Hard recycling? Not anymore. We all want to do our part to reduce waste and live more sustainably, but some items just don't seem to fit neatly into those blue recycling bins. Plastic bags, food scraps, batteries - what are you supposed to do with those? Don't stress. We've got solutions for 11 of the most perplexing items so you can recycle and repurpose them with confidence. Reduce, reuse, recycle - in that order. It's time to close the loop on some of these problematic products and make recycling second nature.
Get ready to breathe new life into old items and improve your environmental footprint. Hard recycling? Not anymore. We've got you covered.
Introduction: The Struggle of Recycling Difficult Items
The struggle is real when it comes to recycling certain items. Plastic bags, food pouches, chip bags, or Styrofoam are perplexing. Where do these go?
Many communities don’t accept plastics #3-7 or bags in curbside pickup. Check locally for drop-off centers, as some stores like Target and grocery chains offer recycling for all plastics and bags. food pouches and chip bags are not recyclable, so reuse or trash them.
Styrofoam is not accepted in most curbside recycling. Some areas have drop-offs for Styrofoam peanuts and blocks. For food containers, reuse, or trash. With some effort, you can keep these tricky items out of the landfill. Every little bit helps when it comes to hard recycling!
#1. Plastic Bags: Reuse or Return to Retailers
Plastic bags are hard to recycle, but that doesn’t mean they have to end up in landfills. Many grocery stores and retailers offer plastic bag recycling - just bring your used bags back to the store. Some will even give you a small credit for returning bags to be reused. If that’s not an option, repurpose the bags yourself. They make great small trash can liners, pet waste bags, or packing materials.
#2. Foam Cups and Containers: Find Specialty Recycling Programs
Check with your local waste and recycling department about foam recycling drop-off centers or pick-up services in your area. Many towns and cities offer recycling for foam products like cups, plates, and takeout containers. Look for keywords like “foam,” “polystyrene,” or the resin code “PS 6” to find the right programs. Some big box stores like Staples and mailing centers like UPS also recycle foam. As a last resort, ship your clean foam to companies like GoFoam which offers national recycling programs for a small fee. Every piece recycled counts!
#3. Plastic Straws: Choose Reusable Options Instead
Many of us grew up using plastic straws without thinking twice. However, these straws are not recyclable and end up polluting our environment. Rather than tossing straws after one use, choose reusable alternatives.
Stainless steel, glass, and bamboo straws are sustainable options that can last for years. Carry one with you in a purse or car and simply wash between uses. Silicone straws are flexible, collapsible, and dishwasher-safe for easy cleaning. By opting for reusable straws, you can cut back on needless plastic waste and do your part to reduce pollution.
#4. Chip Bags: Upcycle Into Purses or Donate for Repurposing
Chip bags are notoriously hard to recycle, but that doesn’t mean they have to end up in the trash. Many crafty souls have found ways to upcycle chip bags into stylish purses, totes, and organizers. If you’re not the DIY type, look for local charities in your area that will collect chip bags and other plastic films to recycle into new products.
#5. Frozen Food Boxes: Remove Plastic Parts Before Recycling
When recycling frozen food boxes, be sure to remove any plastic windows, liners, or trays before putting the cardboard in your recycling. Only the cardboard portion of the box is recyclable. The plastic parts need to go in the regular trash. Some people don’t realize that and end up contaminating an entire batch of cardboard at the recycling center by including plastics. Do your part and take a minute to separate out those plastic inserts and lids. Every little bit helps to keep recycling streams clean and efficient.
#6. Plastic Utensils: Opt for Reusable Versions
Instead of using disposable plastic utensils, invest in reusable versions. Many eco-friendly options like bamboo, stainless steel, or glass are now available. Keep a set in your bag, car, and office so you're never without it. Using reusable utensils is a simple change that makes a big impact by reducing single-use plastics.
#7. Toothbrushes: Seek Recyclers or Upcycle for Crafts
Once your toothbrush has seen better days, don’t just throw it in the trash. Some toothbrush recycling programs will properly sanitize and recycle the entire toothbrush. If that’s not available in your area, remove the bristles and upcycle the handle into homemade crafts like plant markers, dollhouse furniture, or holiday decorations. Get creative!
#8. Batteries: Locate Safe Disposal Sites Like Retailers or Facilities
Return used batteries to retail stores that sell the specific type of battery or check if your local waste and recycling center offers battery recycling services. Many retailers like Best Buy, Staples, Office Depot, and Lowe’s provide free battery recycling. County waste facilities also frequently provide hazardous waste drop-off events for safe disposal of batteries and other troublesome items.
#9. Hardcover Books: Donate, Upcycle, or Repurpose Into Art
Donate your hardcover books to local libraries, schools, shelters, or thrift stores. They'll appreciate the donation and your books will get a second life.
#10. Plastic Bags: Reusable Totes for a Greener Shopping Experience
Plastic bags have become a major environmental concern, clogging up landfills and polluting our oceans. To combat this, it's time to make a switch to reusable totes. These eco-friendly bags are not only durable but also stylish, making your shopping experience more sustainable and fashionable.
Next time you head out for groceries or any other shopping, bring along your reusable tote bags. Keep a few in your car or by the front door so they're always within reach. By using these bags, you'll reduce plastic waste and contribute to a cleaner planet.
#11. Styrofoam Packaging: Look for Alternative Materials and Reuse
Styrofoam packaging can be a challenge to recycle due to its composition. Fortunately, there are alternatives available that are more environmentally friendly. Look for packaging materials made from biodegradable or recyclable materials such as paper, cardboard, or even plant-based materials.
If you find yourself with styrofoam packaging, consider reusing it whenever possible. It can be repurposed for cushioning fragile items during shipping or used for storage and organization. By giving styrofoam a second life before disposal, you'll reduce its impact on the environment.
So there you have it, solutions for recycling some of the trickiest household items that often end up in the trash. While recycling and reducing waste is so important for the health of our planet, for many it can feel overwhelming or unrealistic. Hopefully, with these easy-to-implement tips, you now feel equipped and empowered to properly recycle those items that stump you. Every small step makes a difference. Together, by choosing to repurpose and recycle whenever we can, we are creating a more sustainable future for generations to come. You've got this! Now go forth and recycle without fear of confusion or frustration. Our planet thanks you.