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7 Things That are Hard to Recycle

Filed Under: Essential Skills, Know-How

candy wrappersCorbis

In a perfect world, everything would be as easy to recycle as plastic bottles and cardboard boxes. But just because some items are harder to set free than others, it doesn't mean you should just toss them in the trash.

Keep in mind, the key word here is hard...NOT impossible. Following are some of the most common recycling conundrums. "What do I do with these candy wrappers, packing peanuts, etc.?" Well, read on...

1. Candy wrappers and product packaging are probably loading up your trash can, right? They don't have to. You can make your own DIY reuse products -- Starburst bracelets, anyone? Or just give the materials to TerraCycle where they'll donate money to a cause of your choice for each piece: get three pennies for your charity for every Stonyfield yogurt container, or two cents for candy wrappers. Once they get your shipments of trash, they turn them into products like tote bags or corkboards that people can then buy on the site.

fluorescent light bulbsGetty Images

2. Fluorescent light bulbs
contain small amounts of mercury that seep into the solid waste stream when discarded like regular trash. The solution? Check out Lamp Recycle, where you'll find your closest light bulb drop-off location (it might even be as convenient as The Home Depot ). The mercury in will be captured and reused for new bulbs.

rugsGetty Images

3. Carpets
and rugs made of natural fibers can be composted -- or if you're more squeamish, find your nearest compost center on Earth 911. Synthetic carpets can be recycled, but you may have a hard time doing it yourself because of the rug's size. The Carpet America Recovery Effort will direct you to a local business that has the capacity to recycle large rugs. Otherwise you can contact a local installer or contractor on your own to see if they'll do it for you.


4. Books
should be donated to friends, public libraries or thrift shops. Or take advantage of Book Mooch, where giving away your well-loved books builds points that earn you a new read. Books in unreadable condition? Many college bookstores have a recycling box from Green Earth Book Recyclers, or you can send them directly to Book Destruction, where you'll get a notarized certificate guaranteeing that your books were processed and repulped.

towelsGetty Images

5. Towels and fabric
can be composted, so long as they're made of cotton, wool, linen and silk (see #6 for more.) Depending on the size and conditions of the pieces, you can also donate them to child care centers where they'll get new lives as craft supplies, or to animal care centers where they'll be reused as rags.

packing peanutsGetty Images

6. Packing peanuts
come in two materials: plastic and vegetables derivative. Put one of yours under water to find out what you have -- the vegetable derivitive ones will dissenigrate, so you can simply soak a batch at a time and let them go down the drain once they're fully dissolved. If they're plastic, try dropping them off at a chain packing store, like Mail Boxes Etc. Or check The Plastic Loose Fill Council for more nearby drop off locations.

batteriesGetty Images

Batteries can be dropped off at your local electronics store. Most shops have a bin for these and for good reason: by recycling and not trashing dead batteries, you keep hazardous heavy metals from getting into landfills and, eventually, the air. Plus, the recovered plastic and metals can help make new batteries.

Left with items that you're sure not sure how to get rid of? Check Earth 911's comprehensive site for donation info, curbside regulations and special recycling events in your area.

  • garth

    if you have rechargeable batteries that need to be recycled, or exotic chemistries you're not sure about, check call2recycle here:
    it's a clearinghouse for battery recycling info. it was formerly (the URL will resolve to the new site)

  • Sally Green

    Great info I would also suggest using
    Save Money, Save The Planet specializes in the recycling of textbooks, DVDs, CDs. Buying used textbooks not only saves you money, but cuts down on greenhouse gases caused by the manufacturing of new textbooks.
    With you're not only saving trees, you are saving some green.

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