7 Things you Didn’t Know you Could Recycle in Raleigh

Think outside of the big blue bin to keep these items out of the landfill.
by Emily Gajda

Happy Earth Day! This worldwide celebration is a great time to stop and consider how our actions affect our neighbors, our community, and the Earth. At this point, you probably know “The Three Rs” — reduce, reuse, and recycle — but I bet you don’t know that there are more items that you can recycle than just what goes in your blue bin. 

“Recycling is huge for us because it diverts all that waste away and it’s a ton of stuff that can be reused, rather than just thrown away,” says Amanda Astor, the community relations analyst at Raleigh’s Department of Solid Waste Services. “As cliche as it sounds, every little bit counts. It is still saving space.”

That said, sometimes it can be hard to tell what you can and can’t recycle, and where you can and can’t recycle those items.  That’s because each municipality has its own list of recycling rules for residential pick-up, and they actually do change every once in a while. Here in the city of Raleigh, residents get updates in the mail each year, but not everyone reads them. For example: did you know that the clamshell container that strawberries come in can be recycled in your blue bin now? Or those Pillsbury crescent spiral cans? 

Keep reading to find out what unexpected and often ignored items you can recycle instead of sending them to the landfill.

All of Those Plastic Bags You’ve Stuffed Into One Plastic Bag 

Even if you’re conscientious about bringing your reusable grocery bags and totes to the grocery store, somehow plastic bags sneak in with a takeout order or quick trip to the pharmacy. What most people don’t realize is that plastic bags are recyclable — just not in your blue bin. 

Local grocery stores including Target, Food Lion, and Harris Teeter collect these plastic bags and films as long as they are clean and dry. You can always reuse first to clean the trash out of your car or carry your lunch to work. But once your plastic bags get too worn for your liking, empty them out, make sure they are dry, and turn them in on grocery day so they can have a new life.

For exact locations, visit: bagandfilmrecycling.org

Your 1990s Dance-Pop CDs 

Did that La Bouche album lose its luster over the years? Drop off your old CDs & DVDs at a Wake County Multi-Material Recycling Center. These old discs, including the cases, can go in the same bin as any electronics you might be recycling at the centers. There are three different locations and each one also accepts a variety of other recyclable materials. (We won’t judge you if you keep some of your old mix tapes, though.) 

For hours and addresses, visit wakegov.com.

The Electric Spiralizer From Your Zoodles Phase

The spiralizer, juicer, Nutribullet… What do you do with that specialty countertop appliance that now collects dust in the kitchen cabinet? If your old appliances still work, consider donating them to a thrift store so that someone else can use them. But if they don’t, call the city of Raleigh to schedule curbside pickup without even leaving home. Raleigh’s crews can take away up to four household appliances or electronic items at your curbside each week at no charge to you. They ensure that as many parts as possible get recycled, so you can buy your next super-fun and super-shiny appliance, guilt-free.

Those Out-of-Style Eyeglasses

If you’re getting new glasses soon, drop off your old specs at a Lenscrafter location. The eyeglass store participates in OneSight, a program that recycles and delivers eyewear to people in need. Either your glasses will be given to someone in need with the same prescription, or they will be disassembled and as many parts as possible recycled. A simple pair of glasses can increase adult productivity and allow someone a new view of the world, so there is no reason not to donate. Head to a Lenscrafters store and let them know you want to donate your frames and lens.

Shampoo Bottles

Though we usually associate recycling with kitchen items like pizza boxes and soda cans, many of those plastic bottles and glass jars in your bathroom are recyclable as well. Rinse your shampoo and conditioner bottles and face clean jars clean of any residual product and separate them from their (usually also recyclable) lids. Then, toss it all in the big blue bin and roll it out to the curb on your collection day

That Tangle of Wire Hangers

After a few dry cleaning trips, those pesky wire hangers can really start to build up. They start to get tangled in each other and end up making themselves near impossible to separate — let alone use them to actually continue hanging anything on them. Instead of spending your time untangling them and pretending you may use them again someday, take them to one of Wake County’s three Multi-Material Recycling Centers. That’s the same spot where you can drop old appliances and disco CDs, but it’s also where you can send scrap metal like wire hangers, wreath forms, old shelving, and other metals.

For hours and addresses, visit wakegov.com.

Plant Pots

After a springtime trip to one of our local nurseries, your yard is probably looking pretty spiffy — and you might have some plastic plant pots left over. Good news: those are recyclable! Take them to the NC Farmers Market, one of about a dozen collection points across North Carolina that takes used pots and and hoop house film through a partnership with North Carolina Agricultural Plastics Recycling. Nest like pots together and bring them on your next trip! 

P.S. Don’t forget to use your blue bin the right way…

As long as you’re becoming a recycling expert, here are two more reminders: never put your recyclables inside a bag within your recycling bin (it can lead to problems with sorting) and separate the recyclable components that go into the bin (for example, remove the paper labels from metal cans). With all of this knowledge, you are ready to help the City of Raleigh reduce landfill volume and start getting your recycled products back in new forms.