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Recycling 101: Things You Didn’t Think Of

Recycling.

Yes, it’s important.  You know… reducing, reusing, and recycling.  We’re trying to save the planet by wasting less, producing less, and dumping less into our oceans and grounds.

My guess is that you already know about glass, metals, and paper.

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Maybe you’re even familiar with composting!  It’s a great way to reduce waste that ends up in landfills.

But did you know about textiles, batteries, and other things that can’t be recycled into the glass or paper bins, but still don’t need to go into a landfill?

Textiles

Yes, you can donate clothing or sell it to a secondhand shop.  But consider the lone sock with a hole in the toe that will never, ever find its way back to its mate, and even if it did, you will never wear this hole-y sock again.

It does not need to go into a landfill.

Instead, considering textile recycling.

H&M is one place I know I can always recycle a lone sock or a pair of jeans that are no longer wearable for anyone.  In fact, I recently recycled a “dead” pair of jeans while I was in Zagreb, Croatia!  That’s right–you can recycle textiles at many stores around the world!  The store will also provide you with a coupon for 10% off your purchase as a thank you for you recycling efforts.  While I personally don’t support H&M due to their “fast fashion” practices, I am happy to pass this coupon along to a friend.

Many people have questioned the legitimacy and effectiveness of this textile recycling program.  Public Radio International noted in 2017 that only 5-10% of the collected clothing gets turned into fibers that make new clothing.  Around 60% gets passed along as second-hand clothing.  Of the clothing produced each year, only 0.7% of the materials used are from recycled fibers.

Why is this the case?  PRI reports that this is likely because these textiles collected through the recycling program are “mechanically shredded when they’re recycled, which shortens and weakens the fibers. Textile makers generally mix recycled fibers with lots of virgin material to make fabric strong enough to use in clothing.”

And though the company has collected tens of thousands of tons of clothing to be recycled, they are producing well over one billion pieces of clothing on a yearly basis.

So, what do you think?  Is it worth it?  Do you feel morally and ethically sound recycling textiles at H&M?

PlanetAid also claims to recycle and donate clothing collected in their ubiquitous yellow bins.

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Image by PlanetAid

There are other options available locally.  For example, in Massachusetts there is a statewide textile recycling program.  Do some additional research and see what is available in your area!

Holiday Lights

This one was new to me, only discovered as a result of writing this article.  As such, I have never before attempted to recycle holiday lights.

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HolidayLEDs accepts holiday light donations in person (perhaps you are passing by in Wisconsin!) or through the mail.  They recycle the lights, and in return, offer you a 15% off coupon to their website.  The only downside to this is that you have to ship the lights yourself.

Mattresses

Fun Fact: several states have now enacted mattress recycling legislation.  If you live in California, Connecticut, or Rhode Island, see how this law affects you!

According to the Mattress Recycling Council, more than 50,000 mattresses end up in landfills each day.  Check out Bye Bye Mattress to find a free drop-off location near you.

The Mattress Recycling Council reports that up to 80% of a used mattress can be recycled once it is cut open, creating new jobs, materials, and reducing reliance on landfills and incineration of illegally dumped mattresses.

Athletic Shoes

Nike has a program called Reuse-A-Shoe that has been in action for quite a few years now.  While it’s certainly great to donate shoes to those who need them, not all shoes are in adequate condition to be donated.  Some shoes are too worn out, missing their mate, or simply broken.

Nike collects more than 1.5 million pairs of shoes for recycling each year.  The materials are remade into sports surfaces and other items.  You can drop off up to 10 pairs of shoes to any Reuse-A-Shoe drop-off location or mail them directly to the recycling facility.  Unfortunately, Nike cannot compensate you for shipping costs.  (Note: The recycling facility is located in Belgium, so keep that in mind when considering your shipping costs.)

Check out their website to find a drop-off location near you.

Crayons

Crazy Crayons accepts crayons–no prep, no color sorting, no label removing–both in person (Colorado) and via mail.  They melt down the crayons and turn them into art and other products.

Crazy Crayons reports that they have collected over 120,000 pounds of crayons since beginning their recycling program.  With the knowledge that over 12 million crayons are produced each day, they aim to expand education and awareness about recycling and provide adults and children the opportunity to contribute to diversion from landfills via recycling.

Cork

ReCORK will recycle your natural cork products.  They have collected over 70 million wine corks so far, and have both drop-off locations as well as the option to mail in larger quantities of cork.  Check out their website to find a drop-off location near you.

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So, I’d call that a start!  What else do you have that you’re looking to recycle?  Did anything on this list surprise you?  Any tips on recycling other things?

Recycle Nation

For other items, I’d recommend checking out Recycle Nation and seeing if you can find a way to recycle other items.  Let me know how it goes!

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