I know you're used to seeing those various bins at grocery stores, dumps, and maybe even in your own home: plastics, aluminum, paper, and glass. You sort your recyclables into their appropriate tubs and go home feeling like a better person.
But the three Rs go way beyond your milk jugs and soda cans. Check out these 13 strange items that you may be happy to donate, but wouldn't want to be on the receiving end, no matter how green they may be.
- Bras: Instead of tossing your old, stretched out bras in the trash, donate them to the needy. An organization called The Bra Recyclers gives bras of all types (regular, maternity, post-surgery) that are still in good condition (clasps and straps need to be functional) to needy women around the world. The elastic may be loose for you, but to another it may be the support that she needs.
- Corks: Instead of letting the cork fly after popping that champagne, put it to the side to recycle. A company called Yemm & Hart will recycle your wine and champagne corks into cool wall and floor tiles.
- Dentures: Don't let Grandma throw away her teeth. Every year, there are roughly 3.6 million sets of dentures manufactured around the world, and each set contains about $25 worth of precious metals, including gold and silver (dang, granny be blinging!). A Japanese nonprofit was recently created that recycles the metals found in dentures and donates the proceeds to UNICEF. If you don't want to send your teeth overseas, rally for a similar program here in the States.
- Mattresses: When you go and buy a new mattress, be sure to ask your retailer if they accept used mattresses for recycling. An increasing number of retailers are providing that service, but if yours isn't, there are mattress centers popping up all over the country. Since 20 million mattresses are replaced every year, you'll sleep better knowing that yours isn't taking up space in a landfill.
- Towels: If you plan on tossing your towels, one way to recycle them is to tear them into pieces and use them as rags for cleaning. Another option is to donate them to your local animal shelter. Clean used towels are used as bedding, comforting animals in the medical department, and drying the rescue animals after their baths.
- Packing Peanuts: Those pain in the ass peanuts that get everywhere after unwrapping a package are actually recyclable. Over 69 million pounds were donated in 2008 (that's a lot of peanuts) and turned into foam packaging or consumer goods, like cameras, coat hangers, and more. Check and see if there is a drop-off center in your location.
- Carpet: After stripping up your old carpet (and admiring your new flooring), send the moldy oldie to a carpet reclamation center.
- Gym Shoes: Who would want those nasty, smelly shoes, right? Well, Nike does. If you send them to the iconic sports company, they'll recycle them into new athletic surfaces, like basketball courts and running tracks.
- Diapers: The whole point of using cloth diapers was because they were reusable, but since hardly anyone uses those anymore, a British company called Knowaste has found a way to recycle disposable diapers. Ick? But I suppose, given that the average baby requires about 6,000 diapers by the time they're potty trained, it may be worth the gross out factor.
- Prosthetics: While prosthetics aren't able to be reused in the United States due to legal considerations, they can be disassembled and shipped to Third World countries for use by landmine victims and others in need.
- Prescription Meds: You shouldn't flush old meds down the toilet (they contaminate the water supply) so instead, find out if your state has a prescription medication donation program.
- Coffins: Hey, you're dead, why do you care what you're buried in? Instead of purchasing a casket, you can rent one from a funeral home, or buy an eco-friendly cardboard coffin, which is made of 100% recycled materials.
- Sex Novelties: Out of all of the weird recyclable goods, this one might be the strangest. You send in your used sex toy, they sort and sterilize them, then grind them up and mold them into a new sex toy. Oh, and you get a $5 voucher towards your next recycled sex toy purchase (though don't feel obligated to cash in).
What are some odd things that you've recycled?
Image via ChrisSatchwell/Flickr