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Things You Never Realized You Could Recycle

By Edited May 28, 2015 4 3
Things to Recycle
Credit: mjpyro

Nearly everything in our modern world is made of materials that are recyclable. Some are well-known such as glass, plastic and paper items. 

Nearly everyone knows to recycle their motor oil, tires and car battery. Newspapers, cardboard and plastic items from the grocery store can be bagged in clear or blue bags and your local trash pickup service will normally take them at no additional cost. Sure, they sell all of those products to recyclers and do not cut you in on the profit, but you are not doing it for the money.

However, there are a lot of items that can be recycled, but some are not so obvious. But just because they are not immediately obvious to us or not hazardous to the environment does not mean that they should not be reused for other products.

The problem with recycling odd items is that it is sometimes difficult to actually do it. Some municipalities make it easier with more robust pick-up programs or recycling centers stationed strategically throughout cities or counties. However, even those will not take certain items.

But there are a lot of things you can do on your own to recycle items that are not accepted by your waste disposal company or local recycling center.

Here are some things to recycle you probably never thought about. Some are harmless, some are hazardous, but all can be reused or disposed of properly with a little effort on your part.

Why is Recycling Important?

Rather than throwing away useful materials, recycling allows our economy to reuse our natural materials more efficiently and protect the environment in the process.

The items listed here are just a few items you probably never think to recycle. Yes, some things are more difficult to dispose of properly, but in the end if you make the effort, you will feel better that you aren’t poisoning your own yard or the landfills with recyclable materials. 

How to Recycle Jeans

Recycle Blue Jeans
Everyone knows that you can recycle clothing by donating old jeans to charities or places like Goodwill, but what if they are in really bad shape?  Well, they can still be recycled into other products.  There are companies that reuse jeans as insulation products.

Companies like Green Jeans Insulation recycles old jeans into natural fiber insulation used for interior and exterior walls and ceiling applications. You can package your old jeans and send them to the following address.

Green Jeans Insulation
1001 Williamson Street Suite 2
Madison, WI 53703

Suncast Recycle Bin Kit BH183PK
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How to Recycle Carpet

Recycle Carpet
Credit: mjpyro

Nearly all carpet is recyclable. In fact, the chemicals that make up carpet fibers are at their core made of plastics and actually have value to recyclers no matter how old or worn out it is.

If you are replacing the carpet in your home, the installers will take the old carpet away, but that does not mean they are going to recycle it. They very well could be taking it in bulk to the landfill. It is not illegal in most jurisdictions to dispose of carpet in this manner. However, it is not very smart because rolled up carpet takes up a lot of space in landfills. Ask your carpet installer about their procedure to handle carpet wastes.

If they do not recycle, you can have them leave it rolled up outside your home or in your garage while you contact a local dealer. Some will pick up your carpet if you are close by. You may have to make several calls to find someone to pick it up, but it is worth the effort. Eventually recycled carpet ends up at manufacturers who will reuse it to make new carpet.

If you really care about this issue, the easiest method though would be to take this into consideration when choosing a carpet installer in the first place.

Organize It All Stainless Steel Step-On 12-Gallon Recycle Bin (4903)
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How to Recycle Asphalt Shingles

Recycle Asphalt Shingles
Credit: DMahalko, Dale Mahalko via Wikimedia Commons

Asphalt shingles on your roof are made from oil products and can and should be recycled. When recycled, first they are ground down, sized and graded. During the process, all of the contaminants are removed. Typically, recycled asphalt shingles are used for making roads with a process called Hot-Mix Asphalt (HMA), which is an additive and used for pot hole repair, among many others uses.

So how and where do you recycle your shingles? Well, this is not something you are going to be able to do on your own as there are no centers or waste companies that accept them. The best thing to do is plan ahead. When having a new roof put on your home, you should determine what you are going to do with the used shingles before you choose a roofing installer. Most installers do not recycle shingles, but you can hire one that does by looking on the web for recommendations from recycle sites. From there, you can connect with contractors in your area.

How to Recycle Hair

Recycle Hair
Credit: Alicia Lopez via Wikimedia Commons

There is no danger of hair destroying the world, but that is not the point of this article.

If you have long hair and you are planning on cutting 6 inches on more, consider donating it to a local organization that uses it to make wigs for cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy.

If you do not have long locks to donate, hair from pets or brushes can be used in your garden. It is full of nitrogen which aids in the breakdown of wastes in composting piles.

How to Recycle Pesticides Containers or Sprayers

Recycle Pesticide Containers
Credit: Opensource

Empty containers or sprayers that once contained pesticides should be recycled rather than thrown in your garbage and eventually a landfill. These types of containers are made of plastic thus they can be reused and recycled into any other type of container. However, the key is to triple wash the insides before recycling.

After washing the containers thoroughly, your waste management company will pick them up as general plastic recyclables and later sort these types of containers in items to be processed or shipped to another facility that is equipped to handle that type of  plastic.

How to Recycle Cooking Oil

Recycle Used Cooking Oil
Credit: Opensource

Do not pour cooling oil down the drain as this can create problems immediately, or down the road. Obviously most people do not create a lot of cooking oil waste per week, month or year, so this is not something you would want to take to a recycling center or restaurant at least a gallon  at a time to convert into recycled materials.

Some cities maintain collection stations year-round but again, this depends on your region. You can also check with local restaurants to see if they recycle their cooking oil (most do), and if you could deliver your own cooking oil to them once a month or as needed.

Restaurants tend to schedule large trucks that come and vacuum their grease and oil from their systems, or traps, which is then recycled into other uses, sometimes for biodiesel engines.

How to Dispose of Fluorescent Tubes

Fluorescent tubes are all over the place especially in office buildings, garages and kitchens. These tubes contain a small amount of mercury and can be hazardous to your health if broken, so you need to handle them with care and dispose of them properly. You cannot simply throw them away in your garbage. They are considered universal waste and are not accepted by most waste management companies so you need to locate a recycling program in your area with a drop-off service.

So how to dispose of light bulbs?

If you ever happen to break a fluorescent tube, get away from it immediately and shut off any A/C or heat in your home so it does not recirculate the mercury. Place a respirator designed for paint over your face, then carefully put the broken pieces in an airtight container and find a location to drop it off.



Mar 8, 2014 10:36am
Do restaurants accept your used oil without charge?
Mar 8, 2014 12:33pm
Yes, if they agree to take it, it will be, or should be without charge because most of them sell it for biodiesel products. If they want to charge you, look elsewhere. It's the same setup as auto parts stores that accept old motor oil. They accept it free of charge because they sell it to recyclers. I wouldn't take a cup at a time to a restaurant though. Wait for a gallon. I personally don't use a lot of cooking oil so I couldn't fill up a gallon jug in a years time, but that would be the way to do it.
Mar 20, 2014 9:07pm
Wow, I wasn't aware of carpet, worn out jeans, or shingles being recyclable. I appreciate your warning about shutting off any A/C or heat if a fluorescent tube gets broken. Mercury toxicity is a definite risk to children, adults, and developing fetuses.
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  1. "What is Hot Mix Asphalt Pavement?." Asphalt Pavement Association of Michigan. 8/01/2015 <Web >

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