14 things you didn't know were recyclable

Natthawon Chaosakun/ShutterstockIt turns out you can recycle leftover cooking oil.
  • Although it’s obvious that you should recycle your water bottles, it’s less obvious eyeglasses and other obscure items are recyclable.
  • Toothbrushes and lightly used bras can be recycled.
  • You can recycle your phone, laptop, and most other electronic devices.

When the word “recycling” comes to mind, most people think of soda cans, water bottles, and cardboard boxes. But what about cell phones, eyeglasses, and toilets? Perhaps to your surprise, these items are also considered recyclable along with a number of objects you probably have thrown in the garbage can.

To help you sort through some of the things you’ve been tossing, we compiled a list of items commonly misplaced in the trash can.

Give your old toilet a new life.

Flickr/Quinn DombrowskiYour toilet seat could help a road be built.

People are often surprised to find out you can recycle your old toilet. Recycling facilities can use the porcelain and turn it into concrete for roads or footpaths.

In order to recycle your toilet or any porcelain fixture, you’ll need to find a local recycling center that accepts porcelain. If not, try contacting a local charity such as Habitat for Humanity that accepts used, working building materials.

Cigarette waste can be made into plastic.

This one may also be hard to believe, but cigarette waste can actually be repurposed, according to Megan Walton, programs associate at Delta Institute. There are several companies that collect certain parts of cigarette packaging and the cigarettes themselves.

One free mail-in collection program called TerraCycle transforms the waste into plastic, Walton told INSIDER. Cigarettes and packaging are separated and then melted into hard plastic that can be remolded into plastic pellets, which can be used to create a variety of plastic products.

Mail your toothbrushes in to be made into school supplies.

FlickrThey don’t have to go to waste.

The standard toothbrush cannot be tossed into your recycling bin. It’s made of hard plastic, nylon bristles, and packaged in plastic, most of which are not biodegradable. But in an effort to change the fate of many toothbrushes, Colgate and Sam’s Club have partnered with TerraCycle to recycle them.

You can ship your Colgate toothbrushes in for free and they will be upcycled into useful items like school supplies.

Recycle your old greeting cards for a good cause.

Flickr / Richard MorossChances are that you have a lot of these lying around.

What do you do with all of those sentimental birthday and holiday cards you receive every year? It feels wrong to put them in the trash, but at the same time, how can you keep adding to that never-ending stash in your closet? This year, you can finally get rid of them all, but for a good cause.

St. Jude’s Ranch for Children accepts both new and used greeting cards of all occasions. They can recycle the cards to create new ones to sell. The money raised from the new cards will go towards abused and neglected homeless children.

You can recycle your phone, laptop, and most other electronic devices.

Justin Sullivan/Getty ImagesDon’t be part of the e-waste problem.

Many of our electronics quickly are becoming obsolete with technology developing so fast. As a result, Americans throw away 9.4 million tons of electronics each year, making the US number one worldwide for e-waste (electronic waste) produced annually.

Instead of adding to the giant landfill, many people are surprised to find out that their phones, computers, printers, and other electronic equipment are actually recyclable, according to John Ferracuti, Chief Operating Officer of Bin There Dump That.

There are several options for recycling e-waste. You can donate it to a school or non-profit if it still works properly. There are also electronics recyclers that take old devices to separate and then reuse the materials inside. Or you can also return the device to the manufacturer or to a local retailer.

Bring your prescription drugs back to the pharmacy when no longer needed.

Matt Cardy/Getty ImagesIt’s the safest choice.

The safest way to recycle medications, whether unneeded or expired, is through the drug store you received it from. Many pharmacies have mail-back programs or kiosks at their stores where you can drop off your prescription drugs.

You can take your makeup containers back to the store you bought them from for discounts.

PearlWinchester/ShutterstockJust be sure to thoroughly clean and empty any product leftover inside.

After you’ve gotten down to the last drop of your go-to foundation, don’t just toss the container into the trash. Many cosmetic companies offer a discount or free items if you bring in your empty makeup containers.

You can also reach out to your local recycling center to see if it accepts all plastic containers.

Many personal care product containers can be placed in your regular recycling bin.

ShutterstockRinse out the bottle before recycling it.

Most shampoo, conditioner, and body wash containers can be recycled along with your plastic water bottles and soda cans. Don’t forget to rinse out the bottles before tossing into the recycling bin.

To be sure your bottles are recyclable, check the bottom to see if they have a #1 or #2 on it. If yes, it means they’re made from a #1 or #2 plastic, which is accepted at most recycling centres.

Your dead holiday light strands can be recycled for money towards new ones.

Daniel Goodman / Business InsiderYou might even get paid for them.

With the holidays coming up, you may be ready to start taking out your holiday decor and lights. But there may be a few strands that have burned out, which you only discovered after untangling them all.

Instead of chucking them in the trash, there are programs that recycle them and pay you in return.

Your old house keys can be taken to your local recycling center.

the Original Muddog/FlickrHead to your local recycling center to get rid of old keys.

Many people don’t know what to do with that set of mystery keys found at the bottom of the junk drawer. But instead of leaving them there for eternity, most plain-metal house keys can be recycled.

House keys are considered scrap metal so most cities don’t offer curbside pickup for this. You’ll have to head to a local recycling center that accepts scrap metal.

Lightly used bras can be recycled and then, distributed to women in need.

ShutterstockMake sure you’re only recycling hardly worn bras.

According to Redbook magazine, the average American woman only wears six bras on a regular basis, but owns nine. So what do you do with those extra bras – let them collect dust or give them away to someone who will actually wear them?

There are several organisations that take your old bras to distribute to women who can’t afford them.

Collect and recycle your used cooking oil to prevent plumbing blockages.

Bob Peters/Attribution Licence/FlickrSome fire departments accept used oil.

Seems odd to recycle a liquid substance, but the damage cooking oil can do to your plumbing can make it totally worth it.

To start collecting oil for recycling, simply designate a container, such as a coffee can or plastic butter tub, for your used cooking oil. You can search for a recycling location that collects waste oil near you or you can call your local fire department to see if they accept used oil.

Recycling old eyeglasses gives someone who has a similar prescription the gift of good vision.

Strelka Institute for Media, Architecture and Design/FlickrSomeone else might be needing your exact glasses.

If you have extra pairs of eyeglasses that have been sitting in your bathroom for years and years, you can finally put them to good use.

There are several organisations that take your old eyeglasses to give to someone with a similar prescription overseas. Many eye doctors offices or local libraries will collect them. Sunglasses and reading glasses can often be donated as well.

Aluminium foil can be recycled if it’s clean of food and grease residue.

Flickr via clevergrrlBe sure it’s clean before donating.

Technically aluminium foil is recyclable since it is made out of aluminium. But because it is often contaminated with food, it makes the recycling process a little more complicated. For this reason, some recycling centres will not accept aluminium foil as it can damage their equipment from food and grease residue.

There are, however, some communities that do accept aluminium foil in their recycling bins if it is clean, so just be sure to rinse it off really well before disposing of it.

Visit INSIDER’s homepage for more.

Business Insider Emails & Alerts

Site highlights each day to your inbox.

Follow Business Insider Australia on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.