23 Things You Had No Idea You Could Recycle

From Solo cups to swing sets, these are all recyclable items.

When most people think about recycling, they picture empty cardboard boxes and plastic water bottles. But there are so many other old items hanging around your house that you can also recycle. Many companies will even pay you to bring these recyclable items in, simply because they are hard to come by and, well, there is no Planet B. Keep reading to learn about some of the surprising things that are actually recyclable and next time, think twice before you simply toss something in the trash.

Gardening Tools

Rusty gardening tools

According to the eco-friendly experts at Earth911, anything that's made of at least 50 percent metal is worth recycling. So, if you have any old, rusty tools lying around your garage that you don't need anymore, then you can bring these to any nearby scrap metal drop-off site—perhaps even for money!

Hair Styling Tools

A hair dryer sitting on the counter

Earth911 also notes that "curling irons, hairdryers, and other similar hair appliances can be recycled for their scrap metal rather than thrown away." Though these tools can't be put in your curbside recycling bin with everything else—they contain toxic chemicals like lead and cadmium that require special care—they tend to be accepted anywhere scrap metal is collected.


An old laptop on a table

Seeing as they are electronics that contain toxic chemicals like mercury and lead, laptops should never be disposed of in the garbage. Rather, these electronics are recyclable items that are easy to do away with responsibility at your local Staples.

If your computer still works, then you can use the company's tech trade-in program to get rid of your laptop and make money in the process; if it's no longer functional, then Staples has a free electronics recycling program that you can take advantage of to ensure that your computer is discarded properly.

Smartphones and Tablets

Broken tablet with a cracked screen

The same recycling rules that apply to laptops also apply to old smartphones and tablets. Whether your unwanted phones and tablets are in working condition or no longer turn on, you can head on over to Staples and get rid of them the right (and eco-friendly) way.

Ink Cartridges

Printer Ink Cartridges {Costco Shopping Secrets}

If you buy your ink or toner at Staples, then you can recycle it there as well. The company will actually pay you $2 for each used cartridge you bring in if you're a Staples Rewards member, making this both a profitable and eco-friendly venture.

Fluorescent Light Bulbs

Broken light bulb on the ground

The next time you accidentally break a compact fluorescent light, or a CFL, make sure that you dispose of it properly by recycling it. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), not only does recycling these bulbs ensure that the mercury they contain doesn't get released into the environment, but it also allows for the other materials they're made of—like glass and metal—to be reused.

Space Heaters

space heater weird old household objects

Do you have an old metal space heater sitting around that you no longer want or need? Well, the Chittenden Solid Waste District in Vermont notes that you can bring it to a scrap metal center to be recycled. Just make sure that you drain the heater of any oils first and bring those to a hazardous waste facility.


An old knife on a cutting board

Make sure that you're never haphazardly throwing your old knives in the trash. Even knives that are too dull to be useful in the kitchen are still sharp enough to accidentally stab someone when disposed of improperly. Not only that, but many metal recycling facilities accept kitchen items made of aluminum, tin, stainless steel, and silver, so it's likely that there is a facility near you that will take your knives and upcycle them into something new. Check out this handy guide from Recyclebank to figure out the proper way to recycle your knives.


bike chained to metal window grate, things you shouldn't store in your basement
Shutterstock/Philip Lange

Bicycles are yet another surprisingly recyclable item. In most areas, a quick Google search will pull up plenty of non-profit organizations that are more than happy to take your old bike off your hands—even if it doesn't work.

The recycling center in Coon Rapids, Minnesota, for instance, notes on their website that "all bicycles are accepted in all conditions." And over in Nebraska, Re-Cycle Bike Shop similarly accepts bikes "in any condition."

Pots and Pans

Old pan sitting on a burner on the stove

So long as they are made of metal, any of your old pots and pans can be recycled, notes the Natural Resources Defense Council. However, you can't leave this cookware outside with the rest of your household recycling. As the kitchenware outlet Pots & Pans explains, you have to bring any old pieces you wish to recycle to a scrap metal facility where they can be taken care of properly.

Swing Sets

Yard with an Old Swing Set, prince william surprising facts

Ideally, you should donate your old swing set to an organization that can put it to good use. (Many junk removal companies will even take a swing set off your hands and do the donating for you.) If your playground equipment is rotting and beyond repair, however, then you can help the environment by taking it apart and bringing the remains to a recycling facility.

Running Shoes

A pair of old running shoes on stairs

Unfortunately, every pair of athletic shoes has a shelf life. So, when your sneakers become too worn out to wear, you can do your part to protect the environment by disposing of them via Nike's Reuse-a-Shoe program. Even if your shoes aren't Nike, the brand is more than happy to take your old soles off your hands and give them new life.


Crayons, retired in 1991, popular school accessories by year

Did you know that there's a company out there that will recycle your old crayons for you? They're called Crazy Crayons, and through their program—called The National Crayon Recycling Program—they "take unwanted, rejected, broken crayons to a better place, where they will be recycled into new crayons."

Wine Corks

A Pile of Old Corkscrews Reuse Disposable Items

The glass wine bottle isn't the only thing you can recycle once you finish your rosé or Riesling. ReCork has drop-off bins all across the country where you can deposit your old wine corks to be recycled into "a wide variety of eco-friendly products."

Cigarette Butts

Person putting out a cigarette next to other cigarette butts

If you live in a city, odds are that you've walked down the street and come across a few cigarette butts before. This type of littering is a huge problem, but it doesn't have to be: Since 2012, Waste360 notes that TerraCycle has been recycling cigarette butts into products that range from shipping pallets and plastic lumber to ashtrays (ironically enough).

Solo Cups

red solo cup Never Buy

Surprisingly enough, there is a recycling program out there just for Solo cups. Aptly called the Solo Cup Recycling Program, this free initiative is a joint effort between TerraCycle and Solo Squared that repurposes rigid plastic cups. If you're a single household, you can simply throw your plastic cups in a box, print out a free shipping label, and send them over to TerraCycle to be reduced, reused, and recycled.

Christmas Trees

A discarded christmas tree sitting on the curb

"Real Christmas trees are biodegradable, which means they can be easily reused or recycled for mulch and other purposes," notes the National Christmas Tree Association. They also note that after the holidays, most municipalities will offer curbside tree pick-up or at the least will organize drop-off sites where you can leave your tree once you're done with it.

CDs and DVDs

Stack of CDs Old Classroom Objects

CDs and DVDs have become so obsolete that most laptops don't even come with disc drives anymore. However, if you were born in the 20th century, then odds are that you still have quite a few CD-ROMs lying around. And if that's the case, read up on the CD Recycling Center of America. They have recycling centers all over the country that will take care of disposing of your old discs and DVDs—free of charge.

Coffee Capsules

K Cups In a Pile {Amazon Products}

Those single use K-Cup capsules are notoriously bad for the environment. They don't have to be, though! Through TerraCycle's coffee capsules recycling program, you can send away all those plastic cups to be turned into pellets that the company uses to create new products.


Some batteries

Don't throw away your rechargeable batteries when you don't want or need them anymore. Yet another thing that Staples does is recycle this specific type of battery in a way that is "responsible, free, and convenient." As for your other batteries, Energizer has a useful infographic that details where and how different types should be recycled or disposed of.

Old Carpet

Some rolled-up carpets

Believe it or not, there are companies out there specifically devoted to collecting and recycling old pieces of carpet. When you decide to replace the stained, tired carpeting in your house, make sure to consult the Carpet America Recovery Effort website to find a local business that accepts this textile.


pile of clothes

According to the EPA, 10.5 million tons of textiles landed in landfills in the U.S. alone in 2015. The problem? Since these cloths are not biodegradable, they sit in these landfills for years on end, contributing to pollution and making the planet worse for wear.

So what should you do with raggedy old garments that even charities have no need for? Well, companies like Greenmarket Clothing Collection, Green Tree Textiles, and Planet Aid all have collection boxes located across the country that you can use to recycle your unwanted clothes the eco-friendly way.


Broken makeup

Want to recycle your old or empty makeup products and get rewarded in the process? Then head to Origins, M.A.C., Kiehl's, or Aveda. Each of these stores has a recycling program that you can take advantage of to not only discard of unwanted tubes and tubs, but also earn some gratis goods ranging from lipstick to lotion samples.

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