Recycling is one of the great ways to recycle old items that usually end up in our trash bin. According to a report by Duke University, “Approximately 55% of 220 million tons of waste generated each year in the United States ends up in one of the over 3,500 landfills”. Landfills not only have a bad impact on our environment but also degrade the beauty of the city. By recycling not-so-common items at our home, we can play a small but huge part in protecting the environment and regaining the glory of our city.
We tend to think of recycling in terms of separating our items out and taking them (or having them picked up and sent to) a recycling center to be turned into something else. This is a great way to help the environment, but what about things that can’t be put in a recycling bin?
Many items can be repurposed (including items that can be traditionally recycled), saving them from ending up in a landfill and saving you from having to purchase a new item to fulfill that purpose. This will help you to minimize your impact on the environment and live a sustainable lifestyle.
40 Old and Unused Items That Can Be Easily Recycled at Home
Below is a list of 40 old and unused items that can be easily recycled at home.
1. Plastic Bags
Keep an eye out when you head out grocery shopping to see if your local store has a plastic bag recycling program. At home, however, old plastic bags can be used everywhere. Use them as trash bin liners, bags for doggie poo or soiled cat litter, or as wrapping material for shipping items.
2. Milk Cartons
Cut the tops off of them and use them as planters, or fill them up with water and freeze them to make ice blocks for your cooler.
3. Plastic Water Bottles
In addition to tossing them in the recycling bin, you can use plastic water bottles for a variety of purposes. If you’re a gardener, cutting off the bottoms of plastic bottles, creates fantastic planters for seedlings. Turn them into piggy banks for your kids or use them for a variety of craft ideas (you can find inspiration on sites like Pinterest).
4. Empty Ice Cream Container
Whether the container is one of the small, cardboard varieties, or whether you went all out and got a giant plastic tub of yummy ice cream, the empty container can be rinsed out and used to store anything and everything. Store small tools and craft items or use the container to collect coffee grounds and food scraps before adding them to your compost heap.
5. Empty Roll-On Deodorant Bottles
Simply pop them open and thoroughly wash the bottle and the ball. Then fill the bottle with paint and replace the lid, making a fun roll-on paint bottle for the kids! (Screw the lid on tightly and store upside down.)
6. Jeans You No Longer Wear
Whether they no longer fit or are worn to pieces, old jeans can be reused one way or another. If they’re gently used, donate them to a local charity or resell shop. If they’ve got one hole too many, use them for patchwork sewing projects or cut them up for use as cleaning cloths.
7. Old Clothing
Just as with jeans, there’s no need to purchase dust rags when you’ve got old pants and T-shirts kicking around. If they’re in good condition, donate them, but if they’re all beat up, chop them up and use them to get your house sparkling clean.
8. Clear Plastic Lids
Place one underneath your shave gel in the bathroom in order to prevent unsightly rust rings caused by the metal bottle.
9. Food Scraps
Compost them to make amazing fertilizer for your garden. Even better—get a worm farm and use the scraps to feed the worms. Worm waste (also known as castings) is a wonderful form of fertilizer.
Use old newspapers to make unique and fun gift wrap. Use pages from the comics section to make wraps that will be loved by kids and adults alike!
11. Junk Mail
Don’t trash that junk mail! Collect the return envelopes and use address labels and stamps in order to send your own mail. You can also use the envelopes for storage (think small things like seeds, screws, etc.) or shred them to mulch your garden.
12. Hair Accessories
You can use old hair accessories anywhere you need rubber bands, tiebacks or clips. Use hair clips or ties to hold your curtains open; you can also use them to secure poles, stems or branches in your garden.
13. Unused Keys
Over time, we all accumulate a large number of random, no-longer-used keys. Don’t toss them out; use them for craft projects! Keys make cool jewelry and can be used to make unique necklaces and earrings.
14. Aluminum Foil
Widely accepted in most recycling programs, aluminum foil can also be used for a variety of purposes around the house. If you’re growing plants in the shade and would like to get a bit more light to them, arrange pieces of foil just behind your plants in order to reflect sunlight in their direction. You can also use leftover foil to create watertight packages for everything from seeds to photos.
15. Unneeded DVDs, CDs, or Videotapes
If you can’t seem to keep the birds and squirrels out of your garden, try hanging CDs or DVDs from tree branches. The movement of the CD, as well as the flicker of the shiny surface, will scare away undesirables. Pull the tape out of old VHS tapes and use it anywhere you need rope (for instance, to secure posts in your backyard garden).
16. Unused Cell Phones
Too many cell phones are ending up in landfills. Rather than tossing your old cell phone, give it as a gift to someone who needs one that’s new-to-them. Sell it on eBay. See if your cell phone manufacturer has a program where they will buy or take your old phone back when you purchase a new one.
17. Old Wine Corks
Many wine and liquor stores have cork recycling programs. It’s worth keeping those corks around, though, as they can be used for an endless array of craft projects, from making trivets to magnets. Not feeling particularly crafty? Look online to find craft makers who buy wine corks to use for their projects.
18. Empty Wet-Wipe Containers
Use them as a dispenser for rolls of string. It really works!
19. Old Jars
Instead of pouring old cooking oil or bacon grease down the drain (where it will cause a clog), pour it into an old jar so that you can throw it away.
20. Jar and Bottle Lids
If you’re tired of getting furniture divots and indentations in your carpet, place these underneath table and chair legs.
21. Fallen Branches
Wander around and collect good-looking ones to arrange in a vase in order to make a homemade Christmas tree! Just hang ornaments and decorations all over!
22. Printer Cartridges
Check the packaging of your printer cartridges; many manufacturers include prepaid envelopes in which you can send old cartridges back for recycling.
Get together with friends and neighbors and have a book swap. Get rid of old books and score some new ones to read!
24. Used Water
If your kids have old paint water from their most recent art project, don’t dump it! Instead, use it to water your plants—your garden and houseplants will thank you!
25. Old Tires
Flowerbeds and tire swings. Need we say more?
26. Bread Bags
Instead of buying bags to pick up your doggy poo, old bread bags (as well as newspaper bags and old plastic bags) do the job just as well.
27. Empty Lip Balm Containers
These containers come in handy when you travel. Refill them with products to make convenient, travel-friendly portions of your favorite cleanser, conditioner, etc.
28. Old Photos, Postcards, Paper Scraps, Etc.
Reuse these to make Christmas and birthday cards for friends and loved ones; just tape them to sturdy paper and decorate away!
29. Old Paper
Use old paper (newspaper, magazines, etc.) to soak up leaks at the bottom of your trashcan.
30. Glass Jars
Use them to store everything from screws and small tools in the garage to tweezers and cosmetics in the bathroom.
Old cardboard boxes can be reused to ship items. They can also be used for many imaginative craft ideas, from a cardboard box guitar to a cardboard racecar.
32. Bread Ties
In this day of electronics, wires are everywhere. Use bread ties to prevent snarls of wires near your TV, computer, or wherever wires congregate.
33. Egg Cartons
Egg cartons can be used to organize and store small craft items. Still, they can also be used in a variety of projects, from making an egg carton planter for small flowers, using them to gift small items (like mini-muffins) and cutting them up to use in craft ideas.
34. Paper Plates and Cups
In order to keep them out of landfills, shred them and use them as mulch for your garden.
35. Old Contact Lens Cases
Similar to old lip balm containers, you can clean old contact lens cases and fill them with small amounts of makeup, lotion, cleansers and assorted cosmetics that you’d like to take with you when you travel.
36. PET Bottles
You can definitely drop PET bottles off at recycling centers in your community. However, there are various things you can do with PET. You can transform it into gorgeous accessories; make a decoration, a vase, piggy bank, gardening pots and more. You can use them to make an instant lamp (With just bleach and water) and water purifier (Iodine solution and water).
In Japan, PET bottles can be exchanged for a train ticket, while PET bottles are used to build houses in other parts of Asia.
37. Crayons and Colored Pencils
Every school academic year, a student uses a new set of crayons. What about those remaining old and broken crayons? Broken crayons can be recycled or turned into DIY picture frames for your favorite teacher. Learn how to make them into gifts.
Crayola has a campaign called Color Cycle; you send them the old ones so they can recycle them again. But you can make these crayons into an emergency light too.
38. Pens & Pencils
All over the world, billions of pens are produced yearly and thrown away. However, pens are not usually accepted in municipal recycling communities. Use pens to decorate as Christmas tree ornaments, toys and in many other ways. You can donate your pens to schools and educational organizations or to artist PenGuyArt.com so that he can transform pens into majestic art.
39. Toothbrush and Toothpaste Tubes
Save and use old toothbrushes to scrub hard to reach places or other delicate or hard to clean items like grout and underneath the fixtures on faucets. Clean old toothbrushes and reuse as eyebrow brushes, hair color applicators or cleaning tools, electronics. Empty toothpaste tubes can be repurposed as a funnel by cutting off the bottom, or as a frosting tube for icing cakes.
Toothbrush recycling programs are ongoing from manufacturers like Colgate and Preserve. Colgate partnered with TerraCycle that collects the used toothbrushes they produced, while Preserve collects them too and recycles them into new handy items.
According to EPA, each year, two billion disposable razors are thrown away. You can invest in a straight-up razor or you can buy a disposable one and store it in a “razor bank” or old soup can after use. If you do not want to throw away many razors, apply baby oil on them to prevent rusting.
Some companies like Preserve makes razors out of recycled #5 plastic through their program Gimme 5. You can drop off your razors on their recycle bin at Whole Foods.