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9 Items You Didn’t Know You Could Recycle or Upcycle

You're already recycling paper, bottles, and cans, but there's so much more that you can keep out of landfills.

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Plastic grocery bags

According to the Canadian government, Canadians use a shocking 15 billion single-use plastic bags a year—a huge number of which make their way into combined sewage overflows and then into the ocean. The good news: there’s actually a national network of bag recyclers from coast to coast, as well as blue box systems and take-back-to-retail programs.

These shocking statistics may encourage you to rethink single-use plastic products.

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Any house with kids is likely to have a never-ending supply of crayons, some of which are too short to use or quickly fall out of favour. Instead of sending these non-biodegradable items to the landfill, though, you can give them a new life and new purpose by donating them. Programs like The Crayon Initiative collect them to distribute to kids in hospitals. You can keep those old, dried-up markers out of landfills as well with the Crayola ColorCycle repurposing program.

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Eco-minded toothbrushes, made with sustainable materials like bamboo or with disposable, replaceable heads, are helping to keep some of the world’s 3.5 billion toothbrushes out of oceans and landfills every year. But you can do a more efficient job of disposing of the plastic ones too. TerraCycle’s zero waste box allows you to recycle almost any type of waste, including oral care products.

Discover the brilliant ways other countries are replacing plastic.

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Tossed batteries are an ecological nightmare, corroding as they sit in the landfill and leaching toxic chemicals into the soil and the air, according to experts. Although they can’t be recycled with regular household metals, there are plenty of places that accept them for recycling, including Staples and Best Buy stores.

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Cosmetics packaging

Your empty lipstick, concealer, and eye shadow containers are likely not accepted by your municipal recycling centre. So what to do with these gloop-smeared bits of plastic when you’re done with them? reports that many cosmetics companies, including the Back to M.A.C program, are happy to take these tubes and cases off your hands.

By the year 2050, there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish—you can help prevent that by reconsidering these everyday habits.

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House keys

Almost everyone’s got a drawer in the house holding mystery keys they’ve been hanging on to for years. Rather than throwing them in the regular trash, Recyclebank recommends calling around to your local recycling centre to see if they accept them.

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According to the Recycling Council of Ontario, the average person in Canada throws out 81 pounds of textiles every year. The good news: Clothing and other textiles in good condition are upcyclable—take them to your local Goodwill or sell them to a consignment shop. TerraCycle sells boxes that you can fill with discarded fabrics, which the company will reuse, upcycle, or recycle.

Find out how to buy and sell secondhand during COVID-19.

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E-waste reports that almost 54 million tonnes of e-waste like old computers, tablets, TVs, phones, video game consoles get thrown away a year around the world. Luckily, centres exist widely that will take this stuff off your hands and break it down into usable parts for repurposing or recycling. Find a site near you by checking out the Canada-wide Electronic Recycling Association.

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Canadians have access to many programs that collect adult and children’s eyeglasses. One such program is the Canadian Lions Eyeglass Recycling Centre, which provides recycled eyewear free of charge to people in developing countries.

Want to reduce your carbon footprint? Consider these everyday changes you can make to help the environment.

Reader's Digest
Originally Published on Reader's Digest