How to Recycle & What Items are Recyclable? (105 Tips)

Recycling, instead of tossing items in the garbage, is an act that benefits generations to come. Reducing litter not only beautifies our land but also helps prevent ocean pollution from harming delicate underwater ecosystems.

But figuring out what items are recyclable, where, and how, can require a bit of research. Each locality has its own regulations and requirements for recycling, but you can always check with your local recycling center’s guidelines.

105 Ways to Recycle:

Listed below are items that can be recycled in a variety of ways.

Aerosol Cans (Hairspray, Paint, Etc.)

First, spray out all the products and make sure there’s nothing left in the can. Aerosol cans cannot be recycled if there is still product inside. Then, remove the plastic cap – if the cap is made from #1 or #2 plastic, it can be tossed in curbside recycling.

Some empty aerosol cans can be recycled curbside, and some must be dropped off at a household hazardous waste (HHW) center. Check with your locality’s regulations.

Aluminum Cans

Once rinsed out, these aluminum cans can always be recycled curbside. There is no need to crush them first.

Antiperspirant and Deodorant

The plastic tubes are usually made of plastic #2, plastic #4, and plastic #5. Check to see if your local recycler accepts these plastics. If not, TerraCycle accepts all antiperspirant and deodorant tubes through their mail-in partnership program with Tom’s of Maine.

Appliances

Yard sales, selling online, giving to young adults moving into their first apartment, donating to Goodwill, or selling parts to a scrap metal yard are all great options for various household appliances, from blenders to microwaves.

If you are replacing your appliance from a store, check to see if that store will pick up your old appliance and handle its recycling for you.

Baby Gear (Cribs, Strollers, Playpens, Bassinets, etc.)

Thrift stores have strict guidelines for these. LoadUp accepts nursery furniture and gives them to charities. Enter your zip code on their website to find out their pickup fee. Target accepts and recycles all brands of car seats and booster seats during their trade-in events.

Baking Paper (Also known as Parchment Paper)

Remove the metal teeth before recycling the paper packaging. Unbleached baking paper is biodegradable. The non-stick baking paper must be discarded in the trash.

Baking Tray

If it’s made of aluminum, then you can put it in curbside recycling.

Batteries, Alkaline

These will need to go in an HHW collection. County websites will alert you when these collections take place. Purchasing a battery recycling kit from Batterysolutions.com will handle the recycling of any type of battery from anywhere in North America.

Batteries, Carbon–Zinc

Like alkaline batteries, these will need to go in an HHW collection. Purchasing a battery recycling kit from Batterysolutions.com will handle the recycling of carbon-zinc batteries as well.

Batteries, Hybrid Car

The Home Depot will recycle hybrid car batteries. Local scrap yards and Battery Recyclers of America will pay for your old battery. If a mechanic replaces the battery for you, the car shop will keep the old battery and recycle it for you.

Batteries, Laptop

Best Buy will recycle many electronics, including laptop batteries.

Blankets, Towels, Sheets, Pillows, Bathroom Rugs

Pet shelters accept these! They can bring real comfort to a scared and lonely animal awaiting adoption.

Blinds & Curtains

First, see if any friends or family could make use of your blinds or curtains. Call your local recycling plant to ask if they accept blinds made from PVC; they will accept blinds made from aluminum. Be prepared to disassemble them and remove fabric cords.

Recycling plants do not accept painted or treated wood, so wood blinds are best donated.

Textile recyclers will accept curtains and Roman shades. Most bamboo blinds are biodegradable, so composting is an option.

Blinds can be repurposed into mirror or picture frames, bookmarks, wall decorations, lampshades, trellises, and countless other creative DIY projects. Curtains can be repurposed into clothes, tapestries, or canopies.

Books

Giving books to used book stores or Goodwill, donating them to your local library or Better World Books, selling them online or at yard sales, or making DIY projects out of books are great ways to give old books new life. BookCrossing is a fun way to gift books to strangers. You can also put paperbacks in curbside recycling.

Bottle Caps, Plastic

Check your locality’s curbside recycling rules: some programs want the cap left on the bottle, some want the cap separated from the bottle, and some want no caps at all. If your bottle cap is made from plastic #5, The Preserve Gimme 5 program accepts all #5 plastics through the mail.

Bows & Arrows

Bows and arrows less than ten years old will sell on eBay or ArcheryTalk. Otherwise, donate them to your local archery club.

Bubble Wrap

Drop-offs outside pharmacies and grocery stores accept bubble wrap and other plastic packaging material along with their plastic bag collections. Find a drop-off near you here.

Cardboard

Cardboard is recyclable, whether it’s from shoe boxes, dish detergent, clean food/drink containers, paper bags, toilet paper/paper towel tubes, or packaging. Make sure to flatten the big boxes and keep them out of the rain so they don’t get wet.

Carpeting

Type in your zipcode here to find a carpet recycler near you!

Cars

Goodwill accepts cars and will even tow your car for free. Depending on the quality of the car, you can resell it yourself, sell it to a used car facility, or remove all the parts and sell them individually to a scrap metal yard.

Cassette Tapes

TerraCycle has a Zero Waste Box option for cassette tapes. Alternatively, you can donate them to friends, family, and local record shops.

CDs, DVDs, Floppy Disks, VHS Tapes, Hard Drives

Mail these items to GreenDisk! They will recycle them, and lots of other “technotrash” for a small fee. Alternatively, you can mail CDs to the CD Recycling Center of America for free. You can toss the CD’s paper lyric booklet in curbside recycling.

Cell Phones

First, clear your old phone of all personal data, or transfer it to your new phone. Then, remove the battery and recycle it in a Call2Recycle bin at The Home Depot. You can then sell your old phone online or at Staples, or donate it to Cell Phones for Soldiers.

Chalk & Chalkboards

Daycares and community centers can reuse your old chalk and chalkboards. Chalk is also biodegradable. Local artists may also find a creative use for chalk lying around your house.

Cigarette Waste

Even cigarette butts are recyclable now! TerraCycle accepts “extinguished cigarettes, cigarette filters, loose tobacco pouches, outer plastic packaging, inner foil packaging, rolling paper and ash” according to their website.

Make sure the cigarettes are fully extinguished and dry. This service from TerraCycle is free, though you have to be over the age of 21 to use it.

The Santa Fe Natural Tobacco Company donates $1 to the Keep America Beautiful Cigarette Litter Prevention Program for every pound of cigarette waste recycled through this program.

TerraCycle also sells cigarette recycling receptacles to place on street corners, parks, or outside businesses.

Clothes

Sell online (Esty, Depop, Facebook Marketplace, etc.), give hand-me-downs to friends or family, or give to a consignment shop. Patagonia, Nike, The North Face, and lots of other brands will recycle clothes for you – sometimes even if it’s not their brand!

Clothes Hangers

Dry cleaners accept wire clothes hangers. Consignment shops and scrap metal recyclers may be interested as well. Many curbside recycling programs do not accept them, but it depends on the locality.

Coffee Cups

Plastic lids and cups and cardboard sleeves are recyclable. Paper cups for hot beverages are not recyclable. To avoid needing them, keep a reusable mug handy in your vehicle; many coffee shops allow customers to use their own.

Computers

Best Buy recycles old computers (and computer batteries), as do many other computer manufacturers and electronics stores. Just make sure you clear your computer of all personal data first.

Construction & Demolition Materials

Brick, concrete, lumber, asphalt, and other building materials can be reused and recycled for other projects. Your local Builders’ Association, environmental organizations, recycling department, and/or Habitat for Humanity ReStore will accept these items, or point you in the right direction.

Cooking Oil

Dumping excess cooking oil down the drain will clog your pipes. Instead, allow it to cool, then store it in a container. Keep it in a cool, safe place, and don’t mix it with any other liquid. Once your container is full, drop it off at a recycling center – locate yours here.

Cooking oil can be recycled into biodiesel, fertilizer, or soap. Your local fire department may accept cooking oil. Vegetable oils can be composted in small amounts.

Cork

Wine corks, plain cork kitchen supplies, and cork coasters are biodegradable. Toss them in the compost bin.

Cutlery & Utensils

Antique shops may be interested in high-quality, vintage pieces. Stainless steel utensils can be recycled at the scrap metal yard.

Knives must be wrapped safely and securely before disposal; they are too dangerous to recycle.

Wooden utensils (along with any wooden dishware) can be composted.

Dental Items

TerraCycle has teamed up with Colgate to recycle any brand of toothpaste tubes and caps, manual toothbrushes, and their accompanying packaging. Their website details how to ship your old items to their facility and how to find a drop-off location near you.

Contact electric toothbrush companies regarding their return programs or take your old electric toothbrush to an e-waste collection site. Some toothpaste brands, like Twice, have tubes and caps that are appropriate for curbside recycling.

Dishware

Many thrift shops will take fine china, glass cookware, and ceramics. Broken items and items that include broken glass must be disposed of. Note that glassware and Pyrex cannot be recycled like regular glass jars, because of their different melting points.

International Association of Dinnerware Matchers will connect you with trusted dealers and collectors who are interested in your rare china, glassware, and flatware pieces.

Drywall

Did you know that old drywall can fertilize the soil? Take off its paper backing, crush it into a powder, and sprinkle it over your backyard. Drywall comprises gypsum, which lowers pH levels in the soil. You could also toss it in your compost bin, use it as a canvas to paint on, or check to see if your locality accepts drywall as part of curbside recycling.

Electronic Waste

eRecyc offers nationwide pickups for e-waste. Goodwill accepts various functional electronic devices, and Best Buy accepts everything from video games to televisions. Note that Best Buy limits three items per day per household, and there are recycling fees for televisions, laptops, and monitors.

Engine Oil

Retailers that sell engine oil (ex: AutoZone) will recycle your old engine oil if you bring it in. Service stations accept clean motor oil as well.

Envelopes

Envelopes are recyclable, even those that have see-through plastic over the address! Go ahead and toss your junk mail and envelopes in curbside recycling.

Exercise Equipment

Treadmills, ellipticals, and exercise bikes take up a lot of space in the home. If you’re not using them, it’s best to sell them online, give them to friends or family, or call a junk removal company. You could also donate them to a local community space, high school, or nursing home.

Food Waste

Toss it in the compost bin! Make sure anything you put in curbside recycling is not contaminated with food waste.

Furniture

Goodwill accepts bed frames, household furniture, and lawn furniture. You can also sell online or give to college students in need of kitchen sets, sofas, etc.

Glass

Curbside recycling accepts glass from food/beverage packaging, as long as it’s not broken! Cookware glass, crystal, mirrors, windows, and automotive glass are not acceptable for curbside recycling, but local recycling centers, home improvement stores, and grocery stores may accept them.

Games & Toys

People love to buy discounted board games and kids’ toys at thrift shops. Charities and churches may have toy drives as well, especially around the holiday season.

Glue

In most cases, you can recycle items that contain glue and/or adhesives, as long as there is not an excessive amount. TerraCycle’s Zero Waste Box collects glue sticks and bottles for a fee. Note that all TerraCycle’s Zero Waste Boxes require full boxes before you ship them off.

Guns & Ammunition

The University of Massachusetts – Dartmouth’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship has a created a prototype of a device that can recycle unused ammunition, but it’s not yet widely available. It’s best to take your ammo to a police station, a hazardous waste collection site, or a gun range. You can donate or sell any unwanted firearms to the National Center for Unwanted Firearms.

Hairdryers & Curling Irons

Schedule a pickup from All Green Recycling. While you’re at it, gather your other appliances and e-waste: they accept a host of items, from calculators to copiers.

Irons & Ironing Boards

Appliance repair shops will take old steam irons off your hands and resell them for parts. Scrap metal yards will take ironing boards. Remove the fabric top and take it to a textile recycler or local costume designer who may have use for it. Functional ironing boards can be donated to thrift stores.

Jewelry

Pawnshops will pay you for jewelry containing gold, silver, platinum, and most any gemstone. Antique stores, consignment shops, eBay, Craigslist are other options for selling.

Theater groups and daycare centers may enjoy old costume jewelry.

DIY projects with jewelry, like putting rings that are too small on a necklace, are a fun and creative way to keep your jewelry that no longer fits.

Jewelry Boxes

Jewelry boxes may be recyclable, depending on the material. You can also repurpose them as gift boxes or storage containers, return them to the store where they were purchased, or donate them to a secondhand store.

If you are purchasing jewelry but don’t need the box it comes in, just tell the store clerk.

Laminate Flooring

Contact the manufacturer for recycling. Laminate flooring is recyclable, but not using the curbside bin.

Lamps

Tossing lamps in the garbage can lead to mercury pollution, so check out LampRecycle.org for various recycling options, from hardware stores to local government collections.

Light Bulbs

IKEA and home improvement stores recycle old bulbs but call ahead to double check first. Search Recycle Nation’s database to see which recycling centers near you accept which kinds of light bulbs. Lampmaster Recycling and EZ on the Earth have mail-in programs, but you have to pay.

Lipstick

TerraCycle accepts mailed-in lipstick tubes. Be sure to use or remove as much product as possible beforehand.

Lotion Bottles

TerraCycle’s mail-in program also accepts empty lotion bottles. Again, try to clean out as much product as possible beforehand.

Magazines

Most curbside recycling programs accept magazines. Still-relevant magazines can be donated to your local library or retirement home.

Makeup

TerraCycle accepts any brand of makeup container or packaging. MAC rewards customers with freebies if they bring in six empty containers from various Mac products. Other makeup brands offer similar deals.

Mattresses

If you’re buying a new mattress, ask the store if they’d be willing to pick up and recycle your old one. Certain recycling localities will accept mattresses as bulk items. Secondhand stores are another option.

Media Players

Goodwill accepts televisions, radios, tablets, iPads, speakers, DVD players, and projectors; schools may also appreciate the donation!

Metal

Toss aluminum cans and foil and steel cans in curbside recycling. Pawnshops will pay for your silver, copper, brass, and gold pieces. Coin shops or auctions are options for getting rid of coin collections.

Microwaves

Students going to college, thrift stores, and Best Buy will accept old microwaves.

Mirrors

Mirror glass is not recyclable, so it must be reused or repurposed. Broken glass should be disposed of for safety reasons, but mirrors in good shape can be sold to Craigslist, eBay, consignment shops, flea markets, and antique shops.

Mirrors can be remade into beautiful art pieces; if you’re not a DIY-er, reach out to local artists to see if they’d like to take it off your hands.

Mobility Devices (Wheelchairs, Walkers, Canes)

American Red Cross may offer pickup options in your area. Unfortunately, many nursing homes may not accept these items because of liability, and Goodwill tends to not accept the bulkier items. Reselling online could be a good option, or donating to individuals who need them.

Newspaper

Curbside recycling accepts newspapers!

Notebooks

Toss notebooks in curbside recycling as well! If you can, remove the spiral binding first.

Thermostats Containing Mercury

Thermostat Recycling Corporation is here to help! Type in your zip code and find the place closest to you to recycle your mercury-containing thermostat for free.

Office Equipment

Goodwill accepts answering machines, fax machines, desktop monitors, and other gadgets. Also, consider donating them to a nonprofit or a startup in your area.

Paint

Donate indoor/outdoor paint to a local theater, community center, church, charity, or Habitat for Humanity ReStore. Steel paint cans can often be recycled curbside.

Oil and lead-based paint are hazardous waste, so check with your locality for proper disposal. You can ship your paintbrushes and trays to TerraCycle, which will recycle them for a fee.

Paint Cans

Most curbside recycling programs accept steel paint cans but call your municipality first to double check, as the paint may be considered a hazardous material in your area.

Paper

Toss dry paper in your curbside recycling! Blackout any sensitive information on the paper with ink. Paper lined with plastic, like in some food containers, might not be accepted in your locality’s curbside recycling program, so call ahead first.

Pens and Markers

TerraCycle’s program accepts all writing instruments and packaging. Keep in mind that this program only accepts donations in bulk, so consider hosting a school-wide donation, or donating to a university that already has this TerraCycle program in place.

Phone Books

Phone books are considered mixed-waste paper, so they are safe to toss in curbside recycling!

Pizza Boxes

Even with a little stubborn cheese or grease on the box, pizza boxes can be tossed in curbside recycling.

Plastic, Generic

Plastic items marked with a #1 or #2 can be tossed in curbside recycling – this includes most food and cleaning product containers. For plastic types 3-7, call your local recycling center to see if they will accept them, or if they can point you in the right direction to safely recycle them.

Plastic Bags

Collection containers outside grocery stores or pharmacies accept plastic bags for recycling.

Plastic Bottles

You can absolutely include plastic bottles in curbside recycling. To optimize space at the processing facility, first crush your plastic bottles. To do this, remove all the liquid, remove the cap, squeeze all the air out, then put the cap back on. Water bottle caps are recyclable in most localities.

Plumbing Fixtures

Contact your local municipality. Habitat for Humanity ReStore accepts items in good condition.

Printer Cartridges, Ink and Toner

Drop them off in the recycling collections at Best Buy, Staples, Office Depot, and Walmart. You can also mail in your empty HP cartridges back to the company.

Printers

Goodwill accepts printers, as well as retailers such as Target, Best Buy, Office Depot, and Staples.

Propane Tanks

Blue Rhino retailers allow you to drop off used up propane tanks and swap them out for new ones! Use their Propane Finder to find a location near you. Blue Rhino (and other propane retailers) will also recycle unused tanks for free. Just place your old tank beside the Blue Rhino display in the store.

Quartz

Quartz is an occurring material, so it is recyclable, but not through curbside programs. Very few programs accept quartz. If you are renovating your kitchen, most countertop installers will recycle old quartz countertops for you for free. Consider using old quartz slabs to make DIY projects for the home, like shelves. Or sell quartz remnants on RemnantSwap.

Razors & Blades

TerraCycle has teamed up with Gillette and Venus to recycle any brand of razors, blades, and their accompanying packaging. Their website details how to ship your old razors to their facility, or how to find a drop-off location near you.

Refrigerators & Freezers

Energy Star appliance retailers will recycle your old fridge or freezer when you buy a new one. Your state’s electricity provider, municipal waste management, and scrap metal yards may offer complimentary pickup options as well.

Road Vehicles

Goodwill take any truck, RV, or motorcycle, even if it’s not running, and tows it for free! Selling your road vehicle is of course an option if it’s still functioning. For individual parts, take metal to the scrapyard, put unbroken window glass in your curbside recycling, and offer old car fluids to auto parts stores.

Rubber

Check your local recycling facility’s website to see if they allow spare rubber drop-offs. Local rubber mulch companies may be interested in recycling it for you as well. Donate rubber bands to schools or post offices in your area.

Rubber Tires

Check to see if your local recycling center, tire retailers, or car shop will recycle them for you. Or you can repurpose them as a tire swing or other DIY project. You can even donate them to a zoo for a monkey to play with!

Scrap Metal (Such as Copper, Brass, and Iron)

Only aluminum and tin cans can be recycled curbside. For other scrap metals, use the iScrap App to find a scrapyard that will purchase your extra copper, brass, or iron fixtures.

Shoes

Thrift stores accept shoes. If they’re in great condition, you can sell them online on sites like Poshmark. Brands like Nike and Asics offer their own recycling programs – sometimes accepting brands that aren’t their own. If you don’t want to part with your favorite worn-out shoes, shoe cobblers are pros at bringing old shoes back from the dead.

Smartphones

Best Buy will take your old smartphone and charger off your hands. Make sure to clear your personal data first and transfer it to your new device if needed. Apple stores encourage customers to trade in their devices (in any condition) for store credit or complimentary recycling.

Socks

H&M accepts socks (even mismatched ones) of any brand – drop yours off at a garment collection box in-store! Goodwill or The Salvation Army also accept socks. If your socks are made of 100% natural material, like cotton or wool, you can compost them. You can also turn holey socks into pet toys or cleaning rags.

Sponges

Sponges made from natural materials are recyclable, biodegradable, and compostable. Sponges containing various types of plastics are not recyclable. Consider reusing them as packing material.

Sports Equipment

Consider donating to a school or youth organization. Goodwill also accepts working bicycles, exercise weights, sports jerseys, and similar equipment.

Steel

Steel cans can be recycled curbside. Otherwise, take your steel scraps to the local scrap metal yard for recycling.

Stove & Oven

Scrapyards can make use of these items. Moving them yourself is difficult, however; junk removal companies can transport these bulky appliances to the scrapyard, or to nonprofits that could make use of still-functioning items.

Stuffed Animals

Goodwill, The Salvation Army, pet shelters, and TerraCycle’s program all accept stuffed animals. Of course, gifting them to children, you know, is always an option. Certain stuffed animals, like limited edition Beanie Babies, can be sold online as collectors’ items.

Tape

Contact your local recycler: some packaging tape is recyclable, some is not.

Tech Gadgets

Best Buy accepts most all tech gadgets, from radios to iPods. Goodwill accepts working televisions and media items as well.

Tools (for toolkit or yard/garden equipment)

Goodwill or Salvation Army will accept hammers, drills, lawnmowers, rakes, and the like.

Umbrellas

You can either repurpose the whole umbrella as a decoration or dismantle it and recycle its parts. Put #1 and #2 plastics in curbside recycling. Donate spare wood to Habitat for Humanity ReStores. Sell scrap metal to a scrap metal yard.

Vinyl (bulk PVC)

The Vinyl Institute has an extensive directory of recycling centers that accepts this type of plastic.

Vinyl Records

Giving your vinyl records to friends or family, or donating to secondhand stores are the best options for disposal; plus, it feels good to share music!

Water Vehicles

Goodwill accepts boats, jet skis, kayaks, and canoes!

Wire

Best Buy accepts old cables and chargers. Take copper wires to the scrap metal yard. You could also sell wires to electronic liquidators or on Craigslist.

Wood

Curbside recycling accepts paper, but not wood. Small pieces of wood are compostable. Untreated wood can be reused at Habitat for Humanity ReStores. Instead of putting treated or painted wood in the landfill, consider reusing it for your next home improvement project.

Don’t see what you need to recycle on this list? Go to RecycleNation.com, type in any item you want to recycle with your zip code, and your options will pop up on a map. From holiday lights to humidifiers, this site will help fill in the gaps for any questionable item.

Also, Freecycle.org shows items available for pickup in your area. It’s like an online yard sale, but everything is free and ready for reuse. Membership is free as well.

Final Thoughts on How to Recycle & What Items are Recyclable

Recycling helps to conserve energy, for example, aluminum and steel manufactured from recycled materials use 95% and 70% less energy than making it from scratch. Recycled paper uses 40% less energy than the production of paper from raw materials.

Recycling is a key aspect of achieving sustainability and protecting the future of our planet. The greater emphasis and attention society place on recycling, the healthier the planet will be as fewer resources and materials will end up in landfills or incinerators.

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