How to Recycle Everything in Your Home

recyclables in boxes

The Spruce / Letícia Almeida

Did you know that recycling goes way beyond soda cans and newspapers? In fact, almost any item can be recycled. It helps to know the best places to recycle items, how to find them, and what to do—such as cleaning and repairing—before you recycle an item.

Here's a list of how to recycle everything in your home.

Batteries

  • Batteries of all types can be recycled. 
  • Whole Foods stores allow you to recycle batteries, paper, and light bulbs.
  • Battery Solutions will accept old batteries through the mail.
  • Ikea stores also take batteries for recycling.
  • Best Buy takes any tech-type battery, such as camera or gaming batteries. 

Books

Here are some ways to recycle your used books:

  • Donate them on Freecycle.
  • Donate your books to Goodwill or another charity of your choice.
  • Donate your books to a local shelter. 
  • Sell your books on Amazon. 

Before you recycle: Make sure the book is fairly clean; you must remove bookmarks or any tiny pieces of paper, and unfold any corners.

Cars

Cars are typically recycled at a junkyard where they are crushed and then sold as scrap metal, the price of which fluctuates. You will most likely pocket anywhere from $200 to $500 for an old car, depending on the current price of the metal.

A better option is to donate your old car to organizations like Goodwill or Habitat for Humanity. The Make-A-Wish Foundation accepts car donations, as do several veteran's organizations.

Before you recycle: Remove the tires and rims and clean the car, taking special care to extract anything that may have fallen into cracks and crevices. You never know how much loose change, jewelry, or other small valuables you may find. Most importantly, sweep the glove box to make sure there are no receipts with any identifying information.

DVDs/CDs and Other E-waste

Apple products such as iPods (still have one in a drawer somewhere?), iPads, and other products can be turned in at Apple stores for disposal and possibly even a discount on your next purchase.

You can mail your DVDs to be transferred to a digital format and you can upload your old CDs onto your computer. The physical items can then be sent to GreenDisk.com for recycling.

Lights

How and where to recycle lights largely depends on the type of light. Check with the EPA to see if you are allowed to put burned-out or broken light bulbs in the trash. If so, seal them in a plastic bag for safety. Otherwise, look into these resources:

  • Local or city recycling programs
  • Earth 911
  • Bulbcycle
  • HolidayLEDS.com's holiday lights trade-in program

Phones

Cell phones and smartphones are quickly becoming a huge source of trash in the U.S. Luckily, there are organizations that help you recycle your cell phones locally and without much travel or effort on your part.

  • Best Buy will accept used cell phones.
  • Donate your cell phone to Hope Line.

Before you recycle: Clean your phone and wipe it of any personal data such as contacts, passwords, and notes.

Clothes

Clothes recycling for a profit is called consignment. It is very difficult to find one website that catalogs all the consignment shops. The best way to find one is to ask around with friends or family. Otherwise, you might inquire at your favorite department store.

Places to recycle clothes and make a little money:

  • eBay
  • Tag or garage sale
  • Freecycle
  • Poshmark

Otherwise, you can donate clean, gently used clothes to your local Goodwill or Salvation Army. Check with local churches and other houses of worship as they often have donation bins for the needy.

Computers and Electronics

Most cities and towns have special days reserved for electronics recycling, and several outlets will take old televisions and computers off your hands. They are typically called "green" recycling centers. 

  • Best Buy will accept all used computers and electronics
  • Computers For Schools
  • National Center for Electronics Recycling
  • Freecycle

Before you recycle: Wipe the hard drive to make sure there is no personal or identifying information left on the computer.

Furniture

While you can DIY furniture and improve it, or re-purpose it (like re-purposing an old set of kitchen cabinets to hold tools and sporting equipment in your garage), there are ways to recycle furniture. Donate it, sell it (Craigslist, eBay, garage sale), or you can truly recycle furniture. The best way to do this is to call your local town hall and see which days are designated for over-sized trash pick-up. Put it out on the curb the evening prior to give people who may want your furniture some time to pick it up before the trash collectors come your way.

Before you recycle: Make sure it's fairly clean.

Glasses and Eyewear

Eyewear should always be donated unless it is smashed to bits. In that case, it should be treated as plastic and recycled the way you would a bottle of Snapple.

Places to donate glasses and eyewear:

  • Your local Lions Club
  • OneSight
  • Pearl Vision

Before you recycle: Clean your glasses.

Ink Cartridges

Both inkjet and laser printer cartridges come with recycling instructions in the package. Many office products stores will accept used cartridges for recycling as well.

Before you recycle: Put the cartridge back in its original casing. If not possible, put it in a plastic bag.

Kitchen Appliances

Kitchen appliances can be recycled into creative DIYs such as fire pits or container gardens. You can also donate them to Freecycle, pass them on to a family member or friend, or have them picked up on designated trash days just like furniture. You can also check with your local municipal recycling center to see if they accept kitchen appliances.

Smaller appliances like toaster ovens or coffee makers can be donated to your local Goodwill or Habitat for Humanity. This is a great way to free up space in the kitchen pantry or cabinets.

Before you recycle: Make sure you have all of the attachments, cords, and manuals together in one bag or box when you donate.

Plastics, Cardboard, Glass, and Aluminum

This is what most people think about when recycling at home. Look for the recycling symbols on packages to determine what and how these items can be recycled. Check with your local trash collection agency to get a recycling bin delivered to your home. The recycling schedule is usually every other week or once a month.

Before you recycle: Clean food off everything. Remove caps and labels off plastic bottles as they are usually not recyclable.

Paper

Paper should be recycled through your town or city's recycling program. Use a separate bin to collect paper products for recycling. For sensitive paper such as credit card statements or anything that might have personal information on it, shred it first. Check with your bank or credit union as they often offer special shredding days.

Unfortunately, some paper-based items like wrapping paper can not be recycled unless it is noted that it can. This is due to the coating on some paper. Look for wrapping paper marked as "recycled" or "recyclable" when you buy it.

Plastic Bags

It's best to use reusable shopping bags. However, sometimes a plastic bag is the only option. In that case, plastic bags can be reused around the house, such as for lunch boxes in a pinch, small garbage can liners, as doggy waste holders, to carry returns to a store, to bring cans and bottles to recycling, and more.

Carry plastic bags to the grocery store with you. Most of them have a box where you can drop in extra plastic bags for recycling.

Tires

You can upcycle old tires and repurpose them as garden containers or tire swings, but if you'd like you can easily recycle them.

  • Local service stations or tire shops (there might be a small handling fee if you are not replacing tires)
  • Local recycling programs, including ones dedicated to tire recycling

Used Motor Oil

Check your local ordinances as most places require you to recycle used motor oil in certain ways so it doesn't contaminate the drinking water supply. If you take your car in for an oil change, oil disposal is part of the service.

  • Local and chain auto parts stores will usually accept used motor oil and may even offer you a discount on your next purchase.
  • Earth 911