Unusual Things You Can Recycle

Opportunities for the recycling of exotics

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Let's talk about weird or unusual things to recycle. As society inches closer to zero landfill aspirations, one way to help is through developing recycling streams for items or materials that  in the past, people just never thought about recycling. This is a topic of interest for people looking to divert more solid waste, as well as for businesses targeting the recycling of exotic materials as a business opportunity.

Here is a short list of stuff that you might not have known you can recycle, courtesy of Recyclebank

Dirty Diapers: Knowaste recycles diapers and absorbent hygiene products in the UK and since the 1990’s has been researching and developing technologies for recycling absorbent hygiene products (AHPs). Knowaste reclaims fiber and plastic to be recycled into products ranging “From benches and bollards to railways sleepers and flood defenses,”   

Pet Fur: What to do with all of that fur? Matter of Trust is a San Francisco-based non-profit that uses donations of clean pet fur to craft oil-absorbing hair mats and hair-stuffed containment booms made from recycled pantyhose. These booms effectively soak up oil without requiring the use of new resources.

Old Bras: Used bras can be sent to the Bosom Buddies Program. Bras of all shapes and sizes are shipped to local shelters or redistributed through exporters and organizations to women in developing nations.

For more information on the Bosom Buddies Program, visit The Bra Recyclers website.

Glasses and Hearing Aides: Old glasses, sunglasses and hearing aids can be mailed to New Eyes for the Needy. This group collects, recycles and distributes donated glasses overseas to impoverished people. Items accepted include plastic eyeglasses, sunglasses in good condition, metal eyeglasses in any condition, hearing aids, and pairs of prescription lenses.

 Mattresses: Increasingly, mattress recycling operations are “springing” up. When buying a new mattress, check to see if the retailer is involved in a mattress program, or if click on the following link to see if there is a mattress recycling operation in your area.  

 Pantyhose: Did you know that companies like No Nonsense recycle your old, nylon pantyhose by grinding them, with material used to make playground equipment, park benches, and carpets

CDs: Instead of tossing those unwanted discs into the trash, why not send them to The CD Recycling Center.  They are machined into a fine powder that is later melted down. This material is used in automotive and building products.

Tennis Balls: The company, REBOUNCES will take up to 500 used tennis balls for free. They deploy their Green Tennis Machine to re-pressurize the balls and make them as good as new.

Wine Corks: Corks can put a pop into your recycling efforts. Natural cork is 100 percent biodegradable and renewable, and it is wanted by reCork. Old corks can be used for many applications, including flooring tiles, building insulation, automotive gaskets, craft materials, and soil conditioner.  

Running Shoes: Refer to the recycledrunners.com website for shoe recycling facilities and organizations in your area.

Even worn out runners can be recycled.

Gift Cards, Credit Cards, and Hotel Keys: For the most part, ID cards, credit cards, and even hotel room keys are manufactured from PVC. Locations such as Cleveland’s Earthworks System, accept the cards, which are chopped and melted into sheets of PVC. The end product? More new cards.

Deceased Pets: In Germany, pet owners are not allowed to bury pets in public places. A rendering plant near the town of Neustadt an der Weinstrasse, however, accepts deceased pets. Residual animal fat is recycled into glycerin, which is used in cosmetics like lip balm.

Dentures: There is a non-profit association in Japan that collects dentures to reclaim the metals like gold and silver, that are inside. Proceeds are then donated to UNICEF. To date, more than $250,000 has been raised.

Chewed Gum: An airport in England collects recycled gum to help make tires, toys, and other products.

Prosthetic Limbs: Although they cannot be legally reused in the United States, prosthetic limbs can be disassembled and shipped to third-world countries for use by landmine victims and other individuals in need. Visit the Amputee Coalition of America website for a list of U.S. groups that accept donations.