You’re probably familiar with recycling newspaper, water bottles, empty food cans, but there are more things you can recycle than just the standard glass, paper, and plastic items hanging around your house. In fact, most items, tools, and products you come in contact with every day can be recycled.

10 Surprising Things You Can Recycle

  1. Running shoes
  2. Holiday lights
  3. Cigarette butts
  4. Inhalers
  5. Cell phones
  6. Crayons and markers
  7. Plastic bags
  8. Juice pouches & boxes
  9. Keys
  10. Pop tabs

Running Shoes

That’s right, you can recycle your running shoes after you’ve worn them in and are ready to move onto a new pair. Nike’s Reuse-A-Shoe program makes it easy to send in your shoes to be repurposed into Nike Grind material. Shoes can be dropped off for recycling at any Nike Factory Store. 

Holiday lights

Recycling centers are able to safely dispose of the mercury contained in many light bulbs and sort the rest of the lighting material for recycling. At first glance it might not seem like a recyclable product, but most holiday lights are made up of wire, plastic, and glass, which are all materials that can be recycled. 

Cigarette ends

Did you know that the majority of a cigarette is compostable? The paper, ash, and tobacco can go into composting, and the filter is comprised of plastic. The key to successfully recycling cigarette butts is to separate and dispose of them properly. 


First off, inhalers shouldn’t be thrown in the garbage for two key reasons: they may still have medication left inside, and they can explode if crushed or heated. Your local participating pharmacy is actually the best place to dispose of your inhaler so that it can be processed and recycled correctly. 

Cell phones

Your smartphone or cell phone shouldn’t find its way to a landfill because you can likely earn a little cash for sending it into a company that will safely dispose of it–plus, cell phone batteries can leak toxins into the ground under a landfill, so it’s not a good idea to throw it away.  Companies like Gazelle and EcoATM will trade your phone for cash, and take care of the disposal for you. 

Crayons and markers

Companies like The National Crayon Recycle Program will take your broken or rejected crayon pieces and melt them into new crayons. Crayola also offers markers recycling through their ColorCycle program, which encourages students and teachers to be more eco-friendly. 

Wine corks

While it may seem like wine corks should be recycled with the rest of your paper items, they are actually only suited for composting or recycling through companies likes ReCork to be made into new products like sandals and yoga blocks. 

Plastic bags

At the entry of your grocery store, it’s likely you’ve seen a used grocery bag bin. This helps consumers safely dispose of their plastic bags, since most plastic recycling is catered toward rigid plastics like water bottles. Grocery stores are able to collect plastic bags and send them to recycling facilities where that type of plastic can be processed. 


How many times have you found a key that no longer has the lock it belongs to? Old keys can come from bikes, cars, houses, storage, even old diaries. Instead of tossing your unwanted key into the junk drawer you can recycle old keys in with your mixed metals recycling. 

Aluminum Foil

It may seem like it should go into the trash, but aluminum foil is an excellent candidate for things you can recycle. Just be sure to wash off any food residue before you put it in your recycling container.  

Whether you learned how to recycle your old sneakers or found out that holiday lights aren’t meant for the garbage, it’s helpful to remember the basic materials that can be recycled include plastic, metal, glass, and paper. Before you go to throw something out, take a moment to consider if it has any of those elements because it could turn out to be the next surprising thing you find out you can recycle. 

Did you know? By recycling these items that you can help reduce pollution, conserve natural resources, and protect nature when you recycle some of these surprising items. Learn more here.