Household Items that can be Recycled

Household Items that can be Recycled

Did you know that the average person in the United States generates around 4.5 pounds of waste every single day? Multiply that by around 300 million, and you can see why garbage has become a serious problem in this country. This is just one reason why recycling is so important.

Here in the Charlottesville area, the city and county have made a commitment to recycling as evidenced by the amnesty days set aside each year for free drop-off of hazardous or bulky household items at the Ivy Landfill – the next one starts this Saturday, October 6, with Furniture/Mattresses, then followed by Appliances on October 13, and Tires on October 20, all times are from 8:30 am to 4 pm. 

The McIntire Recycling Center, located near the softball fields on Mcintire Road, started out as a glass recycling center in the 1970s before moving to its current location in 1979. Over 691,000 pounds were received that first year. In 1991, the Rivanna Sewer and Water Authority took over the operation of the Center, which receives visits from over 1,000 cars each week; facility-wide they recycled 3,514 tons in FY 2016.

City residents can also pay a reasonable fee for Large Item Trash Pickup in the city as well as the convenient drop-off of building supply, furniture and home decor items at The Habitat Store on 1221 Harris Street. 

Free Recycling is part of the trash pick up fee in the city, but is limited to bi-monthly pickup. The City provides large green bins for this purpose.

Recycling not only saves valuable space in our landfills, but it also helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions. And when we recycle, we also have to use fewer resources like water and energy to turn that item into another usable item. 

Recycling is good for us, the planet, and it can also save you money. If your waste management company charges you monthly based on how much garbage you throw away, you will save money by recycling.

Recycling doesn’t have to be a challenging chore. If you find it difficult to recycle, turn recycling into a game. Pit yourself against your neighbors, to see who can throw out the least amount of trash. Seeing recycle bins full to the brim with recyclables is a wonderful sight.

More obsolete items can be repurposed than you know, so think before you trash the\

Finding a Recycling Center

You can recycle almost all of your garbage. Some experts estimate that 90% of the items going in a landfill could be recycled, if only we had the resources in all areas, and made the effort. If you live near an urban center, there is probably a recycling program available in your area. Even without curbside pickup service, a recycling drop-off facility may be close by.

Before you start throwing garbage in your recycle bins, check with your local recycling service to see what they recycle. This varies from service to service, and you can usually find a list of recyclable items on the company’s website. In addition, the recycling service website likely includes details about how to separate recyclables for curbside pick-up. A list of common household items you can recycle is below.

Recyclable Household Items and Materials

Junk Mail and Cards

You can recycle most of the mail that comes into your home. Make it easy by placing a small recycling bin next to the door you use to retrieve your mail. This helps you remember to recycle junk mail as you walk back inside. Recycle the empty envelopes that remain once you’ve opened your mail, including envelopes with plastic windows. Even better, make the effort to go paperless at home.

Look for oversized recycling bins located outside of some schools and churches. Many organizations put these bins outside their buildings to raise money. Parents drop off their paper recycling, and the school sells the paper to a recycling facility. Most of these recycling bins are dumpsters painted bright yellow or green. Once you know to look out for them, they’re hard to miss.


Donate or sell any books that you no longer read. You can also recycle books that have been destroyed. Keep in mind that outdated books can still have a new life on eBay or Etsy. “Outdated” often means “vintage,” to savvy book collectors. 

Charlottesville is home to several second hand bookstores, notably on the Downtown Mall, or you can drop off books at the Recycling Center or look for the Little Free Libraries that dot several neighborhoods and add to their collections.

Shredded Paper

Most curbside recycling programs accept shredded paper; just make sure you put it in a paper bag, so that it can be recycled properly and doesn’t blow all over the place. Also, some recycling services do not recycle cross-cut shredded paper that is cut too small to make new paper.

If you compost, you can add shredded paper to your compost pile. Vermicomposting reduces food waste, so if you toss a lot of food out each week, you might want to consider this recycling option.

Ink Cartridges

Most printer ink cartridges contain toxic materials that should not go in the trash. Major business supply stores, including Staples and Best Buy, will take your old ink cartridges for recycling. You can also receive a discount off the purchase of a new ink cartridge when you bring your old cartridge to some office supply stores.

Disposable Plates and Cups

If you throw a party, make sure your guests don’t toss their disposables in the trash. Recycle these items instead. Most plastic cups and plates can go in the recycle bin, and you can compost paper plates. You can also shred them, and put them underneath your mulch, around the base of your plants and flowers. Paper plates break down after several weeks, and help retain moisture and provide nutrients for your plants.

CD and DVD Cases

Recycle CD and DVD cases using curbside service. If your recycling program doesn’t accept the CD and DVD plastic cases, check Type in “CD case” into the database search box, and enter your zip code to find a nearby facility that recycles CD and DVD cases. You can also recycle CDs and DVDs free of charge at Best Buy. All Best Buy stores have a recycling center near the front doors and accept electronic waste as well.


You can recycle cardboard boxes, including cereal boxes, pizza boxes, cracker boxes, and any other type of paper packaging. Not recycling these items causes a negative environmental impact.

Household Batteries

The toxic materials in batteries greatly contribute to pollution, especially when they break down in our landfills. Recycling household batteries is easy. Many libraries and post offices collect household batteries for recycling.

CFL Bulbs

Did you know that compact fluorescent lamp (CFL) bulbs contain a tiny bit of mercury? Because of this, you cannot dispose of CFL bulbs in your curbside recycling or in the trash. You can, however, drop off CFL bulbs for safe disposal at any Home Depot or IKEA. You can also safely dispose of these types of items at a hazardous waste facility. Your recycling service’s website should include details about where to find local hazardous waste facilities.

Old TVs

Most American households have three TVs. Most of the time, as these TVs age, they get replaced, and the old TV ends up in the garbage. TVs contain harmful chemicals and ingredients. In fact, Mother Nature Network reports that old analog TVs could contain up to eight pounds of lead and other heavy metals.

Best Buy recycles appliances, including TVs. If you have a TV smaller than 32 inches, this service is free when the TV is dropped off at a Best Buy store. For larger TVs and other appliances, Best Buy charges a flat fee of $100 to pick up one or two appliances. Before dropping off your TV, contact the Best Buy store to receive specific instructions about recycling your television. You can also search to find facilities in your area that recycle televisions.

Power Cords

Do you have a drawer full of old chargers and power cords? Most people do, because we regularly upgrade our cameras and cell phones. Like any electronic device, these items should never be thrown away. Search to find recycling centers in your area that accept computer components and power cords.

Computer cables, jumper cables, extension cords, and other cords and cables are prime candidates for recycling. Check with your local recyclers or sell them for scrap metal (when applicable). If the cord still works, consider donating it to a thrift shop that will sell it to someone who could use the spare part.

Lawn equipment

Lawn mowers, leaf blowers, snowblowers, weed eaters, and other lawn equipment can live new lives even after we think we’ve taken all they can give. There are several ways to recycle these, including donating them to a charity that can use them for basic upkeep of their properties. Mechanics can also find gold mines of usable parts even in broken machines. If the machine is truly deceased, try selling it for scrap metal.

Motor oil

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, motor oil never wears out, it just gets dirty. Most mechanics already take part in oil recycling, so if you have your oil changed professionally, you needn’t worry about this; however, if you DIY, be sure to take the used oil to a nearby auto maintenance or parts shop that participates in a recycling program.


Do you have a junk drawer filled with old remote controls, cellphones, and other junk electronics? Most schools participate in recycling programs and get credits for donations of these items toward school computers, gym equipment, and other necessities. You can also contact your local recycler or public works department about other drop spots for these items.

Sports equipment

Is your garage filled with footballs, basketballs, bats, gloves, and gym equipment you no longer use? Your local YMCA, after-school programs, day cares, and schools could all benefit. Damaged treadmills and exercise bikes are excellent candidates for scrap metal. Companies such as reBounces take used tennis balls and recycle them for you.


You’ll likely think nothing of tossing out an old hammer or screwdriver, but this trash is treasure for Habitat for Humanity and other organizations that build playgrounds, homes, dog parks, and other public services. Discard old, nonworking power tools with a local appliance recycler.


It pays to keep toxic paint out of landfills. Most domestic waste management facilities can properly recycle paints, so check with your service provider. When submitting these materials for recycling, keep latex and oil-based paints separate.


Many household items can serve useful purposes in another capacity when their original one expires. Old paper towel holders are ideal for keeping track of tape and twine. Most any container makes a suitable planter, and old crates make great playhouses for kids or pets. 

Recycling doesn’t just keep misdirected junk out of landfills. The practice also reduces the need to manufacture new items, which lowers energy consumption, reduces pollution, and saves limited reserves of our natural resources.

Before tossing something out, think of how you, a local charity, or someone you know could benefit.

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Charles McDonald
Charles McDonald
Charlottesville Solutions
2013 Woodbrook Court, Charlottesville VA 22901
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