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How to Recycle Unusual Household Items

Whether doing major spring cleaning or just sorting through old household supplies, occasionally, we all run into a recycling stumper—crayons, foam peanuts, old VHS tapes? Good grief. The more obscure an item, the harder it is for us to resist throwing it out the easy way—in the trash can. But the truth is we really are doing ourselves (and our planet!) a big favor by repurposing used parts and pieces. So, the next time clutter is being banished from the house, refer to this list of wacky recycling tips. We promise it really is useful.

1. Batteries
Environmental, Health and safety Online have initiated a national program called Call2Recycle, which has collected and recycled more than 42 million pounds of rechargeable batteries, and have partnered up with retailers and recycling programs nationwide for our recycling convenience. Visit their site ehso.com to find a location near you.


2. Candle Jars
I’m a jar-candle addict, but who wants to melt out the leftover wax so you can recycle the jar? I found a new trick: Put the used jar in the freezer, and an hour later, you can tap the bottom a few times and pop the wax right out. Better yet, stick to tea lights. As long as the package says that the metal cups are aluminum, you can pull out the used wick and toss the metal in the recycling along with your cans.


3. CDs and DVDs
Mails discs to Back Thru The Future (cdrecyclingforfree.com), a woman-owned electronics recycling and data destruction company.


4. Crayons
In my house, the most unpopular crayon colors are gray and pale yellow. I never thought twice about tossing the duds in the trash, but it turns out that crayon wax spends eternity in a landfill. Instead, put them in a small box and send them to the recycling program run by Crazy Crayons, where your castoffs will be melted down and turned into a new generation of crayons. For details, go to crazycrayons.com.


5. Foam Peanuts
Some are now made from vegetable starch. To test, toss one under water—if it disintegrates, you’ve got nontoxic, biodegradable peanuts. As for the nonrecyclable plastic kind, call The Peanut Hotline (800-828-2214) for a list of businesses that accept them.


6. Compact Fluorescent Lightbulbs
Recycle them through your town's hazardous waste program. If your town doesn't have one, put bulbs in a thick plastic bag to keep mercury from leaking; tie shut and place in the garbage.


7. VHS Tapes
Have taken over, everyone has a pile of old VHS tapes gathering dust. To keep them out of landfills, drop them in the mail to Alternative Community Training, a nonprofit Missouri company that provides jobs to people with disabilities.

Workers erase the tapes, reselling the ones that are in good shape and recycling the plastic parts of the rest. They’ve recycled more than 1 million tapes so far. Mail the tapes (at the cheaper USPS media mail rate) to:

ACT
2200 Burlington
Columbia, MO 65202


8. Paint
Go to earth911.org/recycling to find out where to recycle it in your zip code. Or donate it to your local Habitat for Humanity ReStore (habitat.org).


9. Trophies
Yes, it’s hard to part with past awards that remind you of when you were the fastest, strongest or, quite frankly, the best, but if you must, here’s how: Send them to Art Inc.; they’ll take your award and, with it, make new art that they will give children’s groups or worthy causes like the Special Olympics. Or, ship them off to Awardex.com, where they’ll use you old trophies to make new awards.


10. Phone Books
Yes, they're recyclable, but you can't just toss them in with your regular stuff. Who knew? Instead, wait for your town's phone book pickup. If there is none, go to yellowpages.com/recycle to find out what to do in your area.
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