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10 Things you didn't know you could recycle

Updated August 10, 2017

First launched in the 1970s and now found around the world, recycling programmes help reduce the amount of waste that enters landfill and conserve natural resources. By now, we've all become accustomed to recycling cans, bottles, jars and newspaper. But these aren't the only items that can be recycled. Many products most of us simply throw away can also be reused.

Batteries

Although batteries can't be put in normal household recycling bins, putting in them in the rubbish bin is a bad idea. If dumped in landfill, batteries can release toxic chemicals into the soil. Fortunately, most supermarkets and office supply shops have battery collection points.

Related: How to make money recycling car batteries

Shoes

Old shoes in good condition can go to charity shops or be donated to clothing drives. However, even shoes long past their best can still be useful. Shoe manufacturer Nike operates a recycling program that turns old trainers into a durable surface for running tracks and other sports facilities.

Related: Easy crafts from recycled stuff

Fluorescent lightbulbs

Not only are compact fluorescent lightbulbs good for the environment in terms of energy efficiency, they're also easier to recycle than old-fashioned incandescent bulbs. Most hardware stores will recycle fluorescent bulbs, as will some furniture retailers such as IKEA.

Related: The right lightbulb for you and your conscience

Foam packaging

Bulky and non-biodegradable, the foam pellets used to pack fragile items for shipping are an environmentalist's nightmare. Fortunately, an increasing number of shipping companies will reuse packaging "peanuts." Check for companies in your area that will accept donations of packaging.

Bicycles

Old bicycles may not be worth the time and effort for their owners to repair them, but they can make a huge difference in the developing world. Many charities collect old bicycles, recondition them and send them to communities where they can help businesses and families improve their mobility.

Related: How to build a custom bike

Mattresses

Many people give their old, used furniture to charity shops. Often, however, these shops won't accept mattresses for hygiene reasons. Fibre recovery companies can recycle these mattresses for their component parts, keeping tens of thousands of bulky mattresses out of landfill every year.

Related: How to recycle a bed mattress

Ink Cartridges

When a printer's ink cartridge runs out, most people simply throw the cartridge, which has both plastic and metal components, in the bin. Stationery and office supply shops -- where users are likely to be going in order to shop for replacements -- offer collection points for ink cartridges to be recycled.

Related: How to recycle ink cartridges

Denim jeans

Like shoes, well-beloved denim jeans are often kept until they are so worn and tattered that they can't be donated to a charity shop. Nonetheless, the fibres in these items can still be recycled by specialist companies and made into items ranging from home insulation to sandals.

Related: How to recycle denim

Toothbrushes

Although they are made from plastic, most toothbrushes cannot be recycled. One toothbrush manufacturer, Preserve Products, makes toothbrushes from recycled materials and accepts old toothbrushes for recycling. Recycled brushes aren't in high street shops yet, but the recycling trend looks set to grow.

Related: How to recycle electric toothbrushes & their batteries

Keys

Old keys have a tendency to accumulate in drawers and cupboard. Instead of throwing them out, take them to any recycling centre. Although keys can't be reused, they can be recycled for their scrap metal content.

Related: How to make money from scrap metal

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About the Author

Dr James Holloway has been writing about games, geek culture and whisky since 1995. A former editor of "Archaeological Review from Cambridge," he has also written for Fortean Times, Fantasy Flight Games and The Unspeakable Oath. A graduate of Cambridge University, Holloway runs the blog Gonzo History Gaming.