If only people used washable hankies instead of tissue, we’d be saving a lot of trees. If reusable drink containers were used instead of disposable glass bottles, aluminum cans or plastic bottles, there would be no drink containers to recycle in the first place. If reusable totes were used to carry grocery items in, there would be lesser plastic bags to throw on landfills.
Unfortunately, not all households and individuals exert the extra effort to choose something reusable over disposable items. Disposable, as the name implies, is easy to throw away in the trash. The problem is that such trash or garbage accumulates over time. The raw material required to produce things that will be thrown away after one or two uses end up as trash, thereby adding to the problem.
Top 20 Items to Reuse or Recycle
Now, if you would like to do your share in helping save the environment, what you can do about this? You should exert a lot of effort into making your household green and that will contribute a lot towards the reduction of trash. To start with, here are the top 20 items that anyone can use or recycle, but absolutely do not know how:
1. Athletic shoes
If you have stinky, old shoes which you do not wear anymore, your first instinct would probably to throw them in the trash. But did you know that companies like Nike have a Reuse-a-Shoe recycling program? When you send over your Nike athletic shoes to them, the material from the old shoes will be incorporated into the Nike Grind. The resulting material is used in everything – from athletic running tracks to soles for shoes and even zippers for shoes or dresses.
How about recycling for a good cause? If you think that bras are too embarrassing and too personal an item to recycle, what about giving them to women’s shelters? A recycling company in Arizona started the Bosom Buddy Program which revamps donated brassieres. The overhauled underwear are given to women’s shelters and other establishments which help women gain self-sufficiency.
The US throw out more than 15 million bicycles per year in favor of newer, better ones. Instead of throwing perfectly usable two-wheelers in the dump, you can give them a second leash in life. A program called Bikes of the World collects, refurbishes and donates bicycles to selected institutions in developing countries. It can also benefit individuals with lower income from the same areas.
4. Carrier bags
As much as possible, bring reusable totes when doing your grocery shopping so you won’t have to use the plastic bags provided by the stores. If you can’t help it, however, do reuse the plastic bags as bin bags for your trash. If they’re wet or dirty, simply give the plastic bags a good rinse and hang them out to dry so you can use them again. Paper bags can be used as wrapping paper or as padding material when packing fragile items inside a box.
If you have old pots, colanders, pans, they can actually be given a new life simply by applying a coat of paint. They can be repurposed as garden planters, while colanders can be used as plant hanging baskets. Old teapots or kettles can be turned into watering cans or planters.
The beauty industry earns billions of dollars in profit every year. Fortunately, the bigwigs and other companies like MAC Cosmetics, Aveda and Origins started a program where cosmetic packaging are easily recycled. This includes everything from compact mirrors to tubs containing creams, tubes of lipstick and other makeup items. There are also ways for you to avoid buying makeup packaging altogether by making your own.
If you’re in the process of replacing your plain eyeglasses, sunglasses or prescription eyeglasses, give them another leash on life by checking out the Lions Recycle for Sight Program. Old eyeglasses are collected, cleaned up and sorted by prescription strength. Then, they are distributed to people in developing glasses who are in need. The specific items that they accept are prescription glasses, reading glasses, sunglasses, plastic frames and metal frames. Kids’ eyeglasses are also needed.
Yes, you can reuse envelopes by sticking labels over the address. The stickers use up a smaller amount of raw material to create paper, so you will be wasting less. If you cannot use or seal the envelope anymore, simply cut and use as scrap paper.
9. Electrical equipment
If you’re moving, why not simply donate your old electrical equipment to schools or community centers in your area so they can be reused? Instead of paying movers to transfer your old but still working electrical appliances from point A to B, you can donate the items and purchase new ones for your new home. For the non-working electrical equipment, check out the website of the manufacturer to see if they have an existing program that will allow you to send the items over for proper recycling.
10. Electronic gadgets
We live in a tech-obsessed world and over the years, you would have accumulated a lot of electronic gadgets. These may contain lead and other material which, when not disposed of properly, may cause undue harm to the environment. Instead of throwing them away, you can bring your old iPod or other Apple gadgets to an Apple retail store. They will gladly take it off your hands and even give you a 10% discount when you purchase a new iPod.
As for mobile phones, only 10% are being recycled. Plenty of charities accept old mobile phones for recycling. If you have an iPhone which cannot be used anymore, you can return it to an Apple Store and be given a gift card in return.
When you go to the grocery store to buy baby food, peanut butter, sardines and other food products, they usually come in prettily packaged jars made from glass or plastic. Instead of throwing these away, wash and reuse as containers. A small jar used to store baby food, for example, can be used to store jar or powdered milk. Bigger jars can be used to store jam, preserved fruits or cookies. Just make sure to clean thoroughly and sterilize the glass jars if you are using them to store jams or fruit preserves, to prolong the shelf life of the food you prepared.
12. Newspaper, cardboard, bubble wrap, boxes, packing peanuts
All these items can be used as packing material when moving, or when simply storing knickknacks or odds and ends. If you don’t see a move in your future, you can donate the newspaper, cardboard, bubble wrap and packing peanuts to a moving company; a friend or a family member who is about to change residences.
13. Old clothes
If you love shopping for clothes, you will definitely have an accumulation of never-worn items. Organize your closet in such a way that you can separate the items that you can sell, donate or turn into other items. Old jeans, for instance, can be turned into shorts if the leg part is too frayed. Old towels can be used as a rag when washing cars or mops for the floors. Still usable clothes can be sewn together to create cushion covers, rags, TV covers, etc.
14. Resealable bags
Ziplock bags, resealable sandwich bags and similar containers are indispensable, but can also easily add to the trash. Fortunately, there are more than 18,000 in-store recycling centers operating now where you can even earn rewards points for recycling these items.
15. Tools and gear for bicycles
Like Bikes of the World, Bikes Not Bombs will gladly take bicycle tools and gear out of your hands. Broken or old bike components and parts like frames, tires, tubes, lights, locks, etc. are given a new life and donated to economic development projects overseas.
16. Twist ties
Twist ties can be used to secure loose items together like the wires of computers or your other wired electrical appliances at home, to keep them out of the way.
If you have some old tires lying around, why not line them up into the ground to serve as a stage in an obstacle course? If there’s a local school or playground in your area, you can do the same thing. Old tires can also be turned into outdoor swings. Tie a strong rope around the tire, attach two ends to a tree and make sure that it’s the appropriate for the kids or adults who will use the swing. One last thing that you can do is to simply donate the old tires to your local gas station, where the rubber will be recycled.
18. Water filters
Brita water filters in particular have a company called Preserve. The plastic pitcher filter casing of Brita is recycled by Preserve and turned into toothbrushes, cups, cutting boards and other recycled products. Brita water filters have activated carbon, and these can be used for alternative energy.
19. Wine corks
Interestingly enough, American sip more than 850 million gallons of wine – which means lots and lots of wine cork! Instead of throwing these away, you can turn wine corks into coasters or memo boards. You can also send them to places like Yemm & Hart or visit sites like recork.org so that the wine corks can be turned into new products.
There are plenty of ways that you can reuse or recycle wood. If you cannot repair an old chair anymore, for example, you can use the legs to make a spice rack, a unique bookshelf or a bird table. Old wood can also be chopped and turned into firewood. Any other small piece can be turned into special craft projects that you can finish with the kids and proudly display at home.
Millions of tons of trash is being thrown away on landfills on an annual basis. To prevent further damage on the environment, you can easily do your share by reusing these household items instead of throwing them away in the trash.