Five surprising items that can be recycled

This week (16-22 October 2023) kicks off Recycle Now’s 20th Annual Recycle Week, aiming to raise awareness for better recycling practices.

This year’s theme is The Big Recycling Hunt, and it’s all about uncovering those recyclable gems hiding in plain sight. Many of us are aware of common recyclable items like paper, plastic and glass, but several surprising items often go unnoticed in the recycling process. Read on to find out five recyclable treasures you never knew you could keep out of the waste.

1. Batteries

Here’s a shocking fact, your old batteries can actually be recycled. When batteries end up in general waste, they can release harmful chemicals that contaminate the soil and water sources. Thankfully, there are lots of collection bins in local stores for battery recycling. Your local recycling service may even provide home battery collection. Recycling batteries helps to recover valuable metals like zinc and nickel, reducing the need for mining and further decreasing environmental pollution. Lithium-ion batteries are also found all around the house, from laptops to vapes to power tools. These should always be taken to an electronic waste recycling centre to prevent the risk of fire. It’s important to wrap the terminals of lithium-ion batteries with non-conductive tape, such as electrical tape, to control any residual charge and prevent accidental short-circuiting. Stay positive and keep your batteries out of the bin!

2. Cooking Oil

It may come as a surprise, but after frying your dinner, the leftover cooking oil can actually be recycled. Pouring oil down the drain can cause clogged pipes and pollute water systems, but by recycling your used cooking oil, it can be turned into biodiesel. This cleaner-burning fuel can power various types of machinery, such as road vehicles, electric generators, and agricultural equipment. Many local recycling centres will often accept used cooking oil and ensure that it’ll be put to good use. Cooking oil is the real spice of life, even after you’re done cooking!

3. Wine Corks

Don’t just recycle wine bottles to reduce waste – did you know that your wine corks can also be recycled? Cork is a sustainable and eco-friendly material that can be recycled into numerous new products, like footwear, flooring and even bulletin boards. By recycling wine corks, we can reduce the demand for new cork production and protect cork oak forests. Synthetic corks and screw tops can go into your recycling bin, but natural corks require separate recycling methods, so check with your local recycling centre if they accept them for recycling. If you prefer, you can also compost natural corks by adding them to your compost bin. Let’s raise a glass to sustainability!

4. Electronics

They don’t look anything like paper or cardboard but surprisingly, most electronics can be recycled! Electronic waste, or e-waste, is rapidly becoming a significant environmental and health concern globally. Discarded electronic devices containing hazardous materials can harm the environment and humans if not correctly disposed of, leading to toxic substances being released into the air, soil, and water. When e-waste is recycled, components like circuit boards, wires, and even precious metals can be extracted and reused. You’ll find numerous community drop-off centres and take-back programs available for electronic devices. Better yet, check for certified e-waste recycling facilities near you to ensure the proper disposal of hazardous materials. When your old devices lose their spark – recycle them responsibly!

5. Bras

Yes, amazingly, bras can be recycled too. Old bras can have a second life when they’re donated and sent for recycling. These recycled bras can be sent to women in need or used to create new textiles, reducing the environmental impact of textile production. While bras can be recycled, not all recycling facilities accept them. However, by donating to Oxfam’s second-hand stores, you not only declutter your cupboard but also contribute to Oxfam’s poverty relief efforts across the globe. Other organisations like ‘Against Breast Cancer’ offer local bra banks for collection and receive £700 of funding towards breast cancer research for every tonne of bras collected. When it’s time to say goodbye, recycle your old bra and give the planet the support it needs.

Recycle Week reminds us to recycle not just the metal cans and paper, but also those unique items you never knew could get a second chance at life. Take action this Recycle Week and show off your commitment to a cleaner world, one recyclable at a time.