Mental illness affects one in five U.S. adults, and the rates are slightly higher in teens. Managing mental health is essential as studies find mental health impacts your overall health. Mental illness can increase the risk of chronic health conditions like diabetes, heart disease, and stroke.

Medications are not the right solution for everyone. Some people do better by finding alternative ways to manage their mental health, such as spending time in nature, journaling, and even recycling. Recycling activities offer some of the best therapeutic benefits.

Explore the Therapeutic Benefits of Recycling

What are the main therapeutic benefits someone with mental health issues experiences when recycling? All of these are possible.

Connection to Nature

When you take time to keep items out of the trash, it helps you connect to nature. You’re preventing taking up unnecessary space in landfills and ensuring items that can be reused go to the right place for reuse.

Plus, some recycling projects help with your garden. Plants help filter the air and release oxygen, which is important for the atmosphere. Compost vegetable scraps to turn into rich compost for your vegetable and flower gardens. Turn bald tires into patio storage seating using some colorful rope, used clothing, and glue. Pinterest is packed with instructional videos to help you with a project like this. 

To recycle a tire near me, it’s $6 per tire. Paint them with an environmentally-friendly paint (eco-friendly or no-VOC) and fill them with potting soil. Add some sunflower seeds and grow clusters of sunflowers. Not only do these flowers add color to your yard, but they provide food for birds during the winter.

Mindfulness and a Sense of Purpose

Ask anyone with anxiety what helps the most, and many will say that keeping your mind busy is important. When you stop and look at your recyclables and think about the best way to recycle them, mindfulness takes place. You become aware of your consumption of goods and figure out ways to lower unnecessary purchases.

Plus, as you sort, recycle, reuse, and make wiser purchases, you feel a sense of purpose. You begin to feel important and empowered to make changes to the world you live in. You become important to the future.

Social Engagement

Have you heard of freecycling? Those glass jars you got from some dessert cups are not recyclable, but they may be of value to someone else. Post them on a local marketplace or virtual classifieds site and see if anyone needs them. You might be surprised how many people use them for storing small items like push pins or screws.

Stress Reduction

Having something to keep your mind busy will reduce stress. When you take time each day to shut off everything else and sort, upcycle, donate, and recycle the rest, you stay active and ease stress. 

Decluttering also helps. If a room is crowded and packed with items, it can increase anxiety and distress. With an organized, clean home, anxiety and stress can decrease in very noticeable ways.


Finally, you have the power to help the earth through your sustainability efforts. You recycle everything you can, you purchase items made from recycled material, and you donate things you don’t need but still have use. You are part of a circular economy, and that’s so important with the amount of items being trashed each day.

What Are the Different Recycling Options That Improve Your Mental Health?

Those are the benefits of recycling when you’re looking for ways to better manage your mental health. How can you find effective options for putting recycling to work for you?


When you give unneeded items to someone else, you’re freecycling. You might not need the worn-out clothes that have rips and tears, but to someone who makes quilts, those free fabric scraps are invaluable. Sites like Craigslist, Freecycle, and Facebook Marketplace are great resources for giving items away.


Repurposing is a hobby where you take old, broken, or unneeded items and turn them into something of value. For example, some people take old wooden lobster traps, stain or paint them, add a glass top, and the lobster trap is turned into a useful coffee or end table.

Some people take old wooden ladders and turn them into blanket holders or bookshelves. I’ve even given away a non-working chest freezer to a farmer looking for poultry feed bins that mice, raccoons, and bears couldn’t get into. He riveted sheet metal to the bottom, removed the condenser, motor, and power cord, and added a lock to the top.

Setting Up a Recycling Station

Set up a recycling station within your home. It doesn’t have to be complex or of designer quality. You want it to be useful, and you want it to be comprehensive so that everything you can recycle goes to the right place. You want these bins, boxes, or containers available to make sure everything is sorted properly.

  • Batteries and electronics
  • Blue bin recyclables
  • Food compost for garden use
  • Freecycling
  • Items for repurposing
  • Plastic film

Supporting a Circular Economy

Be part of a circular economy, too. While recycling is a big part of helping the world, you also need to focus purchases on sustainable, environmentally friendly products. If you purchase beverages like soda or seltzer in bottles or cans, look for beverage manufacturers who use recycled materials in their containers. Some beer companies use compostable carriers instead of the black plastic four-pack holders that cannot be recycled. 

When possible, purchase electronics that have been refurbished or contain recycled glass, metal, and plastic. When you do purchase new electronics, take advantage of trade-in programs, but make sure the program uses ITAD companies that are e-Stewards and R2 certified.


If you can, volunteer and help out. It gets you out of the house and helps you socialize with others with the same ideals. You might find a program where you wade down streams or along the ocean or lakeshore picking up plastics and other items from the water, shore, and banks. You could volunteer at a non-profit charity thrift shop selling gently used items for a good cause.

Tips for Finding Where to Bring Your Recyclables

One of the hurdles people face when recycling is that districts can be very selective. For example, in my town, you can recycle plastics unless they are dirty, contain hazardous waste, are smaller than two inches, are black plastic, or are #6 or #7. Containers that had hazardous cleaning products, motor oil, etc. have to go in the trash once they’re empty, but if they’re full, you have to drive them 30 miles to a hazardous waste facility.

Cardboard and paper products are accepted if there’s no plastic or wax coating, isn’t a carton, isn’t a paper cup, and isn’t a padded envelope. If the padded envelope is just padded with paper pulp, it’s still not recyclable and has to go into the trash. Pizza boxes are not accepted unless they’re clean. Glass containers must be washed and cannot be items like mason jars, so some jam and salsa jars are not recyclable.

It gets hard to understand what you can put in the blue tote and what you can’t. Recycle Nation makes it easy to figure out where to go with different items. Enter your ZIP Code, pick the item you need to recycle, and submit it. A list of facilities appears, along with the contact information, hours, and directions. Recycling is easy and the best way to take steps to make the world a better, less polluted place. Let Recycle Nation help you find the right places to take your unused recyclables.