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How to Recycle Almost Anything

woman sorting out used books to recycle

It’s estimated that 32% of Americans recycle, disposing of their newspapers, cans, and cardboard boxes into recycling bins each week. That’s a lot—but did you know you can recycle so much more?

Recycling keeps old items out of landfills, protects our planet, and is a small step we can all take to make a significant difference. Here’s how to recycle eight everyday household items.

How to Recycle Batteries

Discarding batteries can be a head-scratcher. While they can be recycled, you can’t just toss them in the curbside bin. The nation’s largest and most reliable battery recycling program, Call2Recycle® will take standard alkaline (AAA, AA, D or C, etc.) or specialty batteries off your hands. Simply drop them off at a convenient location near you or ship them in to be recycled. 

Your area may have unique battery recycling restrictions, so always consult with your waste hauler or hazardous waste collector to get more information before moving forward. 

How to Recycle Books

Because paper and cardboard are recyclable materials, you can recycle books once you’re done reading them or don’t need them on your shelf.

You don’t always have to trash things you recycle. Instead, consider “upcycling” them and giving them a new life for others to enjoy. Recycle books in good condition by donating them to a school, thrift store, charity, or Little Free Library in your community. If your books have seen better days, you can usually toss paperbacks in your curbside recycling bin. For hardcover books, remove the pages from the binding and throw those in, too. 

How to Recycle Clothing

Clothing and textiles are some of the most commonly found items in landfills, so it’s essential to recycle your old or outgrown clothing responsibly.

If your clothes are still wearable but aren’t your size or style anymore, try donating them to thrift stores or shelters, selling them online or to resale stores, or handing them down to friends or family members.

Even if you think your clothes are too worn or stained to be donated, taking them to a charity or a municipal recycling center will allow them to resell the salvage to secondhand clothing recyclers. These recyclers will then reuse and repurpose the items.

They may recycle and convert them to other items, like wiping rags, or recycle them into fiber to make new things, like home insulation or carpet padding.

stack of folded clothes in cardboard recycling box

How to Recycle Ink Cartridges

Recycling objects with electronic components (like ink cartridges) can be tough, as they can contaminate water and soil as they decompose.

Luckily, many manufacturers, including Dell and HP, and major office supply stores, like Staples or Office Depot, will accept their old ink cartridges via mail or drop-off and recycle them for you.

How to Recycle Kitchen Appliances

Has your old coffee maker finally bit the dust? Don’t go hauling it out to the garbage just yet. Some kitchen appliances like toaster ovens, air fryers, microwaves, stoves, or ovens can often be recycled, donated, or disposed of safely through various programs—including manufacturer or retail trade-ins, where they’ll take your old appliances after you buy new ones.

You can also consider selling an appliance for parts to a local scrap yard, electronic parts store, or thrift store.

How to Recycle Lightbulbs

Halogen and incandescent lightbulbs should be thrown away once they’re burnt out, as there’s usually not enough glass or plastic to recover through recycling.

LED bulbs can be taken to a dedicated light bulb recycler (like your local home improvement store) to be disposed of properly. Similarly, CFL bulbs and fluorescent tube lights should be taken to retailers like The Home Depot instead of thrown away or taken out with your curbside recycling, as they contain small amounts of mercury, which is toxic to humans and pets.

How to Recycle Paint

Whether you just finished a remodel or your paint sample jars have taken over the garage, keeping paint around your house isn’t doing you any good—but letting it contaminate a landfill isn’t, either.

Donating your gently used paint to places like Habitat for Humanity ReStores, local theaters, or charities is a chance to help people in your community who could use extra supplies.

That said, oil-based paint is considered hazardous waste, so check with your local hazardous waste collector for drop-off locations and proper handling procedures.

How to Recycle Phones

When you’re due for an upgrade, you have a few options to keep your old phone out of the junk drawer. Many cellular carriers offer buyback, trade-in, or recycling programs, so ask your carrier what they can do.

There are non-carrier recycling options, as well. Call2Recycle also offers cell phone recycling programs for all models, brands, and carriers, as does ecoATM, which has over 5,000 phone-recycling kiosks.

It’s Easy Being Green

While recycling is a simple way to be kinder to our Earth, it isn’t the only way to make an impact. Read our article, “It’s So Easy Being Green: Changes for a More Eco-Friendly Home,” for additional modifications you can make to help conserve energy and prevent air, water, and noise pollution.