I Can Even Recycle That?

If you read my last post on recycling, you know that 75% of what we throw out can be recycled through most municipal recycling programs. What to do with the remaining 25%? Well, don’t throw it out yet. There are many programs designed especially to handle recycling of those problem materials – the special plastics and other items that can’t be recycled by traditional methods.


Here are some tips for recycling some of those leftover items:


Styrofoam – Also known as expanded polystyrene (EPS) foam, it’s a version of plastic No. 6 (polystyrene). Here’s the problem, even if your community recycles plastic No. 6, it may not accept EPS. Because it’s so lightweight, EPS takes up 0.01 percent of the total municipal solid waste stream by weight, but its volume is a greater problem than its weight. It takes up a lot of space in landfills and doesn’t biodegrade. A better solution is to recycle it, here’s how:


  • • Drop-off sites – Check Earth911 to find polystyrene recycling sites in your area. Bring empty containers free of food waste, tape, labels, plastic film, etc. These contaminants can ruin the recycling process.
  • • Mail-back – If you can’t find a drop-off site in your area, you can also use a mail-back program such as the Alliance of Foam Packaging Recyclers.
  • • Reuse for shipping – What about packing peanuts? Their simplest reuse is in another package for shipping. If you aren’t shipping something anytime soon, you can donate them to UPS or other shipping stores, who will reuse the material. If you are in the Southern California area, you can also drop off packing peanuts and any other shipping supplies to the office of BuyGreen.com in Irvine. We ship all our orders in all reused packaging. In fact, we have never purchased a new box or packaging material – everything is reused. We depend on friends, neighbors, and local businesses for these materials. Here’s a picture of us in front of our box catcher that we built especially for holding all our reused boxes.



Bottle Caps – Before recycling plastic bottles, you should remove the caps so they don’t ruin the batch of recycling. The good news is that you don’t have to throw them away. You can collect and recycle those too (just not in your municipal waste can). Aveda has a nationwide in-store program to recycle plastic caps. Just bring your bottle caps to participating stores and schools. The caps are sent by Aveda to their recycler where the material is recycled into new caps and containers.


No. 5 Plastics – Items such as yogurt, margarine, deli tubs, and plastic cutlery (usually No. 5 plastic) frequently are not recyclable in municipal waste programs. Consider washing and reusing them instead. If you can’t reuse, Preserve, a company that creates household products out of recycled plastic. They have teamed up with Stoneyfield Farms for the Gimme 5 program. By dropping your No. 5 plastic containers in a Preserve Gimme 5 bin (which also accepts Brita water pitcher filters), your old plastic can be turned into new products such as their toothbrushes, razors and tableware. You can drop off all No. 5 plastic items at participating Whole Foods locations nationwide.


Eye Glasses – Go to One Sight to find your nearest drop off location. After cleaning, they will send them to developing countries and pair them up with people with similar prescriptions.


Coats – Go to One Warm Coat to find out how to donate your old winter coats. Their goal is to provide any person in need with a warm coat, free of charge.


Athletic Shoes – Since I am training to run my first marathon and I have old knees, I go through running shoes about every six months. I was especially happy to find two options for recycling them. The first is One World Running. You can send your still-wearable shoes to them and they get them to athletes in need in Africa, Latin America, and Haiti. The second is Nike’s Reuse-a-shoe program. They can turn your tired, can’t be worn again shoes into playground and athletic flooring.


Crocs – Yes, even your beloved unattractive but oh so comfortable Crocs can be recycled. Crocs, Inc. launched a recycling program, SolesUnited, in early 2008. SolesUnited is a first of its kind program created in response to the desperate need for quality footwear in impoverished countries and areas affected by tragedy. Blending environmental and humanitarian efforts, they are collecting, regrinding, and remolding your old Crocs shoes into new and donating these to people in need of shoes around the world. You drop them off at participating retailers or can mail your Crocs to one of two recycling centers:

Crocs Recycling – West………………… or …………….Crocs Recycling – East
3375 Enterprise Ave. ……………………………………. 1500 Commodity Blvd.
Bloomington, CA 92316 …………………………………. Lockbourne, OH 43137


Computers -The National Cristina Foundation gives companies and individuals the opportunity to donate their used computers, which are matched to charities and schools in their area. This keeps good working equipment from local landfills, and provides training and computer access for people with disabilities, students at risk, and economically challenged persons.


Mobile Phones (and other rechargeable batteries) – The Rechargeable Battery Recycling Corporation is a non-profit agency dedicated to rechargeable battery and cell phone recycling. Go to the site locator where you can type in your zip code to find a participating location near you. Mobile phones are refurbished and resold if possible with a portion of the proceeds going to charitable organizations. Rechargeable batteries are recycled to reclaim reusable materials such as nickel and iron to make stainless steel. None of the by-products of this process are sent to landfills. 


BatteriesBattery Solutions’ easy-to-use recycling kits are designed to make battery recycling for homes or businesses as easy and hassle-free as possible, while helping you protect the environment.


Compact Fluorescent bulbs (CFL) – take them to your local IKEA store for recycling. You can also order a Sylvania RecyclePak online and mail them in for recycling.


Those are just a few of the many programs out there for recycling otherwise unrecyclable items. With just a little bit of research, you can find an organization that will accept almost any item you may need to throw out. Do you know of more? If so, please post a comment and link below. Let’s keep the list growing.

Learn more about Allison. You can find her on twitter ocgreenmama.


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