16 Everyday Items That You Probably Didn’t Know You Could Recycle or Compost

16 Everyday Items That You Probably Didn’t Know You Could Recycle or Compost

Editor’s note: We recommend reusing, repurposing and upcycling items before disposing of, discarding and recycling materials. In fact, we urge people to consume less as the initial course of action, and ditch disposables for reusables and choose plastic-free options where possible. When reading this post, please remember that kerbside recycling programs vary in each state and municipality. For accurate information, you will need to check with your local council for a precise list of materials that can be placed in your recycling bin.

Most of us have a fairly good understanding of the basic items we can recycle, items such as aluminium cans, plastic and glass bottles, paper and cardboard. But there are some unusual materials that have even the most eco-conscious of earthlings scratching their heads. In this post, we take a closer look at everyday items that are often sent to landfill, but can actually be recycled or composted – if you know how.

1. Corks from wine and champagne bottles

Cork is a completely natural, biodegradable product made from the bark of the cork oak tree. Cork from wine and champagne bottles, or any others you come across, can actually be recycled through cork recycling programs.

USA and Canada

ReCork provides a wine cork recycling service in the United States and Canada. The cork is upcycled to create shoes and bags. Check out their website for more details.

Australia and New Zealand

Unfortunately, there are no cork-specific recycling programs that currently exist in Australia and New Zealand.

Not to fret – cork is compostable! You can place it directly in your compost bin or use as garden mulch. Just shred the wine cork to help decomposition. You can also mix in with straw or wood chips. Check with your local council to ensure that cork can be placed in the green waste bins.

15 Everyday Items That You Probably Didn't Know You Could Recycle or Compost - Wine cork

2. Soft plastics packaging

Soft plastics such as pasta packets, bubble wrap, biscuit wrapping, chip packets, sandwich bags and lolly wrappers can actually be recycled.

USA and Canada

Trex is an organisation that accepts soft plastics and turns it into products such as decking. Just look out for their bins at the entrance of participating retail stores such as Target, Whole Foods, Winn Dixie, Food Lion, Food Dixie and Safeway.

For a list of participating US stores, click here.

For Canadian locations, click here.


While soft plastics shouldn’t be placed in regular kerbside recycling bins provided by local councils, they can be placed at the REDcycle soft plastics recycling boxes located at the entrance of most Woolworths and Coles supermarkets. REDcycle saves these plastics from entering landfills and upcycles them into materials that can be used to manufacture new products such as park benches and other outdoor furniture.

We’ve already covered this topic in detail and will refrain from exploring it here. To read more about REDcycle’s soft plastics recycling initiative, check out this page.

15 Everyday Items That You Probably Didn’t Know You Could Recycle or Compost - Food packaging like chip packets

3. Bed mattresses

According to the Mattress Recycling Council, more than 50,000 mattresses are dumped in US landfills every single day, or about 18 million each year. Bed mattresses consist of many different fibres and materials such as cotton, polyester, latex, wool and steel coils, as well as toxic substances such as formaldehyde, polyurethane foam and flame retardants. As much as 80% of a mattress can actually be recycled as fibres and foam can be turned into carpet underlay and or turned into insulation.

Related Post: The New 100% Recyclable Packaging Target Is No Use If Our Waste Isn’t Actually Recycled

15 Everyday Items That You Probably Didn't Know You Could Recycle or Compost - bed mattress

Instead of trashing mattresses, check in with your local council to confirm whether they offer a mattress recycling service. Many do and will be able to provide details of the nearest mattress recycling centre or drop-off point.

In addition, there are retailers and organisations that specifically recycle mattresses such as:

USA and Canada

Bye Bye Mattress in partnership with Mattress Recycling Council – Mattress recycling service is only available to residents of California, Connecticut and Rhode Island. For recycling collection centres and drop-off points near you, check out this page.

Spring Back – Offers a mattress recycling service in Charlotte, Colorado, Nashville, Utah and Tacoma.

IKEA Will recycle all of its used mattresses and for a small fee, will pick up any used mattress (any brand) when delivering a new bed/mattress.

Australia and New Zealand

Soft Landing Mattress Recycling – This recycling social enterprise offers a mattress recycling service in NSW, ACT, VIC and WA. You can book a collection online. Rough cost for the organisation to collect and recycle your mattress is $50 per piece. Extra costs will apply if your residence is harder to reach.

IKEA Its mattress recycling program is offered in Australia and New Zealand too. Read more about the takeback scheme here.

4. Used household batteries

Batteries are made of a variety of elements such as steel, nickel, cobalt, acid, lead, lithium, cadmium, mercury, zinc, manganese and potassium. Some of these are highly toxic to humans and hazardous to our environment which is why it’s important that batteries are dealt with properly.

The great news is that batteries are recyclable!

Just make sure to check with your council to determine the nearest recycling drop-off point for household batteries. There are also a number of retailers and organisations that offer recycling programs for used batteries. They are:

USA and Canada

Call2Recycle – The first household battery recycling program in the USA and in Canada, it has been in operation for over twenty years has thousands of locations across North America. To find a drop-off location near you, click here.

Earth911 – Check this search tool for your nearest recycling centre or drop-off point.

Australia and New Zealand

IKEA – Each IKEA store has a Recycling Drop-off Point near the store entrance where used batteries can be placed. Just check with a store assistant if you need help finding it.

ALDI – Any brand of battery is accepted. Only batteries sized AA, AAA, C, D and 9V are accepted (rechargeable and non-rechargeable).

Bunnings – Some Bunnings stores are participating in a household battery recycling program. Just contact your nearest store to confirm whether they will accept your used battery.

Battery World – Visit the website or contact your local store for details.

15 Everyday Items That You Probably Didn't Know You Could Recycle or Compost - batteries

5. Used car batteries

Car batteries are also recyclable. Check in with your local council to confirm nearest drop-off point. Some car wreckers and spare parts businesses may also purchase your automotive batteries so contact your local auto dealers to confirm.

These retailers and organisations also offer car battery recycling programs:

USA and Canada

Earth911 – Check their search tool for nearest recycling centre or drop-off point for car batteries.

United Battery They will pay cash for ‘junk’ automotive batteries.

Advance Auto Parts – Simply drop off your used battery at any of their stores. Unless prohibited by law, they’ll recycle the car battery no matter the make or model.

Australia and New Zealand

Battery World – Contact your local store for nearest drop off point.

Repco Auto Parts and Authorised Service – Visit repco.com.au or contact them for nearest location.

6. Keys

If you have some spare keys in the bottom of drawers that you neither use, need or don’t know what to do with, you can recycle them. Keys are usually made of nickel silver, a strong metal that can be melted and recycled. Check with your council to ensure that they can be placed in your kerbside recycling bin. If not, many recycling centres will happily collect them for scrap metal.

Some organisations collect and recycle unwanted keys and use the proceeds to do social good. Here are a few:

Keys for Hope This organisation collects keys to feed the hungry.

Dare 2 Care for the HomelessA non-profit based in Long Beach, California

7. Aerosol cans 

It’s the fear of an explosion that has many people believing that aerosol cans cannot be recycled, but the truth is, once they’ve been used and completely emptied, the metals in the packaging – usually steel and aluminium – are recyclable. To clarify, aerosol cans including hairspray, paint spray, insect spray, deodorant spray, can be placed in the kerbside recycling bin

If the aerosol can is still full or half full (half empty), they should be treated as household hazardous waste. Contact your local council for more information on dealing with hazardous waste.

Related Post: There Are Some Single-Use Plastics We Truly Need. The Rest We Can Live Without

15 Everyday Items That You Probably Didn't Know You Could Recycle or Compost - aerosol cans

8. Cotton balls, cotton swabs and cotton buds

Cotton is a natural, biodegradable material. Simply place the cotton balls and swabs in your compost bin and it will break down. Make sure to separate out plastic from cotton in a cotton bud (and avoid purchasing these in future). Check the product label to determine if the plastic can be recycled or if this is unclear, contact the manufacturer via email or on social media.

9. Empty toothpaste tubes, plastic toothbrushes and floss containers

These items cannot be placed in kerbside recycling bins and are usually thrown in the rubbish bin, but thanks to Terracycle, an innovative business known for recycling the “non-recyclable”, you can now recycle toothpaste tubes, plastic toothbrushes and floss containers. The organisation partners with individuals, municipalities, retailers and manufacturers across 21 different countries to offer free recycling programs.

To learn more about how Terracycle’s free recycling program works as it relates to these plastic items, click here.

15 Everyday Items That You Probably Didn't Know You Could Recycle or Compost

10. Used prescription glasses, spectacles and sunglasses

Don’t automatically throw your eyeglasses in the trash. First, check in with your local optometrist to see if they have a collection program. Some optometrists partner with non-profits and social enterprises that will donate used glasses to people in developing countries that can’t afford to buy any.

USA and Canada

Lions Club Eyeglass Recycling Program – This organisation accepts all eyewear, prescription glasses and sunglasses, regardless of condition or wear. Since 2013, it has sent over 130,000 recycled eyewear with medical missions groups in developing nations. For details on how to donate, click here.

New Eyes Another non-profit that collects used eyewear and recycles it to distribute aboard, to people in need. Learn more here.

Australia and New Zealand

Lions Recycle for Sight Australia– Part of the worldwide Lions Club Eyeglass Recycling Program, Lions Recycle for Sight Australia has drop-off locations across Australia. Click here for locations.

For New Zealand locations, visit this page.

15 Everyday Items That You Probably Didn't Know You Could Recycle or Compost - eyewear and sunglasses

11. Hearing aids

There are several organisations that offer hearing aid recycling programs. Used hearing aids are often refurbished and either given to those in need or sold to buy new ones for people who can’t afford them.

USA and Canada

Starkey Hearing FoundationTo donate hearing aids, check out this page for details.

Lions Club Hearing Aid Recycling Program – View a list of their US and Canadian hearing aid recycling centers here.

Australia and New Zealand

Recycled Sound – A non-profit organisation that helps disadvantaged people who are hearing impaired access hearing aids. You can donate used hearing aids here.

Ear Science – Check out their drop-off points here.

12. Light bulbs and fluorescent tubes

If the light bulbs and fluorescent tubes are intact and not broken, they can be recycled.

USA and Canada

Home Depot – For your nearest store, head to homedepot.com.

Batteries Plus Bulbs – America’s largest and fastest growing battery, lightbulb and smartphone/tablet repair franchise also offers light bulb recycling services and recycle all sorts of light bulbs and fluorescent tubes including halogen, incandescent, spot/flood lamps and much more. Fees may apply. To find your nearest location, head to this page.

You can also search Earth911, North America’s largest recycling-focussed database for nearest drop-off points.

Australia and New Zealand

IKEAJust leave at the Recycling Drop-off Point at the store entrance.

15 Everyday Items That You Probably Didn’t Know You Could Recycle or Compost - Light bulbs and incandescent light

13. Printer cartridges, toner bottles and print heads

It’s common knowledge that ink and printer cartridges and toner bottles are recyclable, though few know where to drop them off unless their workplace happens to partner with a recycling program. First off, many popular manufacturers such as Epson, Lexmark, Toshiba, Dell and Hewlett Packard have take-back schemes so best check with them for drop-off points and collection centres.

Some major retailers also have recycling programs for cartridges and toners. They are:

USA and Canada

Best Buy – Accepts three items per household per day. Click here for your nearest location.

Staples – Recycle cartridges and earn rewards. Learn more about this cartridge recycling program here.

Australia and New Zealand

Cartridges 4 Planet Ark program – This was launched 15 years ago and since then, it has recycled almost 39 million printer cartridges. It has partnered with participating retailers including Officeworks, Australia Post, The Good Guys, JB Hi-Fi, Harvey Norman and Office National so you will find drop-off boxes in-store.

15 Everyday Items That You Probably Didn't Know You Could Recycle or Compost - Print head, ink cartridge

14. Mobile phones, mobile batteries and chargers 

If you have an old phone, mobile batteries or mobile charger sitting in a junk drawer don’t let it go to waste; these items contain precious metals and plastics that should be used to reduce the burden of mining resources and producing new components. You can either sell the phone or donate it to charity. You can also recycle these products – and other electronic waste or “e-waste” with the following retailers and organisations:

USA and Canada

Best Buy – Click here for your nearest store location.

Australia and New Zealand

Mobile Muster – This free mobile phone recycling program is accessible to everyone as the organisation has partnered with businesses, retailers, councils and schools to make phone recycling easy. They have partnered with major retailers such as Telstra, Optus, Vodafone, Samsung, Officeworks and Australia Post. As a result, they have 3,500 drop-off points across Australia. To view them, click here.

RE:MOBILE – New Zealand’s only accredited mobile phone recycling scheme. For drop-off locations, check out this page.

Related Post: The Truth About E-Waste: What Really Happens to Electronic Waste After Westerners Dump it in Africa

15. Coffee pods and capsules

Single-use disposable coffee pods like most products manufactured for human convenience were created with little thought to its environmental impact. The most popular brand, Nespresso, is made from aluminium and although it’s a resource that can be recycled an infinite number of times, its aluminium coffee pods are of a size and shape that cannot be processed through conventional recycling facilities.

Biodegradable coffee pods, on the other hand, are at least compostable and should be placed in compost bins. Do not throw in rubbish bins; doing so negates any positive environmental benefits.

Now although Nespresso’s aluminium coffee pods can’t be placed in kerbside recycling bins, they can still be recycled through other programs and through Nespresso boutiques. If you don’t purchase the Nespresso brand, you will need to check with the coffee pod manufacturer to confirm if they have a take-back program.

15 Everyday Items That You Probably Didn't Know You Could Recycle or Compost - coffee pods

USA and Canada

American customers should return coffee pods to Nespresso boutiques. Customers can also order a postage bag to post the pods back to the company for recycling.

Nespresso Canada offers different recycling solutions depending on where customers reside. Recently the company has made recycling easier by partnering with Canada Post so that customers in AlbertaSaskatchewanManitobaOntario, all of the territories and all of Atlantic Canada will be able to recycle their used capsules by simply sending them back through the mail, at no additional cost. Visit this page to learn more about the coffee capsule recycling solutions in Canada.

Australia and New Zealand

In Australia, there are more than 340 drop-off points as Nespresso have partnered with Terracycle and Toll Couriers, and selected participating florists to make the recycling program accessible to customers. Customers can also purchase plastic collection bags at the post office to post the aluminium capsules back to Nespresso.

For customers seeking Newspresso New Zealand drop-off locations, click here.

16 Everyday Items That You Probably Didn’t Know You Could Recycle or Compost - foil
Credit: Shutterstock

16. Aluminium foil

Easter egg foil wrappers, wine foil and aluminium foil can all be recycled so long as it’s clean and of a size that can be processed through a conventional recycling facility; the rule of thumb is to scrunch foil into a fist-sized ball. So don’t throw them out, collect them and once it reaches this size throw it in the kerbside recycling bin.

Loved this post? You’ll also love this one: 7 Free Mobile Apps to Help You Recycle

Want to learn how to consume less? This post will guide you in making the switch to a life of less stuff, and less need to recycle!

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16 Items That You Probably Didn’t Know You Could Recycle or Compost

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