Oh, The Things You Can Recycle!


The beginning of a new year always provides the feeling of a fresh start (mingled with the “post-holiday slump,” but that’s another post). I wish I could go all KonMari on my house, but in this season of motherhood with young children–including a newborn–that’s just not feasible. (I do feel validated that Marie Kondo herself shares this sentiment, although she expresses it in a much gentler way: “The joy that comes from parenting exceeds any satisfaction that could have come from a perfectly neat home.”)


When I do have the opportunity to organize, declutter, and purge, I feel intense gratification. But what about those items that can’t be donated or “re-homed”? I despise throwing things away, but sometimes there are no other options…until now.

The “3 Rs” of waste have been ingrained in me from an early age, and I try my best to follow the hierarchy of reduce, reuse, recycle. And while not everything can be recycled, there are plenty of things that can still be put to good use.

the things you can recycle


The obvious way to recycle clothing is to pass it on. But what if it is unwearable? There are really only so many t-shirt quilts and denim purses a person can have, so what else can you do with clothing that is torn, stained, or otherwise damaged?  On a very rare mall shopping trip I discovered a solution: clothing retailer H&M accepts clothing donations in any condition (I’m looking at you, holey underwear). You’ll also receive a 15% coupon to use in store–they’re still a business, after all.


Local running shoe store Breakaway Running will take shoes that still have some life in them (and as a bonus give you $10 off a new pair), but for those shoes that can’t be re-worn, Nike will grind them up for new materials with their Reuse-a-Shoe program. From what I’ve heard, there is a Nike Clearance Store in town that will take them, and this includes children’s tennis shoes. Full disclosure: I have never personally dropped shoes off at Nike, but I have sent several pairs of shoes with a friend who was doing so.

Plastic bags

We’ve all seen the bins outside grocery stores that accept plastic shopping bags for recycling, but did you know that there are all kinds of plastic bags that will also be accepted? According to their website, Kroger’s Zero Hunger/Zero Waste program will recycle lots of different plastics, such as bread bags, dry cleaning bags, and those bags inside cereal boxes.


I always get a weird feeling of justification when a marker dries out–“This is what happens when we leave the lids off, kids.”–and make a big presentation of dropping said marker into the trash. But I will happily give up that production for Crayola’s ColorCycle program. Full disclosure again: This is a school program, so I haven’t actually sent any markers back personally, but I have started a stash (it’s not hoarding if you’re going to recycle things, right?) for my daughter’s school that JUST started participating! 

Printer Ink Cartridges

When I was a brand-new teacher, fresh out of college, I used to take my empty ink cartridges to be re-filled and patted myself on the back for being eco-conscious (and cheap). Now that I am older and have a “nice” printer, I have been convinced that only a very specific type of ink will work. But what to do with the old cartridges? Office Depot/Office Max will take them off your hands for you…and will, of course, be more than happy to sell you some more.

Batteries & Light Bulbs

On a quest to find a very specific battery for a digital thermometer, I came across retailer Batteries + Bulbs. Not only did I find the battery I needed, I was also able to recycle the bag of burned out light bulbs and dead lithium batteries we’d been collecting with the hopes of finding a better way to dispose of them. Again, we’re not hoarders, I swear.

I’m always on the look-out for ways to be more sustainable and a better steward of this planet, so if you have anything to add to this list, please share!


  1. Goodwill will also accept any clothing material in any state. Stained, ripped, etc. Textile merchants buy or take it to break down.

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