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Recycle 40 things for 40 years

Recycling is key to a green lifestyle.
Recycling is key to a green lifestyle.
Photo by nazreth/Stock Xchng

April 22 marks the 40th anniversary of Earth Day. In honor of this momentous occasion, enjoy the following list of 40 things that can be recycled. Some are obvious, but some were a surprise even to me. The idea is that my fellow recyclers will find a few extras to recycle that they had previously thrown in the trash. For recycling newbies, print this out and keep it near the trash, to remind you what not to throw in there.

A few of the things on this list require a special trip. Just save up your recyclables until you have enough to justify the trip, and then go.

1. Newspapers - must be clean and dry. Include all the glossy inserts, too.

2. CDs and DVDs - Cannot be recycled through the curbside recycling service. Scratched or otherwise unplayable or unusable discs can be repaired. AuralTech CD Refinishing Specialists repair unworking CDs or DVDs quickly and inexpensively.

3. Plastic - as long as it's stamped somewhere with #1 or #2

4. Grocery Bags - Clear, plastic. Usually curbside recyclers do not want these, but they can be taken to a barrel at the grocery store to recycle. Try your local Hy-Vee.

5. Produce Bags - These plastic bags can be recycled in the barrels with other plastic grocery bags.

6. Bubble Wrap - Popped or unpopped.

7. Computer Printer Cartridges - Some companies include pre-paid mailing labels to return the cartridges for recycling when they run out of ink.

8. Junk Mail - Including plastic window envelopes. To avoid the risk of identity theft, remove any identifying information before adding to the recycling bin.

9. Phone Books - Some curbside recyclers will not accept phone books. Look inside the book and see if a recycling option is listed on the inside cover or in the first few pages.

10. Shoe Boxes - Remove any tape.

11. Lawn Chairs - Well, just the scrap aluminum. If it is attracted to a magnet, it is not aluminum. Drop it off at 12th Street Recycling at 4300 E. 12th Street in Kansas City, MO.

12. Cereal Boxes - As long as they are not wet or food-stained.

13. Magazines - Again, it may be a good idea to remove any identifying information before tossing into the recycle bin.

14. Plastic milk jugs - Rinse before recycling. The cap to the container is probably not made from the same recyclable plastic as the container, so it will have to go in the trash.

15. Tennis shoes - Even worn out sneakers can be recycled. Nike's Reuse-a-Shoe program turns shoes into sports surfaces, including running tracks and playgrounds. Drop off your sneakers at the Nike Factory Store at the Legends in Kansas City, KS.

16. Dish soap bottles - Rinse before recycling, but it is not necessary to completely rinse all the soap out. The process of recycling plastics takes care of any contaminants.

17. Plastic juice containers - Rinse before recycling. The lid is probably not recyclable.

18. Container glass - Drop off at a convenient Ripple Glass location in the Kansas City metro area. Do not include windows, light bulbs, mirrors, Pyrex or auto glass.

19. Pop cans - All aluminum beverage cans are recyclable.

20. White office paper - Extra print-outs, fliers sent home from school

21. Corrugated cardboard - This does not include greasy pizza boxes. Only recycle clean, dry corrugated cardboard. All tape should be removed, but staples are OK.

22. Rechargeable batteries - This includes cordless phone batteries and other similar rechargeable battery varieties. Call2Recycle has locations in retail stores all over the Kansas City area. Enter your zip code in the location finder. Many local Radio Shack stores participate.

23. Used motor oil - Call 1-800-CLEAN-UP for locations in the Kansas City area.

24. Old car batteries - Any car parts shop will accept old car batteries.

25. Sports Equipment - Outgrown sports equipment can be sold to the Play It Again Sports at 7151 135th Street in Overland Park.

As the saying goes, "One man's junk is another man's treasure." It is so true. The recycling list continues below with things that can be donated or reused. There is no reason to send this stuff to the landfill. If you donate any of these to a charitable organization such as the Salvation Army or the Missouri Council of the Blind, make sure to ask for a donation receipt for the tax deduction at the end of the year. Breathe new life into these items to keep them out of landfills.

26. Prescription eyeglasses - "Donating your old eyeglasses can save someone in a developing nation from unemployment," says Collection boxes are located at Goodwill Stores, LensCrafters locations and The Lions Club.

27. Prescription sunglasses - Can also be donated at Goodwill Stores, LensCrafters and the Lions Club.

28. Non-prescription sunglasses - Can also be donated at Goodwill Stores, LensCrafters and the Lions Club. Even sunglasses that are non-prescription can be useful to protect people's eyes in countries near the equator.

29. Computers - Surplus Exchange in Kansas City's West Bottoms can make use of old electronics, computers and gently used office equipment.

30. Furniture - Donate it or give it away on Craig's List.

31. Dishes - A college student somewhere could use a free set of dishes. This is another good one for Craig's List.

32. Wooden wine boxes -- These make excellent red worm composting boxes. Our new red wiggler worms will be the subject of an upcoming article.

33. Old Clothes  - Donate to a charitable organization in the area.

34. Outdated technological gadgets -- Check ebay. You wouldn't believe how much an old Atari system goes for! If you do not want to go to the trouble of selling yourself, donate to a charitable organization.

35. Napkins from to-go orders -- My family does not purchase paper napkins or paper towels. Occasionally, there is a mess that I do not want a reusable cloth to clean up. If the dog leaves a special surprise, saved fast food napkins are the best bet.

36. Ugly, working appliances -- Needy families do not care if the oven is paprika-colored (like my last one). If you upgrade your appliances to EnergyStar, donate the old ones to a reputable charity.

37. Gift bags - Regift the gift bag, or use it as a lunch box. Whatever you do, don't throw it away!

38. Baby food containers - The plastic containers can be used for snacks over and over and ... you get the picture. Small crackers, raisins and other snacks are perfect. Toss them in the diaper bag or one of the kids' lunches.

39. Dryer lint - No really. Save it for the next camping trip. Dryer lint makes excellent kindling to start a campfire.

40. Water bottles - This one is the most obvious; so obvious, in fact, that it shocks me that people throw them away so frequently.

Recycling is an essential part of a green lifestyle. For families who have not yet jumped on the bandwagon, see the list of Recycling Resources on the sidebar. Signing up for recycling service is an excellent way to celebrate Earth Day.

For those who already have recycling services, consider what more you can do to make a difference. Even the smallest gestures can help preserve our environment for furture generations.

Thank you to Green America: 21 Things You Didn't Know You Can Recycle and The Internet Consumer Recycling Guide for many of the ideas included in this column. Please visit their websites for even more suggestions to improve your recycling regimen.

Like what you read today? Leave feedback in the form of a comment, or e-mail Cortney Lehmann-Jonas. Click Subscribe above to receive a notification of every new Kansas City Green Parenting Examiner article. No spam, we promise! 


  • Angela, Overland Park Baking 5 years ago

    How about food scraps and other things that can be composted? Keep those out of the landfill too!

  • Jake 5 years ago

    For the identifying info items (magazines, junk mail, etc), Olathe recycling will accept them, shredded, in paper bags along with your regular recyclables. My wife and I save non-greasy fast food paper bags for just this purpose.

  • Drew Denny - National Paddle Sports Examiner 5 years ago

    Thank you for dedicating so much time, research and space for this. Readers, please don't forget to sign up (with your children) to keep your parks, trails and waterways clean. It good exercise and very educational.

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