Thursday, March 5, 2015

13 Unusual Recyclables

Photo: Recycling at McMurdo Station in Antarctica. Alan Light/Flickr

Can I recycle this? It's a question that comes up often around the house, because the list of what we can't and can't recycle is formidable (We keep a copy on the fridge to help us out, because even with some pretty smart minds under our roof, we can't keep track of everything.) Many people ask the same question when they're standing in the middle of the kitchen with some random item, trying to determine what to do with it and wondering how to keep their garbage down so things like this don't happen. While the answer to the "is this recyclable?" question is heavily dependent on where you are, we thought we'd round up some interesting potentially recyclable items.

If your region doesn't have recycling service for these items yet, think about asking for it!

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1. Textiles

San Francisco now provides textile bins to residents, who are encouraged to send fibers on to new homes instead of letting them molder under their San Francisco roofs. This could be the start of widespread textile recycling across the US, which would be nothing but good news for everyone!

2. Tinfoil

This one surprised me -- as in, I was surprised that it's not recyclable in a lot of places. But yes, I'm here to tell you that it is in a growing number of locations, so no need to keep tossing it in the trash!

3. Athletic shoes

You can totally recycle shoes, which can be ground down and turned into all kinds of useful things. If your community doesn't have shoe collection, you may be able to mail them to a manufacturer.

4. Wine corks

Another recyclable you may have to find a drop-off location for, at least for now. Natural cork, a renewable resource, continues to be used in the wine bottling process, but it doesn't have to be single use. Check out Recork, which is changing the game for old wine corks.

5. Batteries

I confess, I'm used to dumping batteries at the HazMat Mobile. I had no idea that they were recyclable! But they are, and many auto parts stores as well as HazMat recyclers will take them and make sure they get sent on to a better life.

6. Water filters

Every time I change my water filter (hard water and old plumbing can be a bad combination, taste-wise), I feel guilty tossing the old one in the trash. I don't need to: I can drop it off at a recycling center, or a collection bin in a store like Whole Foods.

7. CDs and DVDs

These materials are totally recyclable, although they usually need to be handled by specialists like Back Thru the Future. When you submit them for recycling, make sure to indicate whether you want secure shredding to protect confidential data. (Mobile shredding services can also come to your location so you can supervise the process.)

8. Prostheses

Recycling of prosthetic limbs isn't allowed in the US, but many still contain usable components. The solution? A number of organizations collect donated limbs, break them down, and recycle them into new limbs for people in the Global South who can't afford top of the line prosthetic limbs.

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