13 Items to Take Your Recycling Game to the Next Level

When you think of “recycling,” what comes to mind? Paper, plastic, glass and aluminum are probably at the top of your list. You might recycle your electronics, too, since most phone centers will accept your old phone when you buy a new one and many stores that sell computers will recycle your old one when you’re ready to give it up.

Still, when you think about how much other stuff you use, don’t you wonder whether a lot more of that could be recycled, too? Well, it probably can be. In honor of America Recycles Day on November 15, check out this list of uncommon items you probably have and can recycle without too much trouble.

1) Your car. About 85 percent of the parts of a car can be recycled for further use, especially for scrap metal. The EPA reports that recycling metals requires 74 percent less energy than producing it new, so recycling your car not only reduces waste, but helps reduce climate change, too. You can find an auto recycler near you by entering your zip code on GreenVehicleDisposal.com. Or, call a local company that will pick up your car and pay you cash; just make sure you deal with one that recycles the parts.

2) Your eyeglasses. The Lion’s Club’s Lions Recycle for Sign collects used eyeglasses throughout the year and delivers them to recycling centers, where volunteers clean, sort by prescription strength and package the glasses. Most of the recycled glasses are distributed to people in need in developing countries. Drop the glasses into a local collection box or mail them in directly to the recycling center. Get more information here.

3) Your old carpeting. The Carpet America Recovery Effort can help you find a place to recycle your carpet here. If you’re buying new carpeting, make sure the installer recycles instead of sends the used carpet to the landfill.

4) Yoga mats. Yoga mats can be recycled into place mats, drink cozies, even laptop cases. But if your yoga mat isn’t in tatters, the Boulder Mat Company will clean it up and donate it to a nonprofit.

5) Holiday lights – Home Depot, Mom’s Organic Market and the Christmas Light Source are among the companies that will accept strings of old holiday lights. Replace them with more energy-efficient and longer lasting LED lights.

6) Wine bottle corksReCork.org recycles wine bottle corks into yoga blocks, shoes and other products to replace petroleum-based materials. The company also helps use its proceeds to plant trees. There are some collection partners, but you can also ship your corks directly to the company here. The company asks that you wait until you have at least 15lbs, or around 1,650 corks, to ship.

7) Bras -BraRecycling.com is a textile recycling company that specializes in recycling used and unused bras. The company wants to raise awareness that 95 percent of textiles, worn or torn, can be recycled, but only 15 percent actually are. The recycled underwear is distributed worldwide and helps support women and girls who don’t have the means to get their own underwear or underwear that actually fits. You can drop off your bra locally if a collection center is nearby, or mail it directly to the Bra Recyclers in Gilbert, AZ.

8) Clothes – Clothing can be recycled no matter what shape it’s in. Can it still be worn? Take it to a thrift store or sell it cheap at a yard sale. T-shirts in tatters? Cut them into wide strips and use them for cleaning cloths. Want to donate old suits or business clothes? Contact Dress for Success. Many homeless shelters accept old clothes as well; just be sure to contact them before dropping anything off to find out what sizes they need and what most help their clientele.

9) Shoes – You can recycle your shoes simply by taking them to the local thrift store, where someone will no doubt buy them and use them again. You can send them to Nike or Puma, both of which have recycling programs for their athletic shoes. Or donate your shoes to Soles4Souls, which provides footwear and clothing to those in need during times of disaster.

10) Plastic bottle caps – Though many people recycle plastic bottles, most people throw the caps away. Cosmetics company Aveda has launched a collection program to recycle rigid plastic caps; they may be marked with a 5 in the chasing arrows recycling symbol. The caps they collect include those from shampoo, beverage, milk, detergent and pharmaceutical bottles. They do not accept caps from margarine tubs, yogurt containers or lotion or spray pumps.

11) Gold and jewelry – I presume you’re too smart to throw anything gold away; there are shops in most communities that will happily buy your gold from you at competitive prices. As for jewelry, recycle it on places like EBay, Craig’s List, Freecycle.org and your local list serv. Remember, one’s person’s trash is another’s treasure.

12) Windows, doors and cabinetsHabitat for Humanity operates local stores that sell all kinds of household fixtures, including unbroken windows, doors, cabinets, maybe even toilets.

13) Crayons – The Crayon Recycle Program takes unwanted, rejected and broken crayons to a facility where they will be recycled into new crayons. Butthe group also encourages consumers to donate their old crayons to inner city art programs, hospitals, orphanages, shelters and after-school programs. If you send your crayons for recycling, leave the wrappers on, as it can be hard to tell black crayons from those that are dark purple or blue.

What’s the most surprising thing you recycle? Please share.


Pablo B.
.2 years ago


Sierra B.
Sierra B2 years ago

wow! I wish I had knew all of this before!

s Gardner
sandy G2 years ago


Angela K.
Angela K2 years ago


Sarah Hill
Sarah H2 years ago


Igor P.
Past Member 2 years ago

Will spread the love ;) Thank you!

Carole R.
Carole R2 years ago

Thanks for posting.

Ruth S.
Ruth S2 years ago


Veronica Danie
.2 years ago


Elena Poensgen
Elena P2 years ago

Thank you