There are a number of items we recycle on a regular basis. We put our paper, plastics, and aluminum out for curbside pickup. When our county holds a household hazardous waste day, we use it to recycle electronics, paints, and anything else that needs to be safely disposed. And when our linens become threadbare, we “recycle” those towels, sheets, and blankets by donating them to a local animal shelter.
What I didn’t know is that there are plenty of other products we use on a daily basis that can be recycled. That’s good to know in time for America Recycles Day, occurring November 15. According to Recyclebank, which offers rewards based on how much households recycle, here are 10 things you likely didn’t know you could recycle:
- Pet Fur: In our house we usually “recycle” pet fur, along with dryer lint, in one of two ways—by making fire starters for our fireplace, or by placing the fur in our compost pile. Turns out pet fur can be reused to make the mats and containment booms that companies use after an oil spill. Matter of Trust, a San Francisco-based nonprofit, uses donations of clean pet fur to make both the mats and booms from recycled pantyhose (see tip 6 below for more on how to recycle pantyhose). These designs effectively soak up oil without requiring the use of new resources.
- Bras: I’ve often donated bras when I bring my items to Goodwill, assuming they’re not too worn out to benefit someone else. Another way to recycle your bras is to send them to the Bosom Buddies Bra Recycling program, run by a textile recycling company. It donates bras of all shapes and sizes to local shelters, or redistributes them through exporters and organizations to women in developing nations. You can mail in your old bras or bring them to a drop-off location near you.
- Glasses and Hearing Aids: The Lions Club often collects old glasses, and recycles the frames to make new pairs of glasses for those living in developing nations who need vision correction but can’t afford glasses. (I’ve worn glasses since I was seven. I know how expensive they can be!) Another program that takes glasses as well as hearing aids is New Eyes for the Needy.
- Mattresses: Before buying your next mattress, see if the retailer will take your old one. Several mattress retailers will now accept used mattresses for recycling. Used mattresses are sent to a mattress recycling center, where they are turned into fiber for clothing, wood chips, foam products, and scrap metal. Check out the Earth 911 website for mattress recycling options near you.
- Greeting Cards: I’ll often recycle last year’s holiday cards into tags for this year’s holiday gifts. But if you’re not too crafty, you can send old cards to the St. Jude’s Ranch for Children Recycled Card Program, which turns old greeting cards into new ones.
- Pantyhose: Companies like No Nonsense recycle your old, nylon pantyhose by grinding them down and transforming them into park benches, playground equipment, carpets, and even toys. Here are two ways to reuse pantyhose at home for free: stuff them with old t-shirts to make a draft stopper that you put in front of drafty doors in winter, or fill them with ice melt, and put them in your gutters to keep any water that might collect there from freezing up.
- Compact Discs: Even though most music these days is downloaded, there are still plenty of CDs out in the world. You can send your discs to The CD Recycling Center, which will shred them into a fine powder that’s later melted down, and used for plastic in automotive and building materials.
- Tennis Balls: There are a few ways to recycle tennis balls. You can use them in the dryer, to help move clothes around and dry faster. Dogs also like old tennis balls as toys. And teachers who don’t like the sound of scraping desks and chairs will gladly take tennis balls off your hands so they can use them on furniture legs.
- Wine corks: Ever wonder where cork flooring comes from? Well, an organization called reCork turns wine corks into flooring tiles, along with building insulation, automotive gaskets, craft materials, soil conditioner, and sports equipment.
- Running Shoes: Even the most worn-out shoes can be recycled into building materials! Check out Recycled Runners for shoe recycling facilities and organizations near you. This is good to know, because I’ve always wanted to donate my daughters’ sneakers, but since they were too stinky, I felt bad handing them down to someone else.
Of course, this list just scratches the surface of where you can go to recycle things you use in your everyday life. One “service” I continue to rely on to get rid of things I no longer need is Freecycle, where one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. It’s the ultimate way to recycle household items you no longer want or need—by giving them away for free to others.
Leah Ingram is the author of 14 books, including two on frugal living: Suddenly Frugal: How to Live Happier and Healthier on Less (Adams Media, 2010) and Toss, Keep, Sell: The Suddenly Frugal Guide to Getting Organized and Making Money from Your Stuff (Adams Media, 2010). She is also the founder of the popular frugal-living blog called Suddenly Frugal. Right now if you subscribe to Suddenly Frugal, Leah will send you an exclusive freebie. Each week here on Parade.com she’ll be covering different money-saving ideas as well as profiling frugal celebrities. If you have an idea, let her know. In the meantime, follow her on Twitter @suddenlyfrugal and “Like” Suddenly Frugal on Facebook.