From Trash to Treasure: Unveiling the Surprising World of Recycling

October 6, 2023 in environment, recycling

Article summary and Key takeaways: Recycling is an important part of reducing waste and protecting the environment. This article explores 30 surprising items that can be recycled, including commonly recycled items like paper, glass, and plastic, as well as uncommon items like electronics, batteries, and clothing. It also highlights some surprising recyclable items like wine corks, crayons, and tennis balls. The article discusses the use of recycled materials in unique ways, such as shipping container homes, art installations, and fashion made from recycled materials. It also provides interesting facts about recycling, such as the energy-saving potential of recycling aluminum and the environmental benefits of recycling paper and plastic. The article concludes by mentioning the most valuable items to recycle, including precious metals in electronics, scrap metal, car batteries, old cell phones, and printer cartridges.



Recycling has become an essential part of our daily lives as we strive to reduce waste and protect the environment. It’s a process that involves converting used materials into new products, reducing the need for raw materials, energy consumption, and pollution. While most people are familiar with recycling paper, glass, and plastic, there are many other surprising items that can be recycled. In this article, we will explore 30 amazing things you may not have known could be recycled, from common household items to unexpected treasures.


Commonly Recycled Items

1. Paper and Cardboard

Paper and cardboard are among the most commonly recycled items. Recycling paper saves trees, reduces water and air pollution, and conserves energy. It’s as simple as collecting old newspapers, magazines, and cardboard boxes, and placing them in the recycling bin.

2. Glass Bottles and Jars

Glass is endlessly recyclable, meaning it can be recycled over and over without losing its quality. By recycling glass bottles and jars, we can save energy and reduce landfill waste. Remember to remove any metal or plastic caps before recycling.

3. Aluminum Cans

Aluminum cans are another widely recycled item. Recycling just one aluminum can saves enough energy to power a TV for three hours. The process of recycling aluminum also requires significantly less energy compared to producing new cans from raw materials.

4. Plastic Bottles and Containers

Plastic bottles and containers can be recycled into new products such as clothing, carpets, and furniture. By recycling plastic, we reduce the demand for new plastic production, which helps conserve natural resources and reduces pollution.

5. Steel and Tin Cans

Steel and tin cans, commonly used for food packaging, are also recyclable. The recycling process for these cans involves melting them down to create new products. Recycling steel and tin cans saves energy and reduces the need for mining raw materials.


Uncommonly Recycled Items

1. Electronics and E-Waste

Electronic waste, or e-waste, refers to discarded electronic devices such as computers, smartphones, and televisions. These items contain valuable materials like gold, silver, and copper that can be recovered through recycling. Additionally, recycling e-waste prevents hazardous materials from entering the environment.

2. Batteries

Batteries contain heavy metals like lead, mercury, and cadmium that can be harmful to the environment if not disposed of properly. Many retailers and recycling centers offer battery recycling programs, allowing you to safely recycle your old batteries.

3. Clothing and Textiles

Instead of throwing away old clothes, consider donating them to textile recycling programs. These programs sort and process the textiles to be reused or turned into new products. Recycling clothing reduces waste and the need for new textile production.

4. Mattresses

Did you know that mattresses can be recycled? Many mattress recycling facilities separate the different components of a mattress, such as foam, metal springs, and fabric. These materials can then be processed and repurposed into new products.

5. Cooking Oil

Rather than pouring used cooking oil down the drain, it can be recycled into biodiesel. Many recycling centers and even some restaurants have collection bins where you can drop off your used cooking oil for proper recycling.


Surprising Recyclable Items

1. Wine Corks

After enjoying a bottle of wine, don’t throw away the cork! Wine corks can be recycled into a variety of products, including flooring tiles, gaskets, and even building insulation. Some wineries also have cork recycling programs in place.

2. Crayons

Instead of tossing broken or unused crayons, consider recycling them. Several organizations collect old crayons, melt them down, and create new crayons for children in need. It’s a colorful way to reduce waste and bring joy to others.

3. Tennis Balls

Believe it or not, tennis balls can be recycled. Many organizations accept old tennis balls and repurpose them for various uses, such as chair caps, dog toys, or even as an aid for physiotherapy exercises.

4. Toothbrushes

When it’s time to replace your toothbrush, don’t throw it in the trash. Toothbrushes can be recycled into plastic lumber, which is used to make park benches, playground equipment, and other durable products.

5. Wine and Beer Bottles Turned into Glasses

Instead of recycling wine and beer bottles into new bottles, some creative individuals repurpose them into drinking glasses. By cutting and polishing the tops of the bottles, they create unique and eco-friendly glassware.


Strangest Uses of Recycled Material

1. Houses Made from Shipping Containers

Shipping containers are being repurposed into homes and even office spaces. These structures are not only cost-effective but also environmentally friendly, as they reduce the need for traditional building materials.

2. Art Installations Using Recycled Plastic

Artists around the world are using recycled plastic to create stunning installations. They collect discarded plastic items and transform them into thought-provoking sculptures and artworks, highlighting the issue of plastic waste.

3. Fashion Made from Recycled Materials

Eco-conscious fashion designers are using recycled materials like plastic bottles, old denim, and even discarded fishing nets to create stylish and sustainable clothing. These innovative designs promote a circular economy and reduce the fashion industry’s environmental impact.

4. Furniture Made from Reclaimed Wood

Reclaimed wood, sourced from old buildings and structures, is transformed into beautiful furniture pieces. By using reclaimed wood, furniture makers reduce the demand for new timber and help preserve forests.

5. Jewelry Made from Recycled Metals

Artisans create unique and stunning jewelry pieces from recycled metals such as silver, gold, and copper. By using recycled metals, they minimize the need for mining and reduce the environmental impact of the jewelry industry.


Surprising Facts About Recycling

1. Recycling one aluminum can saves enough energy to power a TV for three hours. This shows the significant energy-saving potential of recycling aluminum.

2. Recycling paper saves trees and reduces water and air pollution. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, recycling one ton of paper saves 17 trees, 7,000 gallons of water, and 380 gallons of oil.

3. Recycling plastic reduces the need for new plastic production. By recycling one ton of plastic, we can save around 2,000 pounds of oil.

4. Recycling glass saves energy and reduces landfill waste. Every ton of recycled glass used in the manufacturing process saves more than a ton of natural resources.

5. Recycling electronics prevents hazardous materials from entering the environment. Many electronic devices contain toxic substances like lead, mercury, and cadmium, which can be harmful if not properly recycled.


Most Valuable Items to Recycle

1. Precious Metals in Electronics

Electronic devices contain small amounts of precious metals like gold, silver, and platinum. Recycling these devices allows for the extraction of these valuable materials, which can be sold or reused.

2. Scrap Metal

Scrap metal, including steel, aluminum, and copper, can be recycled for profit. Recycling centers often purchase scrap metal from individuals, providing both an environmental and financial benefit.

3. Car Batteries

Car batteries contain valuable lead that can be recycled. Many automotive stores and recycling centers accept old car batteries and may even offer a financial incentive for recycling them.

4. Old Cell Phones

Old cell phones contain precious metals like gold, silver, and palladium. Recycling these devices not only helps recover these valuable materials but also prevents them from ending up in landfills.

5. Printer Cartridges

Printer cartridges can be recycled and refilled with ink or toner. Many office supply stores and manufacturers offer recycling programs where you can return your empty cartridges for proper recycling.



Recycling is a powerful tool that allows us to reduce waste, conserve resources, and protect the environment. By recycling common items like paper, glass, and plastic, as well as lesser-known items such as electronics and clothing, we can make a positive impact on the planet. The creative ways in which unexpected items like wine corks, crayons, and tennis balls can be recycled showcase the ingenuity of individuals and organizations striving for a more sustainable future. From unique art installations and furniture made from reclaimed materials to surprising facts and valuable items that can be recycled for profit, there are endless possibilities when it comes to recycling. As we continue our journey towards a greener world, let’s embrace the challenge, explore more ways to recycle and reuse, and inspire others to join the movement.

Question 1:
Answer: Surprisingly, cigarette butts are recyclable.

Question 2:
Answer: One of the strangest things done with recycled material is creating a dress made entirely out of recycled plastic bottles.

Question 3:
Answer: A surprising fact about recycling is that recycling one aluminum can saves enough energy to power a TV for three hours.

Question 4:
Answer: The most valuable thing to recycle is electronic waste, such as old smartphones and computers, due to the valuable metals and components they contain.


About the author 

Alex Roland

Hello! I'm Alex. My journey with energy conservation began at Stanford, where I earned my Master's in Energy Management. I've spent over five years diving into the world of renewable energy and energy efficiency, consulting on some groundbreaking projects. I'm passionate about finding new ways to save our planet through smart energy use, and I'm excited to share my insights and experiences with you.