Recycling is an important part of reducing how much garbage we send to landfills. According to the EPA, Americans generate more than 262 million tons of waste every single year.
Seventy-five percent of this is recyclable material, but only 25 percent of this actually makes it to recycling facilities, a horrifying figure given that 73 percent of Americans have access to curbside recycling services.
Amusingly, a sizable portion of these forgotten recyclables are off-the-wall items like shoes, furniture and – no joke – dentures. Never in a million years would I have known dentures are recyclable! Here are ten of these such items not to send to the landfill!
The average set of dentures contains approximately $25 of recyclable metals, including silver, gold and palladium. The Japan Denture Recycling Association (yes, that exists) collects false teeth, removing valuable materials and discarding the rest. Once the process is complete, the program donates 100 percent of its earnings to UNICEF. Cool idea, right?
Equipped with special saws that aren’t found in traditional recycling facilities, mattress recycling factories can separate foam, metal, wood and cloth and recycle these materials independently. Wood is chipped, foam and cloth are shredded, springs are melted down. Who knows, maybe that wallpaper in your dining room was made from an old mattress!
3. Expired prescriptions
Expired prescriptions should never get into the wrong hands. To help prevent this, some states allow you to donate unused drugs back to pharmacies, while a few charities accept leftover medicines from people who have changed prescriptions, stopped using the mediations or passed away.
Got a collection of plastic trophies from your school days sitting in the back of your mom’s attic? It’s time to move on. Lamb Awards, a specialty recycling center, can break down retired awards, melting them down to reuse in new trophies or other post-consumer recycled items.
Even the stubbiest little crayons can find renewed purpose through the National Crayon Recycle Program. This organization collects broken, worn down crayons and melts them down into new wax so they can be remade and resold. The program says they’ve saved more than 120,000 pounds of crayons from the landfill so far!
6. Dirty diapers
In the time leading up to potty training, the average baby soils 6,000 diapers. 6,000! Fortunately, the company Knowaste collects and recycles dirty diapers from hospitals, public restrooms and nursing facilities. Knowaste sanitizes the diapers before separating plastic from organic matter. Plastics are then compressed into pellets and recycled into roof shingles, while paper pulp becomes wallpaper or shoe soles. Genius!
Got torn pantyhose still taking up space in your drawers? Textile recycler No Nonsense is here to save the day! The organization recycles old stockings by grinding them down (didn’t think it was that hardcore…) and transforming them into things like playground toys and carpet.
8. Aluminum foil
Aluminum products are among the easiest metals to recycle thanks to their ability to be melted down and turned into new products essentially forever. Luckily, most recycling facilities can handle foil, no problem, as long as it is donated in ball form, instead of loose sheets.