Aerosol Cans - Mostly made of steel (and in certain cases aluminum), various types of disinfectants, hairsprays, paints and shaving creams are typically dispensed from aerosol cans and can be easily recycled through well over 5,300 US based programs as long as they are completely empty.
Aluminum Anything (aka Tin Foil, House Siding, Lawn Furniture, Pie Tins) - This 100% recyclable material, which can conceivably be melted down and recycled an infinite number of times, is far too often absent from the collection bin but the metal is an incredibly valuable and practical resource! In addition to conserving a great deal of energy by recycling it rather than refining it from scratch, consumers can sell their old metal bits and pieces to a scrap metal facility for an extra chunk of change. Play it safe by checking with your city government to see if they accept used (but thoroughly cleaned) aluminum food wrap and other aluminum-based products or consult 1-800-Recycling’s database.
Asphalt Shingles - While it may seem a little odd and somewhat surprising, it’s absolutely true – if you’re engaging in a home remodeling project and you want to do right by Mother Nature, you can offer up your old roofing materials to Shingle Recycling.org. For a modest fee, they will grind up your old asphalt shingles and repurpose them into hot-mix pavement among other handy applications.
Crayons - How many broken, abused and plain old neglected crayons are currently hogging up your drawers and closets? If you’re the parent of now far-too-mature teens who have moved on to more sophisticated artistic materials, then step away from the garbage can and dump all of your old crayons into a large box instead. Seal it up with some packing tape and mail your parcel to Crazy Crayons, LLC, the community education program that claims to have successfully prevented 52,000+ pounds of the waxy art implements from living out their days in landfills. By making new crayons out of donated scraps, they are offering a particularly niche opportunity which you’ve got to admit is pretty darn cool.
DVD’s, CDs, and VCR Tapes - Sure, you can donate your media dinosaurs to interested local community programs (including special needs facilities, senior centers, libraries, academic institutions and churches), but if you discover that no one in your neck of the woods wants to accept your old hand-me-downs, here’s a thought. Consider using Best Buy’s in-store recycling kiosks, contact Back Thru The Future to participate in their free program, see if Alternative Community Training’s recycling program is interested in your goodies, or if all else fails, log onto GreenDisk’s website for a sure fire way to responsibly address the old technotrash you have on hand.
Eyeglasses - We may not perceive old frames as being terribly fashionable or particularly desirable, but for those with compromised financial circumstances, a pair of donated glasses can truly be a Godsend. Quite a few charitable organizations have for years been collecting old glasses, cataloging them by prescription and then matching them with needy recipients, offering them a truly valuable tool that enhances their quality of life. New Eyes For The Needy is just one of many programs that have a global reach and make the ‘gift of sight’ available to deserving individuals around the world. Other reliable programs include those operated by LensCrafters, Lions Club, and Unite For Sight.
Fishing Nets - If you live in a region that overlooks the water, then perhaps you’ve witnessed firsthand the devastation that abandoned fishing nets bring upon marine life. If you feel particularly motivated to clean up after others who have carelessly abandoned old nets, the Fishing For Energy partnership converts donated materials into clean, renewable power that helps local communities keep their lights on. Hawaii operates a similar “Nets to Energy” program which keeps 283 homes humming along, as does Alaska’s United Cook Inlet Drift Association.
Hotel Soap - With 4.6 million hotels in the U.S. alone, it’s estimated that approximately 1.5 million bars of mini-hotel-sized soaps end up in landfills on a yearly basis despite being totally usable for weeks and weeks of additional showers. The nonprofit group Clean the World offers a very unique recycling service by sanitizing leftover soap bars from 80 Orlando, Florida hotel rooms, repackaging and distributing them to Haiti (and other poor regions) where locals can resell them and often make enough income to cover their basic expenses.
Leftover Household Paint - If you inherit a home or happen to live with someone who changes the color of your walls just about as frequently as they brush their teeth, then your garage is likely cluttered with cans of half-used paint. Hmmm, what can you do with them that isn’t hazardous to the environment? How about offering leftover cans to home improvement recycling centers or places like Habitat For Humanity, where paints and other supplies are resold at rock bottom prices to weekend warriors? High school art programs might also appreciate rainbow colored donations for murals and other creative projects, and there are also municipal recycling programs across the country that reprocess old paint into new!
Metal Clothes Hangers From Your Drycleaner - If you’re like many people, you probably have more metal clothes hangers swimming around in your closet than you’ll ever know what to do with. First created in 1869 by Connecticut’s O. A. North, what used to be perceived as a perfectly practical item is now cast aside on a regular basis despite being fully recyclable. According to Hanger Network, roughly 100 tons of old wire coat hangers end up in landfills every year when they can easily be returned to dry cleaners or recycled via participating municipalities. Make some calls, check with Earth 911 or donate them to an interested clothing facility like Goodwill or the Salvation Army.
Oil - It may look a little mucky, but recycled motor oil has the potential to become as “good as new again” through a special refining process, saving the U.S. about ½ million barrels of crude oil annually. Conversely, if just one gallon is disposed of improperly, it has the potential to contaminate one million gallons of water. If you deposit old engine oil into a leakproof container and label it clearly, many car dealerships and automobile service stations will accept it, as will parts retailers like Pep Boys and NAPA (but as always, it is highly recommended that you call ahead to see if they participate). You might also want to log onto www.cleanup.org or contact them via telephone at 1-800-Cleanup.
Styrene Packing Peanuts - Here’s a quick test – scoop up three peanuts in the palm of your hand and run them under water for a few seconds. If they dissolve, then disregard this entry because they’re made of biodegradable, non-toxic crop-based starch…but if they remain in their pristine, puffed-up shape, then they are made of expanded polystyrene foam which is a polymer plastic that, while recyclable, rarely ever is. If you don’t make a point of recycling them every time you mail out a care package (tsk-tsk!), then drive them to your closest UPS store for recycling or contact the Plastic Loose Fill Council’s Peanut Hotline (800.828.2214) for the closest recycling option in your neck of the woods.
Surfboards - Isn’t it time that everybody catch the recycling wave…at least in terms of giving their boards a new lease on life? Unfortunately, most boards are constructed using perfectly buoyant yet environmentally toxic foam, which for many many decades has been trucked to landfills where it releases a steady stream of chemicals into the air and soil. Fortunately, ReSurf Recycling has partnered up with Green Foam Blanks to come up with a very practical solution – they convert materials that are left over during the manufacturing process (along with donated boards that are beyond repair) into concrete and asphalt volumizers.
Tyvek Envelopes - Jeesh, even this brand of super cool envelope material is entirely synthetic in nature, constructed out of flashspun high-density polyethylene fibers – a fancy way of saying “petroleum”. This is the type of item that should definitely be recycled whenever possible…so tap into your inner squirrel and once you’ve amassed a stack of them, send fewer than 25 to Shirley Cimburke, Tyvek Recycling Specialist, 5401 Jefferson Davis Highway, Spot 197, Room 231, Richmond, VA 23234 or contact Tyvek directly if you have a lot more to recycle at (866) 33-TYVEK.
Wine Corks - It’s a notoriously renewable resource, but it doesn’t come easy to Portugal and Spain’s cork trees, which are stripped of the majority of their cork-bearing bark every 9 to 10 years. The material, used to create roughly 52,000 tons of wine and champagne corks each year, is highly recyclable…people just forget to save it along with their other common household items. While most municipalities don’t fuss with formal cork collection programs, there are plenty of other companies that take it seriously, including ReCORK America, Yemm & Hart, Korks 4 Kids and TerraCycle.