Per the EPA, over 292 million tons of waste were generated in 2018 and only 94 million tons were recycled or composted. Only a third of all generated trash is recycled, so there’s a lot of room for improvement.
Sometimes, people cannot find appropriate ways to recycle items they know are made from recyclable materials. Your local waste and recycling facility might not accept colored glass or plastic items that are smaller than two inches. Many lack the equipment or monetary resources to recycle things like clothing or aerosol cans.
Another issue comes down to transportation issues. If the local recycling plant is an hour away and you only have a small car or don’t have a car at all, curbside recycling is what you’re going to use most often. That means some items aren’t allowed in the recycling bins. Items that aren’t accepted end up in the trash or boxed up with the intention of eventually borrowing a car. It doesn’t always happen that way.
As a result, many companies are coming up with innovative recycling programs on their own. Here are ten of them.
1. Bausch + Lomb
It’s estimated that people throw away or flush close to 3 million contact lenses each year. They can’t be recycled due to their size, but they’re made from microplastic that is not going to easily break down in the soil either.
Bausch + Lomb developed the ONE Recycling Program where you can drop off your used contact lenses at a participating local eye doctor to have them recycled properly. Plus, every 10 pounds of recycled contacts triggers a $10 donation to a global program to help end unnecessary vision problems and blindness.
2. Best Buy
Best Buy came up with a way to boost electronics recycling rates. Pay a fee and have Best Buy send a van to your home. The crew will pick up two large appliances and unlimited qualifying small appliances. You could get rid of that over-the-stove microwave and clothes dryer as well as all of your old computers, laptops, cellphones, tablets, e-readers, and small appliances in one shot.
You can also bring electronics to your local Best Buy for recycling through ERI. Stores have a limit on how many electronic devices a household can bring in each day, so you may need to call first but it’s usually no more than three per household per day.
One of the toughest parts of buying a mattress is that you’re left with an old mattress. When you purchase a Casper mattress online, you can pay extra for delivery that includes the set-up of your new bed, removal and recycling of your old mattress, and a 100-night sleep trial where you have 100 days to decide if the mattress is right for you. If it’s not they’ll remove it and refund 100% of your money.
The mattresses that Casper collects are scrutinized. If the mattress is still usable, they are cleaned and sanitized and donated to a charitable organization. If the mattress is past its prime, it’s ethically recycled to reuse as many components as possible.
While Crocs are comfortable, they’re also made of materials that do not break down easily. It wasn’t until 2021 that Crocs became a vegan brand and the shows now are made from Bio-based Croslite™ through a partnership with Dow®.
Crocs teamed up with thredUP to make it easy to recycle your old Crocs. Print a free label online, fill a box with your Crocs and other used bags, shoes, and clothing, and get store credit you can use at Crocs.com.
Bring any of your unwanted clothing or textiles, it doesn’t matter what brand they are, to an H&M store. Hand the bag to someone at the cash registers and receive a coupon towards new clothing purchased at H&M.
H&M will sort through the clothing and sort it into three piles. One pile is for items in good shape that can be sold in secondhand stores. The second pile is for clothing that could be turned into something new. Finally, the third pile is for items that are thread worn but can be broken down into fibers that can be turned into items like insulation.
6. LG Electronics
LG, Goldstar, and Zenith electronics, including phones, laptops, TVs up to 59 inches, and accessories can be mailed to LG’s electronics waste recycling provider free of charge. To participate, you need to print out a postage-paid mail-back label and package the item for transportation following the guidelines provided on ERI’s website.
7. MAC Cosmetics
When you’re done with a tube of lipstick or lip gloss, do you throw it away? The small plastic container isn’t recyclable at most facilities, but MAC came up with an innovative program to boost recycling.
Bring your empty MAC containers to participating retailers or mail them back after filling out MAC’s online recycling form. For every six MAC items you recycle, you get a free lipstick.8. Ralph Lauren
It’s not every day that you need to recycle your 100% cashmere clothing. When the time does come, there’s a much better way than throwing the items into the trash.
Ralph Lauren will send you a postage-paid label to ship your clothing to a cashmere recycling plant in Italy. The recycled cashmere is recycled and prepared for a new life in Ralph Lauren’s Cradle to Certified product line.9. Walmart
Right now, stores in four states (Arkansas, New Jersey, Oklahoma, and Pennsylvania) will take back your used cosmetics packaging for any brand, purchased anywhere. Bring in your empty hair spray cans, eye shadow cases, nail polish bottles, lipstick tubes, shampoo and conditioner bottles, etc.
Proctor Gamble is working with Walmart to ensure these items are all recycled properly. The hopes are to bring this program to every Walmart store. Find the recycling boxes near the carts or entry and exits at participating stores.10. Zoya
Once a year for Earth Day, Zoya invites people to mail back all of their unwanted nail polish after purchasing Zoya polishes. You get a $5 credit for each bottle of nail polish you purchase (up to $30) to replace an old bottle. Mail your unwanted or empty nail polishes to Zoya for proper recycling and your $5 per bottle credit.
Retailers and major corporations are continually improving their recycling habits. Before you throw anything away, reach out to the company and ask about take-back and recycling programs. Many have the information available online to make it easy. Some offer discounts or free products when you do recycle responsibly.
Recycle Nation’s recycle center finder is also helpful in finding where you can bring items for recycling. Use our search platform to narrow down recycling options for specific items and get hours, driving directions, and contact information after entering your zip code and the item type.