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How to Recycle Items That Don’t Go in the Bin

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For recyclables that aren’t picked up curb-side, drop-off programs can still save them from a landfill.

Your curbside recycling service probably accepts lots of household waste for recycling, like plastics, paper and cardboard, glass, and aluminum cans. But what about those odd items that aren’t allowed? For certain recyclables, it might take a little extra work to mail it in or find a drop-off location, but isn’t it worth it to know that you’re diverting it from the landfill?

Here are some common recyclables that you can’t throw in the bin, and how to recycle them.

  1. Batteries: While rechargeable batteries don’t contain the high level of toxic mercury that older ones do, you should still avoid pitching them in the trash and instead recycle them when you can. Fortunately there are numerous drop-off points, so it won’t be hard to find one near you. Try Call2Recycle, which lists drop-off locations where you can bring batteries and cell phones for recycling. Cell phones are typically refurbished, while other materials are sorted and separated, and sent on to other facilities to be reused. Replacing a car battery? Check with the auto shop where you purchased your new battery. Nearly all of them will accept spent batteries for recycling, and some will even give you some cash in exchange!

  1. Ziploc® brand bags and other plastic films: Once you’ve eaten up the leftovers or snacks in your Ziploc® brand bags, don’t reuse or trash them! Instead, just rinse them out and find the nearest drop-off location for plastic film recycling. Many grocery stores accept them in receptacles near the front doors. Make the trip efficient by gathering up those dry cleaning bags, newspaper bags, plastic grocery bags, and the plastic wrapping around toilet paper, diapers and other household goods, too.

  1. Tires: Automobile tires can be recycled or recovered for fuel, ground rubber products, flooring, soil additives, and highway construction. As with car batteries, many auto shops or tire centers will recycle your tires free, though some may charge a fee. You may want to check your state’s laws surrounding tire recycling. You might learn, for example, that New York and Illinois require tire retailers to charge customers a fee for tire recycling.

  1. Used electronics: Stereo equipment, computer equipment, video game consoles, and other e-waste should not end up in landfills. Many electronics have chemicals that are toxic when leached into the land or water sources, and if they’re incinerated, those chemicals pollute the air. What to do with obsolete equipment? The E-Stewards Initiative is working to reduce the damage caused by e-waste, and has a searchable database of facilities that accept this type of waste for recycling. You might also find a place to donate your electronics by searching the Environmental Protection Agency’s database. Alternatively, sometimes charitable organizations can refurbish the equipment or use the parts for those who cannot afford new equipment. Be sure to delete all of your data and personal information from your device, and remove the batteries.

  1. Packing materials: If you’ve ever gotten a big package filled with the dreaded foamed polystyrene “peanuts”, you’ve probably wondered what to do with them, especially if you don’t have any foreseeable need for reusing the stuff to pack your own boxes. Contact the Peanut Hotline, a service of the Plastic Loose Fill Council, which will put you in touch with a facility that will accept your peanuts for reuse. If your package came cushioned with plastic air-filled pillows, these can be dropped off with your plastic Ziploc bags at the plastic film recycling location mentioned above.

NYC Recycles
Rhode Island Resource Recovery Corporation

Do you make the effort to recycle hard-to-recycle stuff? Share your stories in the comments below.

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About the Author
Jessica Harlan
Jessica Harlan

I love finding new ways to green my family's life as painlessly as possible, and sharing those ideas with folks who want to do the same.