Recycling Batteries, Light Bulbs and Sneakers: Easy Greening

Cans and newspapers are easy to recycle, but what in the world are we supposed to do with things like batteries and light bulbs? And although they’re not toxic (well…) what about those cruddy sneakers? Read here for Nicky Scott’s advice on what to do with hard-to-recycle items.

Batteries (Household)

The energy needed to manufacture a battery is on average 50 times greater than the energy it gives out.

Reduce: Cut down on batteries—use the sun! Buy solar powered (or clockwork) equipment. Otherwise, use rechargeable batteries and a battery charger. You can now get CD or cassette tape walkmans, radios, flashlights and toothbrushes, which use rechargeable batteries.

Recycle: The U.S. is relatively ahead of the game for the recycling of batteries. The Battery Act of 1996 was created to phase out the use of mercury in batteries and provide for the efficient and cost-effective collection and recycling or proper disposal of used nickel cadmium batteries, small sealed lead-acid batteries, and certain other batteries. In addition there is a national program, Call2Recycle™, sponsored by the Rechargeable Battery Recycling Corporation (RBRC) to help you recycle your used portable rechargeable batteries and old cell phones.

Why recycle batteries? While the exact chemical make-up varies in different types, most batteries contain heavy metals that are a cause for environmental concern. When disposed of incorrectly, these heavy metals may leak into the ground when the battery casing corrodes. This can contribute to soil and water pollution and endanger wildlife.

Cadmium, for example, can be toxic to aquatic invertebrates and can accumulate in fish, which makes them unfit for human consumption. Some batteries, such as button cell batteries, also contain mercury, which has similarly hazardous properties. Mercury is no longer being used in the manufacture of non-rechargeable batteries, except button cells where it is a functional component.

Light Bulbs and Light Fittings

Reduce: Buy low-energy bulbs, especially for places where you leave the light on for long periods. Energy-efficient light bulbs last for years—I’ve had some going for over thirteen years now! They cost more to buy, but are well worth it.

Dimmer switches help to prolong the life of conventional (incandescent) light bulbs, and dimming your lights saves energy.

Recycle: Some groups are now recycling light bulbs, fluorescent lights, television sets, and computer monitors. See, a one-stop source of information about spent fluorescent and high intensity discharge lamp recycling.


Recycle: There are a number of charities that send your used sneakers to impoverished places with little access to athletic shoes. Shoe4Africa collects running shoes, cleans them up and ships them to East Africa to encourage sport. The first pair of Shoe4Africa shoes to be donated back in 1995 went to Mark Wendot Yatich, then an unknown runner—he went on to win the Los Angeles Marathon. Another runner to get shoes that year was Japheth Kimutai, who three years later won the Commonwealth Games 800m gold medal.

There are a number of options for donating old sneakers. Nike has a fantastic recycling program called Reuse-A-Shoe, which is working to close the loop on the life cycle of literally millions of pairs of old, worn-out, or otherwise unusable athletic shoe material. Nike collects worn-out athletic shoes of any brand, not just Nike, and recycles them into a material that is used to make new soccer and football fields, tennis and basketball courts, running tracks and playground surfaces around the world.

Adapted from Reduce, Reuse, Recycle: An Easy Household Guide by Nicky Scott (Chelsea Green, 2007)


Naomi Dreyer
Naomi Dreyer10 days ago

Old article but still helpful.

Sandra D.
Sandra D.about a year ago

I had no idea that shoes could be donated!
(Now that I think about it, I wonder why I didn't pay attention to that fact until now).

Thank you!

KS Goh
KS Goh4 years ago

Thanks for the article.

Laura M.
Past Member 4 years ago

THANK YOU THANK! for years I've been trying to figure out how to responsibly dispose of old shoes. ^_^

Joyce Squillante
Joyce S.5 years ago

Yay! Thanks for posting.

Vladi Rose
Harriett M.5 years ago

I would NOT donate used smelly, stinky tennis shoes (since the article was about deodorizing smelly tennis shoes). That's a whole lotta bacteria to pass on to someone else. Mold, etc. Yes, the article talked about shoes being donated to people that became winners of a marathon, still, for health reasons, no, I wouldn't be donating items such as these.

hallie f.
hallie f.6 years ago

Recycling batteries is easier than people think. Googling your area for battery recycle drop offs is very simple, there are often a selection of places where you can take non reusable batteries including grocery stores, libraries, and even some schools do battery drives, I know my school has done them before and I am participating in one coming up this month! Battery recycling is easy and convenient!

Aishah Newson
Aishah Newson6 years ago

if you go to "" you can sign up & they will send you a box with bags and you can collect batteries and cell phones && then send the stuff back to them. I am going to see how many I can raise in my neighborhood & in my school community.

Ashley B.
Ashley B.7 years ago


Lauryn Slotnick
Lauryn S.7 years ago

I heard that Staples takes non-rechargeable batteries to recycle, just call before you go to make sure your store participates. I think Whole Foods does too.