Recycling Odd Items

Recycling Odd Items

I realize that it can be difficult to remember what you can and cannot recycle. In this blog post, I’ll focus on more odd items you don’t dispose of daily, but need to be properly recycled.

Recycle Wine Corks at Whole Foods Market

Wine corks: Most Whole Foods Markets will take corks to recycle (and you can check with other local grocers). You simply bring these to the customer service desk in a bag or container, and they’ll take care of the rest. That is, unless you’re planning to use all those corks for a crafting project a la Pinterest!

Recycling Meds/Vitamins

Medications/Vitamins: Believe it or not, medications (both over-the-counter and prescription) must be properly disposed of. Flushing them down the toilet or placing them in the trash will ensure they leech into our soil/water, which is a big no-no! You must recycle meds and vitamins by taking them to your local sheriff’s office. If you live in San Mateo County, you can drop these at the Redwood City Courthouse (400 County Center; 3rd floor). Remove all pills from their plastic containers (recycle those with your household recyclables) and place mixed pills in a Ziplock bag. Liquid medications can be left in the bottles, which can be placed in the same bag as the pills. Another option would be to call your doctor and ask them where you can recycle meds in your area.

Sharps Container (Medical Grade)

Sharps Container (Homemade)

Sharps: Medical sharps like hypodermic needles, pen needles, intravenous needles, and lancets must be recycled as well. If you are a diabetic or regularly use needles for medical injections (for you or an animal) you should have a plastic container to house them. If not, you should create your own rigid puncture-resistant container that, when sealed, is leak resistant and cannot be reopened without great difficulty. You’ll need to do a bit of research to find out the best way to recycle these in your area. Some fire or police departments will take these for recycling. You can also check with your doctor/vet or local pharmacy, but understand there might be a small fee for recycling these. In San Mateo County, you can bring these to the Household Hazardous Waste Program and drop in their bin (you do not need an appointment to do this) free of charge.

Recycling Styrofoam

Styrofoam: You’ll have to check with your local recycling center, but San Mateo County does not recycle Styrofoam. San Francisco does – but you have to be a resident within the city limits. I recommend finding a recycling center that will take the items, but this may be at a small fee. Green Citizen in Mountain View has a machine that returns the Styrofoam (plastic puffed with air) back into plastic so it can be recycled. They charge $5 per 30-gallon bag. While it will cost you a small fee, it is worth disposing of this pesky material the right way. While it can be incredibly messy, breaking down the Styrofoam allows more to fit in a 30-gallon bag (just have a broom and vacuum nearby).

Black Plastic Container

Back Plastic (back)

Black Plastic: San Mateo County cannot recycle black plastic, but San Francisco can. You’ll have to check with your county or nearby counties to see if you can recycle it, if not, it is ok to throw this in the trash.

Plastic Bag Collection

Plastic Bags: You can return these to most grocery stores, even in counties that no longer allow the use/sale of plastic bags. Whole Foods has cardboard containers where you can recycle your plastic bags (ranging from take-out bags to shopping bags to Ziplock bags – any clear or opaque plastic bag really).

Be conscious when you’re out and about. In California, a lot of chains (Starbucks/Whole Foods) have compost and recycle options next to trashcans. Place the proper items in the proper bins and start making recycling/composting a regular habit.

Recycling/Compost bin at Starbucks

Bottom line: do what you can to recycle items instead of sending them straight to a landfill! Start with at least one of these categories and eventually introduce another. If we each make a small effort to lessen our trash footprint, we’ll start to make a difference for future generations.

Lauren Mang
  • Gina Willis
    Posted at 02:29h, 16 December Reply

    Thanks for the advises! It’s very helpful to know what actually I can easily recycle at home and what I can’t. Greetings

  • Skip Hire Surrey
    Posted at 12:37h, 09 May Reply

    Through the personal care and beauty product brigade, you can recycle well, basically everything.

    • Lauren Mang
      Posted at 22:15h, 10 May Reply

      Thanks Skip – you are correct! The problem is if your local recycling facility can make money from the item, and if they have the machinery to recycle it. I need to check out this personal care and beauty product brigade.

  • Little Bins
    Posted at 09:40h, 14 September Reply

    Most of us know the benefits of recycling and repurposing items. But when it comes to odd items like the toothbrush, it seems easier to just throw them away. But we also put it in garbage bag.

    • Lauren Mang
      Posted at 19:43h, 16 September Reply

      Throwing things away can seem easier: we put items in the trash and it’s hauled away to who-knows-where and we never have to deal with it again. I used to operate that way too. I strongly urge everyone to make an appointment to visit their waste management facility. These facilities usually host school groups and and are often open to the public to help educate people on their services. I have gone on 4 tours at various facilities in my area: with colleagues, with clients, and even with friends. I learn something new every time. I think education is the key to getting this ‘right’ but yes, sometimes I even I still put something in the trash. But so long as we’re making the right decision 99% of the time, there is a small margin for human error/laziness (we’re allowed). Thanks for your comment!

  • Patrica John
    Posted at 08:12h, 15 November Reply

    Wonderful idea!! If anyone has good collections of used wine corks send us for cork recycling at

    • Lauren Mang
      Posted at 16:25h, 15 November Reply

      This is great – thank you Patricia!

      • Lauren Mang
        Posted at 00:04h, 10 December Reply

        So glad it’s helpful Patricia. Thanks for commenting.

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