Uncommon recycling: Batteries, corks, mattresses, packing peanuts

batteryMost people have, at the very least, a basic understanding of what’s acceptable to be recycled in a curbside bin and what is not. The most obvious recyclable items are paper products, glass bottles and aluminum cans.

Plastics are commonly known to be recyclable as well, but they’re a little trickier. Plastics like polyethylene terephthalate (PET) contain a “1” within the recycling symbol—these are widely accepted for curbside recycling. Polyvinyl chloride, the plastic labeled with “3,” is not accepted everywhere.

The biggest misconception in recycling is that recyclability stops at the curb with plastics. A wide range of other items, from motor oil to cigarette butts, are also recyclable, albeit not via curbside pickup. We’ve compiled a guide on how to recycle items that generally are not thought of to be recyclable. In most cases, it takes some extra effort, but if we’re concerned about the inhabitability of our planet, the effort is well worth it.


Battery waste in the U.S. adds up to about 180,000 tons annually. Single-use batteries are the most problematic in terms of hazardous materials, which means they must be dropped off at a household hazardous waste facility (a quick web search will yield results of a HHW facility near you).

Rechargeable batteries are considerable easier to recycle, as retailers such as Radio Shack and Lowes collect rechargeable batteries to recycle. Call2recycle.com has a nice locator tool for finding a battery recycler near you.


Yes, the cork from your favorite bottle of wine is recyclable, usually through a drop-off program at a food or beverage retailer. Cork is sustainably grown from cork trees—as the bark is stripped off, the tree is not harmed—so it really makes no sense to throw a cork in the trash can. Visit ReCork.org to learn more about the process and find a cork recycling center in your area.


Mattresses are usually comprised of foam, cotton, wood and metal, and most of them are in fact recyclable. Earth911.com says 40 million mattresses are disposed of every year in the U.S, which is alarming considering the sheer amount of space a mattress occupies in a landfill. Keep mattress waste out of landfills by using Earth911’s Recycling Locator to find a mattress recycling location in your vicinity.

Packing Peanuts

Packing peanuts are made of expanded polystyrene, so they fall into plastic category #6. Unfortunately, #6 plastics are not widely accepted by curbside recycling programs, and while regional collection centers do exist, the best option for packing peanut disposal is reuse. That’s right: your best bet is to reuse them next time you send a package.

The easiest way to recycle is still the curbside bin, but the items that can’t go in the bin are often still recyclable in a convenient manner. Browse through Earth911’s recycling resources for a how-to on recycling other items that get mistakenly tossed in the trash.

Of course, don’t forget to recycle and reuse your surplus clothing and textiles along with these items. Here’s a quick reminder of what can be placed in a USAgain collection bin. It might be more than you think.

Know a way to recycle a commonly trashed item? Leave us a comment.

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