Advanced recycling for environmental ninjas

Written by nicole


I spent last week visiting some of the landfills TerraPass works with to create carbon offsets. As always, it was great to see these projects and the positive impact they’re having firsthand. But spending so much time around so much trash really drove home how important recycling is for decreasing one’s personal impact on the planet. Paper, plastic, and metal recycling is relatively widespread these days, but what about all the other stuff we throw out? Turns out that with a little effort, a lot more than your average shampoo bottle can be recycled.

DVDs, CDs, and jewel cases: thanks to the mp3 revolution, most of the CDs I owned dated from my middle school days. Companies like Greendisk will recycle your old CDs for the cost of shipping.

Crayons: got a box of old crayons lying around? The National Crayon Recycle program melts down bits of old crayons and turns them into shiny, new, earth-friendly crayons, again for the cost of shipping. Check out Crazy Crayons for details.

Snack remnants, office supplies, and Huggies: a company called TerraCycle will actually pay you to collect yogurt cups, chip bags, candy wrappers, tape dispensers, Elmer’s Glue, Huggies Diaper Packages, and a bunch of other things, which they turn into all sorts of products.

Packing peanuts: with the holiday shipping season upon us, you’re likely to end up with a box of styrofoam peanuts in the next couple of weeks. The Plastic Loose Fill Council recycles packing peanuts, and the have hundreds of drop-off locations around the country.

Tinfoil: if you can recycle aluminum cans in your recycling container, you can recycle tinfoil too (it’s actually made from aluminum). Be sure to rinse off any food scraps first.

Computers, televisions, monitors, electronic gadgets: there are a variety of e-waste recyclers out there — you can find a program near you on this site. Many computer companies (including Dell and Apple) have takeback programs in place. If you’re close to TerraPass HQ in the Bay Area, you can donate old computers and monitors to Resource Area for Teaching, and your old electronics will be reused in a needy classroom.

Finally, it bears repeating that a wide variety of items (from clothes to furniture to still functioning electronics) can always find a new home through your local Goodwill, which often has the added benefit of raising money for a local charity.

You can find a much longer list of things to recycle here. What unusual items have you managed to recycle, and how?

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  1. landsnark

    Don’t forget composting!

  2. Lorne Craig

    One of our Western Canadian retail chains, London Drugs, will actually take back all the packaging from items bought there for recycling, including Styrofoam. They will also take back electronics and small appliances if you buy the replacement at their stores.
    It would be nice to see more retailers moving closer to product responsibility.

  3. Dan

    I take all packing peanuts to my local UPS store where they reuse them. It is an easy quick way to close that loop

  4. Katie

    Plastic gift cards can be sent to earthworks:
    Half-price bookstores are also now supposedly accepting these cards for return to Earthworks. Also look for recycled gift cards produced by EW, which can also be re-recycled!

  5. Kathy Ritscher

    Think package reduction in the store and reuse of containers before you even recycle.
    Buying in bulk things like oatmeal, flour, sugar, pasta, spices not only reduces the cost but also limits the packaging containers coming in.
    Any glass container with a good lid can be cleaned out for reuse. I buy pickles in large jars and reuse for flour, pasta, etc.
    Metal tins like some coffee, candies and cookies come in are great for reuse in storage also. These can be found in thrift stores also.
    So looking a little at the product containers before buying can reduce the waste going back out again.

  6. David Boggeman

    I recently replaced my bed and a friend told me about Freecycle a wed site that hooks people who have stuff to give away with people who might want those things. Somebody came and took the bed that I was going to have to pay $25.00 to have hauled away to the landfill.