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20+ Awesome Recycling Programs Every Family Should Know About

Recycling options for toys, clothes, tech items, baby carriers and more

Published on: March 29, 2021

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You want to do your part in keeping as much waste as possible out of the landfill. But what about an old hair dryer, burnt-out string lights or other things that don’t go into your curbside recycling bin? Yes, you can recycle razors, used toothpaste tubes, curling irons, vacuum cleaners, coffee brewers, old mattresses and much more. After you drop off those recyclables, some items are passed on to others in need, while others are turned into plastic pellets that are used to create new objects and some are even made into cleaning rags or stuffing. We’ve rounded up a list of places where you can drop off or mail in items that otherwise might end up in the trash can. Almost all of these services are free, and you will not only help the Earth but may even help people in need.

With the ever-changing conditions of the pandemic, we recommend you check with these organizations to confirm operating hours.

Legos

When your kids have outgrown their Lego sets, pass them on to children in need through Lego Replay. Simply print out a free shipping label, box up the bricks and ship. Duplo, big and little bricks are welcome, and you don’t even need to take them apart or have a whole set.

Ergobaby carriers

At Ergobaby Everlove, you can sell back your Ergobaby carrier. Simply go to the website, answer a few questions and even add a story about your experience. Then print out a label, box it up and schedule a USPS pickup. Once received, the carrier will be inspected, cleaned and then re-sold to the next family.

Shoes

Soles4Souls is an organization that accepts donations of any kind of new or gently worn shoes. It partners with organizations that help people in poverty start businesses. Go to the website to find a drop-off location or to ship your donation for free.

Patagonia clothing

Patagonia accepts any of its products for recycling. When you are ready to recycle your washed and dried Patagonia item, take it to any Patagonia retail store or organize shipping using information on the Patagonia website. The products will be repurposed or recycled by the company, ensuring that they won’t end up in a landfill.

Clothing and footwear from The North Face

Drop off any unwanted clothing and footwear (any condition and any brand) at The North Face retail stores and outlets and get $10 off your next $100 purchase. The North Face will send the items to Soles4Souls.

REI used gear

REI Co-op members can trade in their used gear and receive an REI gift card. Members must be 18 or over, but kids’ items can be traded in, too. Check out the website to see if your items qualify. If your item is listed on the used-gear trade-in page, and the color and style match the picture, you can mail it in for trade — even if you bought it somewhere else.

Mattresses

Mattresses take up a lot of space in landfills, which is sad because 90 percent of mattress components are recyclable. Seattle-area families can drop off a used mattress at NW Furniture Bank in Tacoma. They will recycle your mattress for $20, or if you live within 25 miles of this location, they will pick it up for an additional charge. The mattress can be in any condition but must be dry. 

Holiday lights

What do you do with old string lights that are burned out or just out of style? You can recycle your string lights at one of the locations listed here. The lights will be processed and the copper wire will be recycled. Participating retailers and organizations ask that you remove large bulbs along with any plastic or packaging before drop-off.

Child car seats

Target takes back any type of car seat from infant carriers to boosters and bases. This is a great way to keep an expired or damaged car seat out of the landfill. Seat components are recycled by Target's partner, Waste Management. Check Target's website for an upcoming car seat trade-in event near you. In return, you get a coupon for your next car seat purchase.

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TerraCycle

TerraCycle partners with companies to recycle items that local services don’t typically accept. You can drop off items or print a label or code to ship your recyclables. The program is free to join, and you earn points for items you send in; those points can be converted into charitable donations. Once received, the products are cleaned and then melted down into plastic pellets to be used in other recycled products. You can even order “Zero Waste” boxes for every room in your house. Browse the website for various products and see a few highlights below.

Oral care products

Sign up for a free account with TerraCycle to recycle used toothbrushes, toothpaste tubes and caps, floss boxes and other oral care packaging. You can drop off (check the website for locations) or print a free shipping label for mailing in your recyclables. 

Razors and blades

Gillette, together with TerraCycle, offers recycling of all brands of razors, blades and packaging. Find a drop-off location or download a tracking code to ship your recyclables via your preferred courier service.

Baby food packaging

Gerber partners with TerraCycle to recycle baby food packaging, plus large and small hook Gerber clothing hangers and other items such as plastic containers, lids, shrink wrap and pouches. Remove the remaining product and ensure that all packaging is dry. They ask that you send in only items that are not recyclable through your local service.

Contact lenses

Through Bausch + Lomb and TerraCycle, you can recycle contact lenses and blister packs. Check the link below to find a location where these can be dropped off. Any brand is accepted. The metal is recycled separately and the plastic is made into pellets.

Textiles

Some items are damaged or too worn to be donated. Threadcycle, a program of King County Solid Waste Division, can help! Threadcycle takes bedding (no mattresses), single shoes or socks, hats, accessories, linens and even stuffed animals. See the entire list on the website.

About 20 percent of donations get a second life at a thrift store, while the rest are repurposed into cleaning rags, insulation and stuffing. The program doesn’t take wet items or textiles infested with bedbugs. Find a drop-off point here.

Electronics

E-Cycle Washington is a free program that recycles TVs, computers, monitors, tablets, e-readers, laptops and portable DVD players. If your item is severely damaged, call first to see if it can be recycled.

Best Buy tech

At Best Buy you can first see what your electronic devices are worth, then trade them in for a gift card; or you can recycle smaller tech items, such as keyboards, computer mice, printers, toner cartridges, cell phones and more. This is a free recycling service for as many as three items per household per day.

Staples products

Staples also offers free recycling for electronics, plus lots of other random items such as coffee brewers, iPods, MP3 players and much more. You can recycle as many as seven items per household per day.

Small appliances

Recycle as many as three small appliances per household per day at Best Buy. Among the appliances it accepts are vacuums (broom/stick, robot and upright/canister varieties), cables and connectors, curling irons, fans, hair dryers, hair straighteners, monitoring systems, pedometers and heart monitors, and more.

Battery-recycle

Batteries

Household (alkaline) and rechargeable batteries can be picked up with your recycling through Recology. Place household and button batteries in a sealed bag and put them on top of your bin. Do the same for rechargeable batteries, but use a separate sealed bag.

Larger rechargeable batteries can be recycled for free at Home Depot. Any rechargeable battery, including lithium batteries and cell phone batteries that weighs up to 11 pounds and is under 300 watt hours is accepted.

Bulbs, plastic, batteries and more

Ridwell offers a regular recycling service for plastic bags, packaging, textiles, batteries, bulbs and more. It has different paid service plans depending on your needs. Check out the website for details. 

Pet food and treat packaging

Pet Pros stores offer a program called Flex Forward. You can bring any brand of pet food or treat packaging and drop it in the Flex Forward bin. The packaging is taken to a recycler that grinds the packages into plastic pellets which are then used to make pet products for animal shelters and rescues. 

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