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)


Peggy B
Peggy B11 months ago

Good to know

Naomi Dreyer
Naomi Dreyer2 years ago

Even though the article is almost 10 years old the idea of Reduce, Reuse, Recycle: is still most important.

Iskrica Knežzevic

Thank you!

Antony M.
Antony M2 years ago


Nina S.
Nina S2 years ago


Carole R.
Carole R2 years ago

Great ideas.

Naomi Dreyer
Naomi Dreyer2 years ago

Old article but still helpful.

Sandra D.
Sandra D3 years 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 Goh6 years ago

Thanks for the article.

Laura M.
Past Member 6 years ago

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