Tuesday, January 5, 2010

How and where to recycle harder-to-recycle items

Here's a list of harder-to-recycle items that most cities won't pick up at your home. If you know of any that I've left out, please let me know or post a comment! It's thanks to other greenies out there that I found out some of these things.

And I'd like to offer my praise in advance to the Coon Rapids Recycling Center and recycling coordinator Colleen Sinclair. Her efforts are an example for us all!

Batteries (rechargeable), CDs/DVDs, PDAs and many other household electronics, most for free, at Best Buy stores.

Bicycles: Express Bike Shop and Mr. Michael Recycles Bicycles

Brita filters: Take them to Preserve Gimme 5 bins at Whole Foods stores in Minneapolis and St. Paul. Full details: http://www.preserveproducts.com/recycling/britafilters.html

Carpet: Bro-Tex Carpet Recycling

Cassette and video tapes, CDs, DVDs and their cases, vinyl records and other forms of 'electronic media': Hennepin County's Recycling Drop-off Centers in Bloomington and Brooklyn Park

Electronic media and computer components are also recyclable through Greendisk.com out of Sammamish, Wa. It's a company doing really good, ethical things. Greendisk is your source for recycling all forms of 'technotrash.' Check out their website for details.

CD and DVD cases: Give them away via craigslist or twincitiesfreemarket.org

Cell phones: Best Buy and many other businesses

Charger cord: recyclable where cell phones are accepted.

Christmas lights and extension cords:
The Recycling Association of Minnesota’s Recycle Your Holidays seasonal program. The program offers numerous collection sites throughout the Twin Cities, including at Hennepin County drop-off facilities and Snyder’s Drug Stores. Strings of lights are disassembled by PPL Industries, and parts such as the copper wires and light bulbs are recycled.

Year-round at the Coon Rapids Recycling Center, Coon Rapids

Compact fluorescent light bulb: recyclable at Ikea (free), Home Depot (free), Menards (free), county hazardous waste sites and most hardware stores. Do not throw in the trash because they contain mercury.

Concrete (also yard waste, gravel, rock, stone, etc.): Recyclable for a fee at the Gertens Regional Eco-Services facility

corks, natural (not synthetic): Take them to Whole Foods in Minneapolis or St. Paul and drop them in the Cork ReHarvest boxes.

Extension cords:
Hennepin County Recycling Center and Transfer Station, Brooklyn Park
Recycled for their scrap-metal value

Fabric scraps/rags, clean: Wipers Recycling makes them into wiping rags or granular absorbents. They have drop-off locations in Maplewood and St. Paul Park.
USAgain has drop boxes metrowide.

Fluorescent tube light: county household hazardous waste collection sites.

Hangers, wire: Many dry cleaners, including Martinizing and Prestige Cleaners, will take these back for reuse

Hardcover books: The Coon Rapids Recycling Center accepts them.

Mattresses: Coon Rapids Recycling Center, first Saturday of every month (except holiday weekends). $15 fee.

Hennepin County Recycling Center and Transfer Station, Brooklyn Park
$15 fee. If the mattress isn't clean and dry, it will be disposed of as garbage.

Milk cartons, juice boxes, tofu boxes, broth boxes: Now recyclable curbside in most metro-area cities! They are 70 to 85 percent high-quality paper, which is separated from the plastic coating in a pulping process.

Motor oil bottles: Take them to the Coon Rapids Recycling Center. NO LONGER ACCEPTED

Notebooks and other paper with wire spiral binding: Recycled by Eureka Recycling, no need to remove the metal spiral.

Packing peanuts: take to any UPS store for reuse

Plastic bags: recyclable through the It's In The Bag program. Many more kinds are recyclable than just grocery and newspaper bags. Here's the list:

[Note: All material must be clean and dry]
Plastic grocery bags
Plastic retail bags (remove string ties & rigid plastic handles)
Plastic dry-cleaning bags
Plastic cereal bags (must be dry with ALL food residue removed)
Plastic bread bags (must be dry with ALL rood residue removed)
Plastic produce bags (must be dry with ALL food residue removed)
Plastic frozen food bags (must be dry with ALL food residue removed)
Plastic wrap from paper products (paper towels, etc.)
Plastic salt bags (remove rigid plastic handles)
Plastic zipper bags (remove top closing mechanism)
Plastic stretch/shrink wrap
6-pack holder rings

Plastic bags with food residue
Plastic bags with strings
Plastic soil or mulch bags
Plastic zipper bags with rigid plastic closing mechanism
Plastic bubble wrap

recyclable at most Twin Cities grocery stores including Cub, Lunds, Jerry's, Twin Cities Natural
Food Co-ops and many county recycling centers. If your plastics aren't clean, dry and free of food, they'll get thrown out as garbage, so make sure your stuff is clean. What works well with bags of crumbly stuff like bread, chips, cereal or crackers, or wet stuff like frozen vegetables, is to turn the bag inside out and shake it over your garbage can, or completely open up the bag along its seams. Let it air-dry if it's wet.

Plastic bottle caps: recyclable at Aveda stores. They make the caps into new caps.
The program accepts caps that are rigid polypropylene plastic, sometimes noted with a 5 in the 'chasing arrows' (resin code) symbol. This includes caps that twist on with a threaded neck such as caps on shampoo, water, soda, milk and other beverage bottles, flip top caps on tubes and food product bottles (such as ketchup and mayonnaise), pharmaceutical lids, laundry detergents and some jar lids such as peanut butter.

Excluded from collection are non-rigid lids such as yogurt lids, tub lids (margarine, cottage cheese), screw-on lids that are not rigid, metal lids and plastic pumps or sprayers.
Also note: If you leave caps on plastic bottles, they WILL get recycled. But you must leave the cap on the bottle -- don't remove the cap and throw it by itself in your recycling bin. Then it's too small and will fall through the screens at the recycling facility.

Plastic containers #5 only: Take them to Whole Foods in Minneapolis or St. Paul and put them in the Preserve Gimme 5 bins. They get made into new products like toothbrush handles, tableware, mixing bowls and razors.

Plastic containers #1-7: Now recyclable curbside in most metro-area cities, including Minneapolis!

Plastic garden pots: recyclable at garden centers metrowide.

Rags, clean: Eureka Recycling
USAgain has drop boxes metrowide. Label your bags with something like "clean linens for recycling."

Scrap metal: Everything from nails to box springs. (There are many other places that take scrap metal, too; some even give you money!)
Coon Rapids Recycling Center, Coon Rapids

Shoes that are so old or torn they can't be worn: recycle at REI stores in Bloomington and Maple Grove. They get shredded and made into oil spill clean-up kits.

Styrofoam blocks, cups, plates, trays, containers: Coon Rapids Recycling Center, in partnership with HOM Furniture.

Thermostats: Free for households. These contain mercury, so don't throw them away. J.R.'s Advanced Recyclers in Inver Grove Heights.

Tires: Hennepin County Recycling Drop-Off Centers, Brooklyn Park and Bloomington.
Coon Rapids Recycling Center, Coon Rapids. First Saturday of each month, except holiday weekends. Fees vary.

Tyvek envelopes, banners, signs: They're made of HDPE, #2 plastic. Send them back to Tyvek for recycling.

Best Buy recycles an extensive list of electronics. Consult their website for details.
TerraCycle recycles:
chip bags, drink pouches, yogurt cups, candy wrappers, cookie wrappers, Flavia fresh packs, granola/energy bar wrappers, Bear Naked packaging, Kashi packages, cell phones, personal care/beauty tubes, plastic-tape dispensers and cores, gum packages, writing instruments, Elmer's brand glue sticks and bottles, antibiotic ointment tubes, coffee bags, lunch kit packaging, toothpaste tubes, toothbrushes, plastic toothbrush packaging, baby-food pouches, tubs and lids from butter, margarine or cream cheese, and Ziploc bags and containers. For full details, visit TerraCycle's website.


  1. wow. excellent blog! and you don't drive us nutty. thanks to you i'm composting and recycling like mad, and was able to switch to a smaller (and cheaper) garbage can.

  2. this is so handy!! i am going to check it all the time.

  3. I am in recycling Heaven with your little blog here! Thanks so much for providing all this info. I will definitely be back!

  4. Just looking back on this and didn't see anything about prescription bottles...old ones, nothing in them. Suggestions?

  5. Update, just got a call back from the Golden Valley Humane Society and they would "love" to take old prescription bottles. Just remove personal info! Hope that helps someone.

  6. Hi, djl, thanks for your comments. Prescription bottles are #5 plastic, so they can go to Whole Foods for recycling by Preserve, but I'm glad you found a reuse option in the humane society.

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  8. Is there any place to recycle bubble wrap?

  9. Hi, Samara, you can take it to a UPS store for reuse.

  10. Hi. I'm interested in doing a ridealong and I noticed you have done one. Whom did you call to arrange such a thing?

  11. Hi, Simon, I did the ridealongs as a Hennepin County employee working on waste reduction and recycling. The county gave the city a grant to do single- and two-sort recycling pilot programs. You could try calling the city's Solid Waste and Recycling office.

  12. You need to ask when you buy recycled, where do these recycled products come from and for scrap-tire product, where are the recycled rubber products made and where do the scrap tires comes from.

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  26. Hi, It looks like Whole Foods doesn't do the Gimme 5 #5 recycling collection anymore. Ideas for recycling old plastic toothbrushes in the Twin Cities? Thank you

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