Everyday Things You Aren't Recycling, but Should Be


Unless you're talking about ex-girlfriends or '80s haircuts, you should always recycle. Sure, you may feel good about yourself because you save bottles and cans and carry a canvas tote to the Trader Joe's, but the fact remains -- there are SO MANY MORE household products that can be reused and reinvented if you'd just stop throwing them in the trash. Here are 20 such everyday items.


All those “Most Improved” player awards need to get tossed at some point, right? After all, Little League was a long time ago, and your folks didn't convert your old bedroom into a yoga studio so they could store your stuff in the basement for twenty years. Many recycling programs will break down your hard-earned, math-team accolades into parts used to create new trophies, that will in turn be given to kids today for, you know, "participating."

Used motor oil

As anybody who's ever changed their car's oil knows, you're not really suppose to dump it in the woods. And while motor oil shouldn't run in an engine again, it can be completely cleaned and used as fuel and to make petroleum products. Oil-change facilities like Jiffy Lube will often take used oil off your hands.


As everyone needs a little support, bras are obviously one of the most in-demand clothing items in the world. Never toss a bra into the trash without first seeing if it's in shape for The Bra Recyclers and organizations like it that donate used bras to those who need a lift. 

VHS tapes

If you still have any of these lying around (again, in your parents basement?), you should step out of the '90s and bid them -- as you did your denim vest and assortment of scrunchies -- a fond adieu. But wait, definitely don’t throw these in the garbage; VHS tapes can release harmful dioxins if/when the plastic is melted. If you really care about the air you breathe, check in with an e-waste collection program or send tapes to Green Disk, which is a “techno trash” disposal company. Alternately, you can remove the actual film and send it to a special disposal company while recycling the case as you would any other plastic item.

Christmas lights

Back in the Christmas Vacation days of holiday decorating, one bad bulb would ruin the whole bunch. If you still have these old strands of incandescent lights, see if your local home improvement store participates in a holiday light recycling program. The Home Depot accepted them last year and even offered coupons for your tangled mess.

Brita water filters

Preserve, a company that make products from 100% recyclable materials, will recycle the plastic of old Brita filters for you. All you have to do is follow these steps. In addition, Whole Foods often has collection bins for filters in their stores. 


Crayons break. Sometimes crayons break in the middle of your Kindergarten masterpiece, and you're forced to finish the sky with periwinkle, ruining the Valentine you were about to give your crush and by extension your life forever… but we digress. Broken crayons of any color can actually be donated. They will then be used to create new crayons that will bring joy to love-struck youngsters everywhere.

Garden hoses

Just because you ran over that garden hose with the lawn mower, doesn't mean that you have to tell your wife and/or throw it away. Nope, it may no longer carry water but it does have life -- check out Pinterest for a bunch of ways to reuse a garden hose. You can even make a garden-hose chandelier to impress said wife with your master DIY skills. Just remember to replace the damn hose before she tries to water the flowers.


You should definitely recycle those crocs, like really. They’ve lived a good life. It’s okay to let them go. Just don't give them to mother nature, because unless she's a nurse, she doesn’t want 'em either. And those bad boys won’t decompose. Instead, send them to Soles4Souls and help out somebody in need.

Ink/toner cartridges

Unless you're still the guy who prints out all of his ESPN Fantasy Football chat transcripts to read on the subway ride home, most of us aren't doing a lot printing these days. But if you are, Staples will actually buy back old cartridges for two dollars a pop in Staples Rewards points. Which, unfortunately, you cannot use to buy Tyrod Taylor in you waiver wire auction.


When it’s finally time to dismantle that prized LEGO Death Star, send the building blocks to Brick Recycler; they will donate them to foster kids. And you will no longer be a 38yr-old man with toys on your desk. 

Low-energy light bulbs

You know those light bulbs that hardly provide any light and fit neatly into your Ostana wall lamp? Well, Ikea will take those guys back. In fact, they encourage all customers to bring back old CFLI bulbs -- which contain metal, glass, mercury, and plastic -- so that they can be properly recycled.


Despite what Hollywood might have you believe, not all old keys open doorways to magical secret gardens. Most just litter your underwear drawer, which is why you can donate any useless ones you have lying around to charity. No, seriously, companies like Keys for Hope will collect metal keys and sell them to recycling centers. And the money is given to food banks.

Running shoes

After you finish the big annual Northampton Hot Chocolate 5k Fun Run, Nike will take those worn out running shoes off your feet and transform the soles into actual sporting surfaces like courts, tracks, and turf fields as part of their Reuse-A-Shoe Program.

Wine corks

Everyone knows to recycle the wine bottle, but most forget about the cork. Recycled cork can be used for shoes, floors, and as an alternative to petroleum-based products. There are a few agencies such as ReCork, that devote themselves to saving this important material. Of course, reusing it for a crafty repurpose is also an option. Because, who doesn’t want a holiday wreath made entirely out of cork?

Greeting cards

Sure, greeting cards are paper products, so recycling grandma’s Christmas note may have already crossed your mind (don't forget to take the $15 check out first!). But St. Jude’s program takes things to another level by attaching new backs to old greeting cards, thus creating fresh all-occasion notes. Then they sell the cards and use the funds to help children in need.

Pantyhose and tights

While your legs may lose their shape in only 10 years, your Pantyhose can take up to 40 (!!) to decompose. So, send those old nylons to companies like No Nonsense, where they'll be converted into insulation or playground equipment. 

Cosmetic packaging

Sure, it's easy to just toss cosmetic packaging in the trash as you put on your new face, but a few companies want that packaging back; and they'll make the trip to the post office worth your while. For instance, MAC accepts some of their packaging back and will give you a free lipstick of your choice in return.

Sex toys

For when your butt plug craps out on you... there are a few sex toy recycling companies like Come As You Are (of course) in Toronto that accepts used toys for recycling. Gross, we know, but they do ask that you wash them first. So, next time you purchase a new vibrator, let your old one pleasure mother earth.


We assume 10 out of 10 dentists want you to recycle your toothbrush. Unless one of those dentists just hates the earth (RIP Cecil the Lion). TerraCycle recycles toothbrushes, as well as other items that don't quite fit the recycling bin. Check out their entire list for even MORE items that you can donate rather than junk. 

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Kara King is a Production Assistant at Thrillist and feels deep guilt each time she forgets to bring her tote bag to the store. Follow her convicted conscious at @karatillie.