations collect natural wine corks in conjunction with Cork ReHarvest.  update 1/7/2014: Unfortunately, Whole Foods is no longer participating in this program.  I’m still looking for alternatives.  In the meantime, try your local liquor/wine store.
Yoga MatsRecycle Your Mat will recycle your used up yoga mat.  You can find a location near you or ship your mat.    
Other Non-Recyclables – There are over 40 random items that can be upcycled through a company called TerraCycle.  These include chip bags, granola bars, used writing instruments, candy wrappers, toothbrushes and more.  To learn more about the program, look here.  If you live in Westford, MA area, check out the UpCycle It! program which collects many of these items and raises money for the Westford Public Schools.
I still can’t seem to find a place for leftover paint!  Anyone?  I think I will need to get creative and use it for craft projects.

Have you found any other odd items to recycle?



, , ,

12 Responses to How To Recycle Everything

  1. Michelle February 18, 2012 at 5:01 pm #

    Excellent list! I’m totally going to share this with others. We reuse as much as we can. For instance when we have an electronic item that breaks my son either fixes it, or takes it apart for spare parts. Everything else we try to find another use for, donate it, or when all else fails take it to be recycled.

    Peace. 😉

    • The Greening Of Westford February 19, 2012 at 12:28 pm #

      Hi Michelle,
      i’m glad you found the list helpful. It was helpful to me to put it all in one place. Clever boy, your son! I wish I knew someone like that. Although we have offered slightly broken items on freecycle (fully disclosing the problems) and people have picked up the items and fixed them.
      Thanks for stopping by.

  2. EcoGrrl February 19, 2012 at 11:45 am #

    The Free section of Craigslist for paint – I got rid of mine within hours along withthe tons of other seemingly useless stuff :). Here in Portland motor oil is curbside recycled and much of what you mentioned can be taken to Far West Fibers’ multiple recycling centers. And check out for inspiration other areas can mimic 🙂 I toss 1/2 small can a month of garbage and 1 can of recycling every 6 weeks, reduction is so key. Plastic is never recycled, only downcycled so the less use in the first place, the better!

    • The Greening Of Westford February 19, 2012 at 12:33 pm #

      Amazing!!! I am so envious of Portland. We don’t quite have those options on the East coast. Even buying in bulk can be difficult and limited.
      Craigslist for paint! Thanks EcoGrrl. I just took a look at – very impressive! And I totally agree that reduction is the key.

  3. Jacqueline February 20, 2012 at 8:31 pm #

    I wish we could recycle all these things! We can’t recycle the basics (unless I smuggle them in my suitcase and recycle them in a country that has the capabilities.)

  4. The Greening Of Westford February 20, 2012 at 9:35 pm #

    Jacqueline – It varies so much! I am envious of Portland, OR and Germany because of all they can do, yet you can’t recycle the basics. It would be nice if there were some consistency.

  5. What A Card February 21, 2012 at 3:26 pm #

    When we moved, there was a bunch of half empty paint cans that had been left by the owners before us (I mean, TONS–probably 30. And none marked as to which were current wall colors). I listed them on freecycle, fully disclosing that it was paint at least 5 or more years old, with between 1/4 and 1/2 a gallon in each can. I never thought they’d go, but I had 5 or 6 people show up and take the colors they wanted for a variety of different craft and decorating projects. It was all gone in a matter of days! Love, love, love freecycle, though the Lowell freecycle doesn’t seem nearly as active as the old ones I used in Woburn and Lexington. Last time I tried to give stuff away, I didn’t have nearly the response as I’d get on my old freecycle groups. Maybe because Westford is too far away from Lowell for people to want to make the trip? Who knows, but I miss how easy freecycling was 🙁

  6. The Greening Of Westford February 21, 2012 at 3:41 pm #

    Thanks for the tip What a Card! I will have to try that. I use the Groton Freecycle group. It seems pretty active – I’ve had a lot of luck getting rid of stuff. Never thought paint would go! If you try Groton, let me know how you think it compares.

  7. TWG September 20, 2012 at 7:26 pm #

    Office Depot also gives $2 credit for each ink cartridge, limit 10 cartridges per month.

    Great list! Sure wish we had Whole Foods here!

  8. Kerry November 5, 2012 at 8:55 pm #

    Great Post! So many good recycling ideas here. I had no idea that origins will recycle your used cosmetic tubes and jars. I always feel so bad throwing those out!

Leave a Reply

Designed by Clever Kiwi