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Go Green: Recycling Common Household Items

Posted by Smita Kishore on

We all know recycling is important. From conserving energy, to decreasing dependency on new resources and reducing waste, recycling helps cut down greenhouse gas emissions and chemical pollution. Living in a city that has a recycling rate of less than 10% is heartbreaking to me. We all want to enjoy the beauty and gifts of nature and this beautiful Earth, but how many of us are stopping to take a moment to nourish, love and give back to Her? If we want the joys of bright blue oceans, evergreen parks, and clean water and air to be around for future generations, then we must take a moment to think about the ways that we can help preserve them.

While it can be tough to recycle certain items, especially in Chicago with all of the new restrictions as to what is accepted, there are many great resources that can help you find centers in your area for pretty much everything :)

Here is a list of common household items that you should take a moment to recycle!

Batteries: Millions of used batteries end up in landfills every year where they can release potentially harmful toxic metals into our environment. While many single-use batteries no longer contain mercury, a toxic heavy metal, that doesn’t mean that the materials can’t be reused or recycled into other products, such as new batteries, golf clubs, and even silverware! Here’s a link to help you locate drop-off locations for batteries in your state. Many stores, like Staples or The Home Depot, will even take old batteries so you can collect them until your next shopping trip ;) And, if you’re curious about all of the things your old batteries can be turned into, here’s an awesome infographic by Call 2 Recycle

Secret Life of Batteries - Call 2 Recycle

Light Bulbs: To find a light bulb recycling center near you, search hereWe store ours in a small box in our tool closet and drop off once a year.

  • Fluorescent (aka CFLs): Contain mercury, which is toxic to the environment and our health, and shouldn’t be thrown out. While the mercury will only be released if the glass breaks, it's common for lightbulbs to shatter while dump trucks are loaded and unloaded. Have a broken CFL? Here’s what to do to help reduce your mercury exposure, according to the EPA.
  • LED: More energy efficient than CFLs but still contain harmful toxins, such as lead and arsenic. Luckily these are more durable and therefore more difficult to break. However, there are no laws requiring us to recycle LED bulbs, which means there’s an increased chance that these heavy metals will end up in our waste stream, and therefore our bodies. Don't know what to do with all those old Christmas led lights? You can mail them in here.
  • Incandescent + Halogen: Sadly, most cities don't have recycling programs for these bulbs, but fortunately they don’t contain any toxic materials. Just make sure to wrap them well before disposing to help prevent breakage. Or, if you’re feeling crafty, you can reuse your old bulbs to make indoor planters, ornaments, and more!

Foam + Packing Peanuts: Being a company whose goal is to be as earth-friendly as possible, you can imagine my dismay when our glass jars arrived in an oversized box filled with foam :( With so many greener alternatives out there today, I wish companies would stop using this #6 plastic as packaging fillers or to make throw-away cups, bowls, and plates. Often referred to by its brand name Styrofoam, #6 plastic is one of the worst things for our environment, as it’s not biodegradable and can persist in landfills forever. Forever! Not to mention, foam can easily break off into smaller pieces, which animals can choke on. The sad part is that foam can be recycled but many city programs simply don’t accept it. Thankfully, there are companies that do, turning our old foam into picture frames, pony packs, pens, rulers, or electronic packaging. Here’s a map to find a foam recycling center near you! Also, UPS locations will take your packing peanuts and reuse them. 

foam-green-plastic 6-recycle

Contacts: Did you know that contact lenses and their packaging often gets filtered out of recycling bins because they are too small? Neither did I until I started writing this post! While the plastic container can be recycled (depending on your city), the foil cover and contacts typically end up in landfills. As someone who has been wearing dailies for years, this was more than a little disappointing to learn. Thankfully Bausch + Lomb and Terracycle have come together to create the One-by-One recycling program for contacts. Simply collect your contacts, blister packs, and top foil in a small cardboard box, print a free shipping label and drop off at any UPS location.

Electronics: People change their phones faster than their sneakers these days, and with less than 11% of cell phones being recycled, that’s a lot of toxic waste ending up in our landfills. And that’s just cell phones! Let’s not forget about computers, iPads, TVs, and gaming systems. Electronics often contain mercury, lead and other harmful substances that can end up in our soil, water, and air if not disposed of properly. Fortunately, there are many great programs available nationwide that safely recycle e-waste, with this nonprofit being one of them.

Additional Resources: Here are my go-to recycling center locators for everything from furniture, to instruments, and even shoes: Recycle Now and Earth 911For my fellow Illinoians, this is also a great resource. And, for all you upcyclers out there, here are some great DIY projects to reuse everything from plastic condiment bottles to making mosaics out of old CDs! 

Every little thing we can do makes a difference. Keep this post bookmarked to use as an easy reference to help you reduce your footprint! 

Love + Light,

~Smita :)


What are some ways you reuse and recycle household items? Share your DIY projects and resources below!

Awareness Go Green Lifestyle Recycle Sustainable

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