Share on Tumblr

All photographs courtesy of Shutterstock

What comes to mind when you hear the word "recyclable?" If you’re like most people, it’s probably the standard recyclable materials that we all throw into our curbside recycling bins: aluminum cans, cardboard, certain plastics, and glass. For almost everything else, we tend to resort to the garbage can without a second thought—but (hopefully), not any longer.

Here are six items that you’ll never want to throw away again!


Crayons are simple products, made mostly of paraffin wax and a mix of dyes. They’re also non-toxic and easy to melt, making them perfect candidates for recycling. You can even “recycle” them yourself at home: all you need are some rubber molds (rubber ice cube trays are good options, and you can often find them in cool shapes) and a handful of old crayons. Simply chop up your crayons into small cubes, and place a small pile in each ice cube cup. After a quick blast in the microwave until the crayons are melted, let them dry and you’re done.

If do-it-yourself recycling isn’t your thing, a company called Crazy Crayons will accept your old crayons for recycling. After sending in your old crayons, Crazy Crayons will recycle them into new ones. To date, the company has diverted over 100,000 pounds of crayons from ending up in landfills.

Instrument Strings

For any musician, buying and replacing instrument strings is a constant and never ending cycle. They snap, wear out, corrode, and lose their clarity, sometimes even after just a single playing session. They then end up in the trash, off to a landfill to be buried under thousands of tons of waste. But today, you can finally recycle those instrument strings instead of resigning them to the trash.

At TerraCycle, we partnered with instrument string producer D’Addario to create the free Instrument Strings Recycling Program. All instrument strings—both metal and nylon—are accepted regardless of brand. Recycling your old instrument strings through this program can even earn you discounts on D’Addario products or a donation to the D’Addario Foundation.

CFL Light Bulbs
light bulbs

You’ve probably heard that compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) are more energy efficient, and that a single one can save you around $6 in energy every year. What you may not have heard is that CFL bulbs contain mercury—a toxic heavy metal that can lead to illness in humans when exposed. Needless to say, this can make recycling quite the challenge.

Thankfully today, you can bring your burnt out CFL and other fluorescent light bulbs to almost any major home improvement retailer for recycling. Both Home Depot and Lowes will take your bulbs for free, so be sure to save them and drop them off at a store near you for recycling.

Old Shoes
Old Shoes

Shoes are not always easy to recycle, as they contain a variety of different materials that must all be separated before being processed: metal grommets, plastic fibers, synthetic rubber, and everything in between. And while donating your old and unwanted shoes is always the best choice, recycling options for old and tattered footwear have been around for years.

Nike’s Reuse A Shoe program is perhaps one of the most well-known recycling platforms for old athletic shoes, and to date has helped recycle almost 30 million pairs of shoes. To take advantage of the program, simply head to your nearest Nike store and find the Reuse A Shoe bin. Once collected, Nike recycles the shoes into “Nike Grind”, a recycled material used to make things like new shoes and rubber playground surfaces.

Human Hair

Yes, human hair clippings are actually reusable and recyclable! Your local salon or barber may even already be collecting hair clippings for recycling. Human hair is a surprisingly versatile material with a lot of potential applications. You can always donate to a worthy cause like Wigs for Kids, but there are some even stranger ways to make the most of your recently clipped hair.

The nonprofit Matter of Trust, for instance, operates a program called Clean Weave—a hair donation initiative that uses your donated hair to help clean up oil spills. Individual strands of hair have a lot of surface area, and just as they accumulate the natural oils we all produce on our heads, they are also great at trapping oil spilled into the environment. It’s so effective that it was even used to help contain the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010!

Old Keys
Old Keys

Old keys tend to accumulate in places like the junk drawer, a box in the basement, or in the trash. But they’re also recyclable! Because they are typically made of a single kind of metal, they can be sold as scrap and recycled like most other metals.

One nonprofit does just this with old keys, and will accept any of your old keys for recycling. Key for Hope is a Massachusetts-based nonprofit that accepts keys for recycling, selling the material for its scrap value and then donating all proceeds to the food pantry of your choice. It’s a great way to get rid of your old keys while supporting a great cause. / Issue 181 - September 2018
Turnpage Blk

Home | Links | Advertise With Us | Who We Are | Message From The Editor | Privacy & Policy

Connect with Dish Magazine:
Find us on Facebook Follow us on Twitter


Copyright (c) 2013, Smash Media Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of Smash Media Group, Inc. is prohibited.
Use of Dishmag and Dish Magazine are subject to certain Terms and Conditions.
Please read the Dishmag and Dish Magazine Privacy Statement. We care about you!