10 Things You Didn't Know You Can Recycle

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Tetra Pak. All opinions are 100% mine.
Can you recycle cans? What about styrofoam? Learn what you can recycled that you might have been throwing away
Recycling is one of the cornerstones of sustainability. The more products that you can reuse or recycle, the fewer things end up in landfills or the [not so] Great Pacific Ocean Garbage Patch. I have lots of great ideas for how to reuse your trash and turn it into something awesome (check out more than 100 recycled project ideas here!). If your product has reached the end of its usable life, it's time to recycle it if you can.

Of course, if you don't know which things you can recycle you can't do that! While I cover things that are possible to be recycled below, be sure to check with your local recycling service to see where the best place to recycle is. Some of these things can be picked up with your curbside recycling and others might need to be brought to a drop off location.
kettle and fire bone broth carton and fawen beet and cabbage soup in a carton
Thanks to our sponsor: This post is brought to you by Tetra Pak. You have seen things packed in Tera Pak cartons in the store: products like soup, coconut water, broth and more are packed into what look like giant juice cartons. I love these better than regular canned goods because they do not contain bisphenols or phthalates (such as BPA) like most canned foods AND they are recyclable! Tetra Pak also allows food to be packaged and shelf stable for long term storage without the use of preservatives. No preservatives? No endocrine disrupting chemicals? Recyclable? Winning! 

10 Things You Didn't Know You Can Recycle

What things can you recycle?

You can recycle: Tetra Pak Cartons

So you picked up soup, coconut water or dogfood packaged in a Tetra Pak carton: awesome! This is a great health choice to help you avoid endocrine disrupting chemicals like bisphenols or phthalates that are in traditional canned goods. Once you are done enjoying the contents, turn it into an awesome recycled craft (check out carton craft ideas from my friend Maggy at Red Ted art) or drop it in your recycling bin. If your carton came with a straw or lid, it can be recycled, too. Just pop the straw inside the container, screw on the lid and add it to your recycling bin. Check out more info on recycling cartons to see how your community wants you to sort these.

You can recycle: Batteries

Single use batteries have several elements inside of them that can be recycled. If you live in California, they are considered hazardous waste and it is illegal to throw them in the trash! Check with your local recycling center for directions or bring them to your local Home Depot or IKEA (it's a good idea to call ahead to make sure your location participates).

You can recycle: Scrap metal

Whether it's copper pipes, old fencing or your rusty BBQ grill, you can recycle your scrap metal items at hundreds of locations across the USA--you may even take home some cash for doing so! Metal items made of steel, copper, aluminum, and brass can be brought to your local scrap metal yard to be properly disposed of and given new life through recycling.

You can recycle: Electronics

From TVs to computer monitors, cell phones to video game controllers, you can recycle all of this electronic waste. This keeps you out of trouble (throwing these items away in household trash is illegal in some states like Oregon) AND helps avoid filling up a landfill unnecessarily. You can recycle electronics at all Best Buy and Staples stores in the United States or check out the website E-Cycling Central for state-by-state info on how to recycle electronics where you live. Recycling a phone or computer? Don't forget to delete all your data first!

You can recycle: Appliances

Fridge stopped working? Stove won't turn on? If you replace your old appliance instead of fixing it, don't trash the original! Some vendors of new appliances will offer a free haul-away service for your old washing machine, dryer, refrigerator, air conditioner, etc when they deliver your new one. In some areas, second hand appliance mechanics will come pick up your old appliance that isn't working, take it back to their shop to fix it and then sell it to another family to give it more life. You can also check out the EPA's Responsible Appliance Disposal program (RAD for short) for more information about local appliance recycling partners near you.

You can recycle: Light bulbs

Although the energy savings is awesome, one of the big down sides of CFL light bulbs is that they contain toxic elements like mercury that can be released as trash is compacted or incinerated. Recycling your CFL bulbs allows the mercury to be collected and the glass and metal parts to be reused. 

Even though LED bulbs don't contain toxic components like CFLs do, you can recycle these as well! Check with your local recycling center or bring your spent CFL and LED bulbs to your local Batteries + Bulbs or IKEA store.

You can recycle: Mattresses and box springs

Did you know that more than 20 MILLION mattresses and box springs end up in landfills each year in the United State alone? That's more than 55,000 a day! (source) These items are large and bulky - taking up tons of room. The good news is that about 85% of the disassembled components in a mattress are recyclable. In Connecticut, California and Rhode Island, mattresses are required to be recycled but mattress recycling is available nationwide. Check out Bye Bye Mattress (an initiative of the Mattress Recycling Council) for a mattress recycling location near you.

You can recycle: Concrete

Construction waste including concrete makes up almost 25% of the solid waste generated in this country each year. Concrete free of contaminants (rebar is ok!) can be ground up and re-used in a variety of applications including road base, landscaping material and more. If you have just a small amount of concrete you need to get rid of, consider listing it for free on Craigslist as people sometimes like to use it to build garden walls and other landscaping projects. Not interested in that? Call your local waste management company to ask about drop off or pick up options for old concrete in your area.

You can recycle: Tires

If you don't want to turn your old tires into a cute project like this adorable tire planter, you can send them off for recycling. Used tires have a variety of different applications including road building material and Portland cement. Many tire vendors take back old tires for recycling at their locations (you may have to pay a small fee). To locate a tire recycling center near you, use Earth 911's Recycling Solution Finder.

You can recycle: Motor Oil

If you have spent motor oil from outdoor power equipment or changing the oil in your vehicle, don't pour it down the drain! Old motor oil can be cleaned and processed to make it usable again. This helps us use resources wisely and keeps contaminants like heavy metals and toxic chemicals out of our waterways. Some areas offer curbside recycling of motor oil. If curbside pick up isn't available in your neighborhood, call your local auto body shops, car dealerships or oil change services to ask about dropping off motor oil for recycling.

About the Author:

Carissa is a green lifestyle advocate and mom of two active boys. The owner and lead writer at Creative Green Living, she won the Craftys Award for the "Best Craft Blogger" category in 2016 and the ShiftCon award for "Best DIY Blogger" in 2018.

Her goal is to empower families to make easy projects and healthier choices that are beautiful and delicious! She is also the author of the hardcover cookbook, Beautiful Smoothie Bowls (Skyhorse, 2017) and several ebooks. Her projects have been featured in magazines like Kids Crafts 1-2-3, Capper's Farmer and Urban Farm Magazine. Follow her on PinterestInstagramTwitter or join the Creative Green Living Tribe on Facebook.
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Sponsored post disclosure: This post was sponsored by Tetra Pak. All opinions expressed are 100% mine and reflect my authentic experience with this brand. I only recommend products I personally enjoy and think my readers will as well. For more information, see my full sponsored post and review policy.
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  1. Wow! I definitely learned a few things I need to be recycling!! Thanks for the info.

    1. I'm glad it was helpful! Thanks for stopping by.


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