How Can I Reuse?
This is a list of 15 items you can recycle, some that you may not know about, to help the environment.
If you have been wondering how to dispose of these products, or holding onto these items because you have no idea how to get rid of them, this is the list you will need!
- Cell Phones
So, you turned in your old cell phone for a new phone with great new features.
What do you do with the old phone? No one in your family wants it, and who can blame them - with the speed of technology advancement today, who wants an old clunky phone?
If you can find a local retail outlet for your cell phone carrier store, e.g. Verizon, Cingular, etc., ask them if they will take the phone.
Many of these retailers accept phones and send them for reprogramming and donation to battered women or other families in need.
In many cases, you can also get a slip to use for your taxes and you will be able to claim a charitable donation write-off.
If you cannot find a local retail outlet for your carrier, go to one of these websites for more information on how to mail your cell phone and parts to a central location for donation:
Sprint Project Connect:
Collective Good Mobile Phone Recycling:
Collective Good has also partnered with Staples office supply stores, and you can go to this link to find a store near you.
You can drop your old cell phone there for donation:
The Funding Factory:
Do NOT throw your phone away.
These phones contain toxic materials and should not be thrown into your regular garbage.
Take the parts (charger, case, batteries, etc.) and/or the phone to a collection center.
- Floppy Disks
There are numerous centers that now recycle computer floppy disks. Old disks are erased, re-formatted, and tested for competency.
These recycled disks are then sold back into the marketplace.
Some of these companies also accept defective disks and will process the materials to make new products, so that the disks are not sent to landfills.
If you, or your company, are interested in participating in this program, visit this website for more information: http://www.greendisk.com/, or contact
If you have already used the disk, and you feel it is still good, you can erase it and format the disk again.
Select the 'full' format (unconditional) option to format the disk and then place a blank label over the top of the old label and you are on your way!
- CDs and DVDs
You can recycle old or significantly damaged CDs AND their jewel cases, as well as DVDs.
In some cases, the plastic CD disc can be reused, and in other cases, the recycling center will remove the gold that is used to manufacture the original CD.
If you want to send your discs in for recycling, but you are concerned about privacy issues, you can cut the CD with a pair of industrial shears.
Although you can't get any money from recycling your old discs, you can send them for recycling (rather than throwing them away). Send discs and jewel cases to:
- MRC Polymers (CDs AND DVDs)
c/o DADC Recycling Program
3307 South Lawndale Avenue
Chicago, IL 60623-5007
- NESAR Systems (CDs and Jewel Cases)
420 Ashwood Road
Darlington, PA 16115
- Contact GreenDisk at 800-305-DISK or via email at http://www.greendisk.com/gdsite/contact.aspx.
They provide many recycling services including floppy disks, CDs and other items
You can repair minor damage to your CDs by using toothpaste on the bottom (the side without the label).
With a soft clot, rub the toothpaste AROUND the disc working out from the center hole.
For that favorite disc you cannot repair, you can send your disc to a professional refinisher for $3.00 to $5.00, and have it fixed:
Aural Tech: http://www.auraltech.com/
Doo-Wop Shop: http://www.doowop.com/cd_repair.htm
If you just don't like your CDs or DVDs, or if you have grown bored with them, don't throw them in the garbage, put them on eBay or another auction site, or give them to someone else who may like them, trade them in at a music or movie store, or donate them to charity.
Did you know that you can recycle your old eyeglasses by donating them? Your local ophthalmologist, optician or optometrist probably has a collection box.
You may find collection centers in your local bank, hardware store or other community merchants, as well.
If you are unsure where to find these collection centers in your community, try calling your town hall or chamber of commerce for more information.
These old eyeglasses are cleaned and repaired and the prescription is analyzed and catalogued in a database.
The glasses are then donated to underprivileged people who need that particular visual correction and can use the glasses.
In most cases, the people who receive these eyeglasses are in other countries.
That is because U.S. laws regarding prescriptions make it difficult to distribute these glasses within the United States.
If your prescription has not changed all that much, you can consider keeping your old glasses and having them made into sunglasses.
You can find more information about eyeglass recycling and recycling centers here:
The Lions Clubs:
LensCrafters: (find a store near you and bring your eyeglasses in for donation)
For-Eyes: (find a store near you and bring your eyeglasses in for donation)
Pearle Vision: (find a store near you and bring your eyeglasses in for donation)
To Find Local Collection and Recycling Centers:
Call (800) CLEANUP
Send Eyeglasses to International Distribution Organizations:
Medical Ministry International
Attn: Eyeglass Recycling
12281 SW 28th, Miami, FL 33175
SightFirst Eyeglass Recycling Center
34 W. Spain, Sonoma, CA 95476
New Eyes for the Needy
549 Millburn, PO Box 332, Short Hills, NY 07078
(accepts non-prescription sunglasses as well)
In Canada, send eyeglass donations to:
The Low Vision Clinic
1929 Bayview Ave., Toronto, ON M4G 3E8
- Packing Peanuts, Styrofoam, Polystyrene
If you are BUYING packing peanuts for your business, or just to ship a fragile item across the country, buy recyclable (water soluble packing peanuts).
These recyclable peanuts are made from vegetable starch.
They can be easily discarded and are biodegradable, and perfectly safe to put in compost piles.
If you received a package with regular Styrofoam peanuts, be sure you reuse them to ship things to others.
Standard Styrofoam packing peanuts do not have any recycling value
If you have NO need for these peanuts, put them in a box or a plastic bag, and drop them off at a local shipping store (Mailboxes Etc., UPS, etc.) or at your local moving company.
They will be happy to have them.
To find collection sites, visit the Plastic Loosefill Council at http://www.loosefillpackaging.com/
Rigid foam, like the foam used in Styrofoam coolers and to pack fragile heaters, air conditioners and computer equipment, is NOT recyclable.
Current research studies may provide less expensive, more environmentally safe method of recycling this material.
For the time being, if businesses have a large volume of this material to discard, they can contact the Alliance of Foam Packaging Recyclers at: http://www.epspackaging.org/
- Video Tapes and Camcorder Tapes
Whenever possible, consider reusing your videotapes and camcorder tapes.
If you have tapes that you no longer want to save, you can simply record over them.
Most good quality tapes will withstand numerous re-recording sessions before they begin to show wear or deteriorate.
You can place a blank label over the old label to reference the new program you have recorded.
Try not to use the labels that fold over the top of a video cassette because multiple layers of labels in this area can cause the tape to jam in your machine.
If your videotapes contain movies, TV shows or other programs that others may like, consider sharing them, giving them away, or taking them to Goodwill or another collection center so others can use them.
Check with your local library to see if they will accept donations.
If you cannot find any collection center, online auction site or other place to sell or donate your cassettes, you can contact GreenDisk at: http://www.greendisk.com/
- Smoke Detectors
Most smoke detectors contain a small amount of radioactive material, and must be disposed of as hazardous waste.
Companies that manufacture smoke detectors are equipped to accept old detectors and dispose of them accordingly.
You may find it hard to locate the information on how and where to dispose of your smoke detector, since many of these units do not include labels or information on how to dispose of the device.
Smoke detectors typically last about ten years, and First Alert makes most of the smoke detectors on the market today.
If you own a First Alert detector, you can return your old detector to:
Radioactive Waste Disposal
780 McClure Rd, Aurora, IL 60504
You should note that most smoke detector manufacturers are equipped to accept and dispose of detectors made by their company or any other manufacturer.
- Fluorescent Light Bulbs and Mercury Switches and Thermostats
Items that contain mercury, including fluorescent bulbs, are considered hazardous waste and should be disposed of accordingly.
Thermostats, thermometers and switches with a silver metal ball or column contain mercury. If your thermostat has a red column, it does not contain mercury.
Mercury is a toxin that causes brain damage, and it is easily leeched into water supply and the fish that we consume as food, so it is in your best interests to carefully dispose of these items.
Do NOT throw them in your regular garbage.
Contact your town hall or recycling center in your community and find out how and where you can dispose of these items.
- Disposable Cameras
If you read the label on most disposable (single-use) cameras, you will see that nearly all of them are recyclable, though most people DO NOT recycle these cameras.
Your local pharmacy or film developer rarely sends these cameras back to the manufacturers, although Kodak now reimburses developers for storing and shipping these cameras.
Still, there are a number of manufacturers that DO NOT reimburse the developer, so there is little incentive for them to recycle.
Until this recycling issue is resolved, we recommend that you buy and use an inexpensive, automated 35 mm camera (you can buy these for $20.00 to $30.00).
If you are in a position where you MUST use a disposable camera, be sure to take your camera to a developer who guarantees that they will recycle the camera after developing your pictures.
- Laptop Batteries, Watch Batteries…All Kinds of Batteries
Batteries contain acids and toxins and should be carefully discarded.
Alkaline and/or Carbon-Zinc or Heavy Duty batteries are difficult to discard.
There are few collection centers in the United States, and in most communities you are allowed to throw your batteries into the regular trash unless your trash is incinerated in an apartment building, etc.
Even in communities that collect batteries, the batteries usually end up in a landfill.
In light of these circumstances, it is best if you buy and use rechargeable batteries.
Nickel-Cadmium (rechargeable) batteries should be recycled when their useful life is finished. These batteries also contain toxins.
NiCAD batteries are most commonly used in portable telephones, power tools, battery powered toothbrushes and razors, and some radios.
Contact your local community recycling program to find out where and how you can recycle your rechargeable batteries, or stop at your local Radio Shack and find out about their recycling program.
Find drop-off sites for rechargeable batteries at: http://www.rbrc.org/call2recycle/
Lithium Ion (Li-Ion)and Nickel Metal Hydride batteries are the batteries you use in a laptop or notebook computer.
You can recycle these by sending them to:
Power Express Batteries
14388 Union Avenue, San Jose, CA 95124
Button or Cell Batteries are commonly used in watches, hearing aids and small clocks. You can drop these off for recycling at your local jeweler, discount store or watch shop.
Whenever you have your watch battery replaced, ask if the old battery will be recycled.
If not, ask to take possession of the old battery and drop it off at a local Radio Shack, K-Mart or jewelry chain for recycling.
Automobile batteries are easy to recycle. You can take them to any large automotive store, or retailers like Sears or other auto mechanic shop.
Most state laws require automotive battery recycling.
Other lead-based batteries, like Gel Cells, and SLAs should also be recycled. These batteries are used for alarm systems, emergency lighting systems and other emergency power units.
You can recycle these at an automotive parts store or contact your community recycling center to find out where and how to dispose of these items.
You can find more information about recycling all types of batteries at the Environment, Health and Safety Online website: http://www.ehso.com/ehshome/batteries.php
- Synthetic Carpet
Believe it or not, you can compost natural fiber carpets.
However, if you have synthetic carpeting, you have to look for a recycling center, or ask the company that lays your carpet to recycle your old carpeting for you.
- Computers, Printers, Fax Machines and Printer Cartridges
Before you consider recycling your old computer or printer, you may want to consider donating it to a school, tech center (to be used for skills training) or a charitable organization.
If you can't find a community center, charity or other organization to use your old equipment, take a look at this website for Recycles.org: http://www.recycles.org/
You can probably find someone there to reuse your old computer or printer. And you may even get a tax write-off!
Do not throw away your old computer, printer, copier, stereo system, or other office or home electronics devices.
These devices contain harmful chemicals and should not be placed in a landfill.
Check with your local Office Depot, Office Max, Staples or other national office supply chain.
Most of these retailers accept computers and other electronics equipment for recycling.
IBM, Dell and other computer manufacturers will also accept your computer for recycling for a nominal fee (usually around $25 to $40).
When you buy printer cartridges, buy from a company that includes a pre-paid mailer to return your old cartridges for recycling.
Here are some other sites to consider to donate your equipment for reuse, or for recycling computers, electronic equipment, printers, copiers, printer cartridges, software, fax machines and more:
National Cristina Foundation:
Seacoast Inkjet Recycle, Inc:
- Miscellaneous Plastic Packaging and Shrink Wrap
When you buy ANY product with plastic packaging (hard or soft), look for the recycling number on the package.
Remember, those numbers we talked about before? 1,2,3….etc?
Become familiar with what can and cannot be recycled in your community and avoid buying packaging that is not recyclable.
This may seem like an inconvenience, but if you and your neighbors practice selective buying, manufacturers will become more sensitive to these issues and will switch to environmentally friendly packaging, instead of producing tons of landfill debris.
Here is a list of just some of the plastic packaging and containers you will want to review before you make your purchase:
- Packaging for batteries
- Shrink wrap for small sporting goods items, e.g. baseballs
- Baby supplies, e.g. rattles, pacifiers
- Packaging for MP3 players, Walkmans, CDs, etc.
- Packaging for small electrical supplies and computer cables
- Plastic packaging for printer cartridges, portable phone batteries etc.
- Packaging for dog leashes, collars, and toys
With a little practice, you will get VERY GOOD at this, and you will soon spot the items you should avoid.
While you are looking at labels, don't forget to favor those products that are labeled as 'made from recycled materials'.
- Appliances, and Freon
Old refrigerators contains Freon otherwise known as Chlorinated Fluorocarbon (CFC). CFC is very toxic and extremely dangerous to the earth's ozone layer.
As the ozone layer thins, we suffer increased risk for skin cancer, serious sunburn, and cataracts, and global warming increases.
If you are disposing of an OLD refrigerator, air conditioner or heat pump be sure you drain the coolant from the unit before you throw it away.
Call your local town hall or community recycling center to get a list of certified dealers who can haul away your old equipment and on whom you can depend to recycle the CFCs and units properly.
When you service the air conditioner in your car, ask your mechanic what he does with the Freon and be sure he disposes of it properly.
In fact, CFCs are considered so dangerous to human health and to the earth's environment, that there are numerous federal, state, community and international laws on the books to control the use and disposal of CFCs.
- Tires, Motor Oil, …and other car stuff
Used motor oil can be easily recycled by taking it to your local mechanic.
Do NOT throw it away in your regular garbage. It is toxic and hazardous.
Do not pour motor oil from tractors or automobiles into storm drains.
Empty your oil into a gallon plastic milk container or other sturdy container and take it to your mechanic or to a national auto repair shop:
- Safety Klean
- Grand Auto
- R&S Strauss
- Sam's Club*
*only in stores where tires are sold
Or, call your local recycling center and ask them for a referral.
If you want to properly dispose of your tires, you will usually pay a disposal fee of $1.00 to $5.00.
Believe it or not, if you throw your tires in a landfill, they will breed mosquitoes, which can spread disease.
Burning tires sends toxins into the air and is equally bad for health and environment. Be responsible and recycle your tires with your local merchant.