7 Surprising Things You Should Be Recycling

light fixture
credit: Stephen Paul for Hunker

According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, the average American generates about four-and-a-half pounds of trash per day. That adds up to an astounding 267.8 million tons of garbage thrown out every year — which no doubt includes stuff that could have easily been recycled or donated.

To help the environment and your recycling game, we rounded up some everyday items that should never end up in the trash can. From old eyeglasses to mascara wands and more, here are seven things to stop tossing out — and what to do with them instead.

1. Old eyeglasses

If you thought your used eyeglasses were good for nothing, then it's time to think again. Programs like VSP Global's Eyes of Hope collect and distribute gently used eyewear to help people in need across the globe — so you can donate your outdated glasses to someone who could still use them.

2. Mascara wands

Why throw out your dried-up mascara wand when you can use it to save a baby bunny instead? The Wands for Wildlife initiative asks supporters to send in their old mascara wands so they can repurpose them to remove hazardous debris from the fur of wild animals, such as rabbits, ducks, and groundhogs.

3. Batteries

If you were under the impression that your dead batteries were reserved for the trash can, then you'd be mistaken. Several major retailers including Best Buy, Staples, and Lowe's allow customers to drop off rechargeable batteries for recycling, or you can visit Call2Recycle to find out where you can donate your alkaline ones.

4. Mobile phones

Don't hoard your old mobile phones when you can donate them to help someone in need. HopeLine collects used cellphones, cords, and accessories and then provides them to victims of domestic violence. Drop-offs are conveniently located at Verizon Wireless locations, but phones from all service providers are accepted.

5. Light bulbs

Not sure what to do with your incandescent and compact fluorescent light bulbs when you're done with them? Most IKEA stores have recycling centers that accept both regular light bulbs and low energy light bulbs. Or if they're still usable, you can donate them to your local Habitat for Humanity to brighten up someone else's home.

6. Gently used shoes

Believe it or not, even an old pair of sneakers can make a difference in someone's life. Soles4Souls collects and distributes gently used shoe donations to impoverished people around the globe — so you can give your old kicks (and someone in need) a brand-new life.

7. Cardboard boxes

While you probably already knew you could break down your cardboard boxes and recycle them at home, we're guessing you didn't know you could actually donate them, too. U-Haul's Re-Use program collects used cardboard boxes and redistributes them to locations around the country — to cut down on waste and make moving easier for everyone.


Caroline Biggs

Caroline Biggs

Caroline Biggs is a writer living in New York City. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, Apartment Therapy, Refinery 29, and more.