11 Surprising Items You Can Recycle

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You try hard to recycle everything you can, but your curbside recycling program only takes certain types of items. What about all the other recyclable items in your house that your city’s recycling company just won’t take?

Luckily for you, many recycling organizations take specialized items—and if you do a little research, you may even be surprised at the diverse, unique items your local center may take.

Here are 11 items that may surprise you.

1. Holiday Lights

Do you have some burnt-out strings of holiday lights? Send them to a company that recycles them. The lights are shredded, and the copper, PVC and glass are separated. The raw materials then are taken to another facility and fashioned into new products.

2. Mattresses

Recycling factories that take mattresses have special saws that break down mattresses and box springs into materials such as metal, wood, cloth and foam. The wood is chipped, and the foam and cloth are shredded before being recycled into wallpaper or clothing.

3. CDs and DVDs

Since so many of your favorite movies, TV shows and albums are available for streaming, you may have a lot of old CDs and DVDs that are no longer used. Since they’re made of polycarbonate, these discs don’t decompose in a landfill. Send CDs to a recycling center instead, and they’ll be ground down to powder. That powder is then melted into new plastic that is used in vehicles, buildings and even pavement.

4. Athletic Shoes

Certain shoe companies, like Nike, will take back your old sneakers. The company’s recycling facility breaks down the shoes into rubber, fabric and foam. The rubber is perfect for track and field sports tracks, and the fabric can be used for padding in basketball courts. Similarly, the foam can be made into cushioning for tennis courts.

5. Gift Cards

Gift cards, hotel key cards and credit cards are all made of PVC. Various recycling centers accept these cards and melt them down into new, uniform sheets of PVC. Those sheets can then be cut into new gift cards, credit cards or other PVC products.

6. Wine Corks

It’s true that wine corks are biodegradable and that there are fun DIY projects you can use them for. However, Americans still consume enough wine on a yearly basis that many corks go to waste and end up in landfills. Some companies, like Terracycle, let you mail them wine corks for recycling. These recycled corks can then be used to make tile for floors or to make items like sandals.

7. Pantyhose

The majority of pantyhose are made of nylon, which takes 40 years to break down in a landfill. Instead of tossing your torn tights in the trash, mail them to a recycling center. The nylon can be remade into park benches, carpet and playground equipment.

8. Crayons

The National Crayon Recycling Program collects old crayons and melts them down. The wax is then reshaped and resold as a new box of crayons.

9. Electronics

You may be surprised by just how many recycling centers accept electronics. MP3 players, cell phones and computers all have recyclable components. Most electronic devices contain some hazardous waste that must be dealt with properly. If you take your electronic device to a recycling center, the team there will safely dispose of the hazardous components and recycle the safe components into parts for new smartphones or other devices.

10. Packing Peanuts

We all know packing peanuts are a pain. The Styrofoam clings to everything and never breaks down well in a landfill. Luckily, packing peanuts can also be reused for packages again and again. Many shipping companies will take back your old packing peanuts and use them for another package.

11. Plastic Bags

Most major supermarkets have recycling bins for the plastic bags you accumulate at the grocery store.  Depending on the store, you can drop off sandwich bags, dry-cleaning bags and bread bags.

Interested in recycling unique items such as these? Ask your local recycling company today about the unique items they accept.