Five Things You Should Always Recycle

[This might be old news to natural minded parents, but I feel it’s a topic worthy of covering again.]

Chances are you’re already recycling the cans, bottles, and paper that get picked up at the curb, but what about all that other stuff that’s lurking in your drawers or closets – like outdated gadgets and dead batteries – that you’re not sure how to recycle?

The following household items are especially important to donate or recycle because they contain materials that can contaminate the environment if they wind up in landfills or that can easily be reclaimed for use in new products.

Here are some convenient ways to keep them out of the trash:

  1. Electronics – All Office Depot, Staples, and Best Buy stores accept larger electronics like desktop computers for recycling for a small fee (usually $10) and smaller ones like cell phones and PDAs for free. Goodwill stores accept used computer equipment (some locations also accept televisions) for free. And you can earn RecycleBank Points by recycling MP3 players/iPods, laptops, and cell phones through their partners at Collective Good, FlipSwap, and Gazelle. Why: You’ll keep toxic materials like lead, mercury, cadmium, arsenic, and brominated flame retardants out of landfills. And useful materials will be recovered, saving energy and resources.
  2. Rechargeable batteries – From cordless phones and power tools, digital cameras, and other gizmos – these can be recycled for free at 30,000 drop-off points nationwide, including retailers such as Home Depot, Lowe’s, RadioShack, Sears, and Target. Enter your zip code at Call2Recycle to find one near you. Unfortunately, it’s more difficult to find places to recycle alkaline (or single-use) batteries. Try Earth911 to find drop off locations or order a box (for $34.50, including prepaid shipping) from Battery Solutions and send them up to 12 pounds of alkaline and/or rechargeable batteries for recycling. Why: Like many electronics, batteries contain heavy metals and other chemicals best kept out of the waste stream. Plus, recyclers reclaim metals from them that are used to make, for example, new batteries and steel.
  3. Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs use 75 percent less energy than incandescent bulbs, but they contain a small amount of mercury and shouldn’t be thrown in the trash. Take them to any Ikea or Home Depot store for recycling or go to Lamp Recycle to find other drop off locations near you. Why: CFLs in landfills can break and release mercury, a neurotoxin, into the environment.
  4. Plastic Bags – Even if you’ve switched to reusable bags for your shopping, you probably have a bunch of these stored in your home. Luckily, lots of retailers like Wal-Mart, Safeway, Albertsons, Wegmans, Krogers, and Giant now have bins where you can recycle plastic grocery bags (and newspaper, drycleaning, bread, and sealable food storage bags). To find a drop off location near you, go to Plastic Bag Recycling or Earth911. Why: They’re made from petroleum, a non-renewable resource, and when thrown away they take a very long time to decompose. Recyclers will turn them into new products like plastic lumber.
  5. Anything you don’t need that could be of great value to others – For instance, you can donate your used prescription glasses to the nonprofit OneSight at any LensCrafters, Pearle Vision, Sunglass Hut, Target Optical, or Sears Optical location (or go to One Sight for more locations near you). You can also donate unused, unexpired medications including antibiotics, pain relievers, and others by mailing them to the Health Equity Project. The glasses and medications will be distributed to people in need in developing countries.

Keep in mind that you should always recycle hazardous substances like paint, pesticides, propane gas tanks, and motor oil at your town’s household hazardous waste collection events or permanent collection center. Go to Earth911 or call 1-800-CLEANUP to find collection sites and events.

These tips are courtesy of RecycleBank.

Image: Peter Kaminski at Flickr

Derek Markham

Things I dig include: simple living, natural fatherhood, attachment parenting, natural building, unassisted childbirth (homebirth), bicycles, permaculture, organic and biodynamic gardening, vegan peanut butter cookies with chocolate chips, bouldering, and the blues. Find me elsewhere at @NaturalPapa, @DerekMarkham, Google+, or RebelMouse.

4 thoughts on “Five Things You Should Always Recycle

  • November 10, 2009 at 10:09 am

    You know how I feel about recycling! Thanks for providing these good tips! It really needs to be said.

    Yesterday one of my friends posted that she was mad about New York State implementing a $.05 bottle deposit on bottled water. She said even with that deposit she’s still not going to take them back to the store. I sent her a link to my blog recycling post from yesterday, and she said she agreed, but that she’s just not in the groove of going green yet. I think once most people start thinking about it and doing it, it sinks in.

  • November 14, 2009 at 8:28 am

    Maintaining cleanliness is enormously refreshing what’s more if we’re living to a very green world that is contamination-free? Recycling is a very well-known strategy that many people were implementing it to support taking care of our plants. And if we reduce the use of plastics we can make a total change to our world for we can be free from pollution and harmful toxic that it may bring. I recommend to use Happy Tiffin ( because its more beautifully-functional, reusable, can stay last long, easy to clean and reliable unlike plastic types, it can easily teared. So please, let’s make our world a green world


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