Sustainability| 4 min read

10 Common Items You Probably Didn't Know Could Be Recycled

We all know that recycling is one of the critically important Rs (the other two being reduce and reuse) but there are a lot of things out there that most recycling streams won’t accept!

We all know that recycling is one of the critically important Rs (the other two being reduce and reuse) but there are a lot of things out there that most recycling streams won’t accept! Fortunately, there are a lot of innovative nonprofits and businesses out there finding creative ways to recycle some common items. Here’s a list of 10 things you can recycle that you may not have realized you can!



In 2018, there were more than 140 million CDs sold in the United States alone. While that number is on the steep decline, that’s still a lot of CDs. Once these CDs are scratched up and no longer usable, they usually end up in the dump. But did you know you can recycle them? Organizations like GreenDisk will gladly take your CDs and recycle the aluminum and polycarbonate found inside.

Running shoes

If you’re an avid runner, chances are you’ve burned through countless pairs of running shoes. If you’re unaware that shoes can be recycled, you may have tossed them in the trash. No longer! Organizations like the MORE Foundation will gladly accept your old shoes. Some retailers also accept old shoes back.

Holiday lights

There are a few excellent reasons to recycle your old string lights and a couple ways to do it. We go into greater detail in this blog about the benefits and process of recycling these lights. Read more here.

Compact fluorescent light bulbs

Compact fluorescent light bulbs, or CFLs for short, are an environmentally friendly and affordable option for reducing your utility bill. They do, however, contain about 4 mg of mercury. To put it into perspective, an old mercury thermometer contains about 500 mg. Still, millions of thousands of these bulbs are purchased every year, and that mercury can be harmful to the environment if the bulbs are just thrown away. The EPA has more information here about how to recycle these bulbs.


Sadly, a toilet isn’t forever. They do sometimes break and need to be replaced. What can you do with your old toilet? Some municipalities and companies will accept old toilets, sometimes requiring a small fee, to use in sidewalks and roads. Contact your local city government for more information.


Cork is another uncommon item that can be recycled. ReCORK ( accepts corks for recycling. They grind the corks down and use them in other consumer goods.


This is perhaps the most surprising item on our list. Diapers can indeed be recycled. A Canadian company called Knowaste ( boasts being able to recycle 94% of the synthetic, plastic-based materials found in diapers. It takes a real commitment to recycling to want to start a whole company for recycling hygiene waste…

Fake Christmas trees

Artificial Christmas trees are mostly plastic and metal. Both of these materials can be recycled. Unfortunately, finding a location that accepts artificial trees can be a bit of a challenge. A few facilities have popped up. One is in Colorado, another in Maryland. You’ll have to do a bit of local research to see if it’s possible to recycle these fake trees.


If you’re a filtered cigarette smoker looking to be more green with your habit or an avid litter-collector trying to do the same, TerraCycle ( will take your old cigarette butts and melt the plastic into pellets, which are then resold. TerraCycle is partnered with American Spirits, a tobacco company.



Last up on our list are crayons! More than 3 billion crayons are manufactured every year. What can be done with all the crayon stubs left over after a hardcore coloring sesh? Instead of throwing them in the trash, CrazyCrayons ( will happily accept and recycle crayons for you. CrazyCrayons also hires people with developmental disabilities, which has a positive impact on their lives as well as the community as a whole.


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