Most of us would probably recycle more, if we could. Even if we aren’t trying to be zero-waste in Vancouver (though that would be nice), we’d still gladly sort our garbage, if it were easier. But unfortunately, recycling isn’t as advanced as might think it is. There is a whole new term for people putting non-recyclables in recycling bins: “wish cycling.” It’s actually a problem. And it’s sad there is a long list of things we can’t usually recycle as consumers (depending on where you live).
Thankfully, we’re not the first ones to notice this. There are some great companies that are doing what they can to make use of our waste, and prevent all non-recyclables from going to landfills. Sometimes, Metro Vancouver cities participate in these programs. But not always. It does take work on the part of citizens, consumers and businesses. But not a lot of effort.
Being in the ‘biz’ of junk removal, we know our way around the waste-reduction and recycling systems in Vancouver. But we don’t handle all types of household waste ourselves.
So in this article, we’ll explain how to recycle some of the ‘hard’ stuff you can’t donate for resale. This stuff won’t likely be part of your city’s waste collection program (depending on where you live). Or, you may not even know that you can put it in household blue bins.
How to recycle old, unwearable jeans and clothing
Believe it or not, despite what we said earlier about hard items you can’t donate, donating is probably the most efficient thing you can do. At least with clothing.
You see, while we’d like to think our fast-fashion finds from 10 years ago are going to be re-worn by someone else, they’re probably not. Instead, the stuff that can’t be sent overseas, or sold at places like Value Village, will turn into recycled textiles, and used for new products, like insulation or industrial rags. So yes, you can send socks with holes in them to donation bins. See more information at the following link, for how Value Village handles this:
The North Vancouver Waste Control Services company is also now accepting textiles – with a pick up program too!
For jeans in particular, you can get a bit more creative. There is an organization dedicated to recycling jeans into insulation. So, you could host a ‘jeans drive’ to recycle old denim at a school or workplace.
While some people, like in this CBC article, think that profiting and exploiting our old clothes is not a good thing, it may actually provide some economic incentive to do this. That is, opposed to sending it all to landfills. This page from an organization that does this explains more on the topic. But we’d agree: buying stuff we don’t need is creating the waste problem in the first place.
Moving on… There is also a non-profit called Sole Hope. They offer shoe-cutting party kits. These pieces of denim are to make shoes for kids in Uganda. You have to buy these kits to take part in this activity (obviously…someone’s gotta pay for this stuff!). But it’s a fun way to get people together, and start cutting up some jeans for a good cause.
For your all-cotton, silk, wool or other organic-matter clothing or linens, you can probably cut them up and compost them, too.
How to recycle shoes
Shoes can be considered clothing by some people. But they are a bit different. They come with different components that need to be recycled differently.
If you want your shoes to go to a good place, you can try buying a Zero-Waste Box for shoes at Terracycle. These come with pre-paid shipping labels to send back to their recycling facility. And, they are meant to hold a box full of shoes. So you’ll probably want to turn this into a collection drive at a school, charity or workplace.
While Terracycle’s American site has a flip-flop recycling program, it doesn’t seem like that’s available in Canada,. It’s also not clear whether the shoe collection box will accept these.
Locally, in Vancouver, you can take your old sneakers to certain stores that accept them for recycling. This blogger has more info on that. In fact, at The North Face, your old clothing and shoes could earn you dollars towards your next purchase!
There are also non-profits that will take old shoes, and hey, you can always try the thrift store, along with your other donations mentioned above.
How to recycle unused fabrics
Donate them to Our Social Fabric. Or, find a quilting guild to give them to.
How to recycle small plastic packaging and unnumbered plastic
Not all plastic packaging is traditionally recyclable. But hooray! There’s a pilot project going on to take what’s called “flexible packaging” for recycling. This will include potato chip bags, zipper lock bags, cellophane, bubble wrap, and more.
Unfortunately, most small plastics can’t be recycled easily. They don’t get picked up by machine sorters. Also, if they are contaminated (like tampon applicators), they are not safe for recycling. So you’ll want to either collect your eligible, little plastic wrappers together for the pilot program, or leave them out of the recycling bin (sadly).
How to recycle big plastic packaging
You’d think any plastic can go in our recycling blue bins, but they can’t. London Drugs takes back all packaging from all products they sell. This includes spray bottle caps, cleaning product packaging and more.
Terracycle has drop-off locations for items like these, which you can find here: https://www.terracycle.ca/en-CA/collection-programs
You can also use an app like this one (on the web), or this one (on iTunes), or these ones (on Google Play and iTunes), to find out what is accepted in government recycling programs in B.C. This can help you find the best places to take your big plastics, which are part of government programs. Keep in mind some private institutions may take your waste, too. That will require googling, though.
How to recycle styrofoam
Some Vancouver area cities now take certain types of styrofoam in the blue recycling bin. Or, you can use an app like this one to find out where to drop it off.
How to recycle aerosol containers
If they are empty, they can go in your Vancouver-area blue bin. If they are full, they need to be dropped off at a bottle depot that accepts them.
How to recycle straws
You can’t. It’s really sad. We should all stop using them, if we can. Or, buy reusable ones. They’ll be banned in Vancouver in 2019, by the way.
How to recycle hot-drink and fast food to-go cups
This is a tricky one. Some articles will say you can’t recycle these because they are lined with plastic. The two materials – paper and plastic – are hard to separate for recycling. But according to this app, these can go in your blue bin in B.C.
How to recycle coffee pods, capsules and other hot-drink stuff
Some companies that make coffee pod capsules, like Nespresso, will take them back for recycling. But nowadays, Vancouver-area residents can recycle them in the home recycling bin, provided they get the appropriate bag from Nespresso first. The city will ship it off to the right place. K-cups need to be disassembled, and their coffee grinds removed before putting in the recycling bin.
How to recycle old electronics, devices, appliances and batteries
You can take electronics to multiple places for recycling. London Drugs, Best Buy, Canadian Tire, Staples and other retailers accept old electronics or batteries (check their sites for specific info). IKEA takes batteries and CFLs. And, recycling depots accept these for drop-offs. Here is a list of drop-off points, depending on what you’re recycling: https://www.richmond.ca/services/recycling/banned/hhp.htm
Also, since “electronics” can be a broad term, this site will have more info on what you can recycle – some of which you may not have thought of: https://www.electrorecycle.ca/recycle/#products (e.g. hair dryers, exercise equipment, and more).
This website will also help you find drop-off locations in B.C. for electronics and batteries: https://www.regeneration.ca
For car batteries and cell phone batteries, visit this site for more info: https://www.call2recycle.ca/what-can-i-recycle/
To donate your computer so it can be used by someone in need, or otherwise recycled, try Free Geeks: https://freegeekvancouver.org/ . Some computer repair shops may also take them.
How to recycle pens and markers
Staples collects pens for recycling! Here is the website for more info: https://www.terracycle.ca/en-CA/brigades/writing-instrument-retail-based-brigade
How to recycle paint and chemicals
You’ll notice most city waste pick-up programs, or even professional junk removers, won’t accept these. They need to be dropped off at special locations.
Here is where to find your nearest drop off location: https://www.regeneration.ca
How to recycle mattresses and upholstered furniture
There are multiple ways to do this. Some are free, but most are not.
You can hire a junk removal company like ours to pick up your old mattresses or furniture. We’ll take your junk to the right place to get recycled, reused or upcycled. We do this as all-in-one service while picking up your other junk, too. So it’s probably easiest for you. No lifting, no sorting, no calling multiple companies – we do it all.
You can also contact mattress recycling companies for pick up services, or do your own drop offs. But again, these are not free. Here are websites to check out:
Delta offers its residents a mattress recycling voucher, but this is limited. Some municipalities in Metro-Vancouver also do large-item pick ups, but this will depend on your city’s rules, and it can also be limited.
How to recycle car oil and antifreeze
Check out this site! http://bcusedoil.com/ (you’ll need to find a drop-off location).
How to recycle tires
There’s an organization dedicated to doing this. Under special circumstances, it will do scrap tire pickup. Otherwise, you can drop off your tires at their designated retail locations (usually tire shops you’ve heard of): http://www.tsbc.ca/pickupdropoff.php
How to recycle toothbrushes
Recycling toothbrushes in Vancouver is really hard to do. The best we could find so far is to get a Zero Waste Box from Terracycle. Host a drive to collect them, along with other oral care packaging and products.
How to recycle Christmas stuff
Christmas and holiday material can be recycled, much like our year-round waste. The Georgia Straight has an article on how to do this, which you can see here.
Recycling the ‘hard’ non-recyclables in Vancouver is possible!
While not everything can be picked up by city waste services, that doesn’t mean it’s impossible for us to still recycle banned items. It really comes down to sorting and collecting our waste responsibly. And that doesn’t have to be an out-of-the-way thing to do. On our way to regular shopping trips or errands, we can easily drop these things off.
As we were doing our research, we realized that the places and ways to recycle or donate are exhaustive. If you want to do some good with your old clothing, textiles, electronics or tools, check out this article that lists a bunch of organizations that will take them: https://www.outofchaos.ca/resources/sell-donate-items/
And, this resource from Terracycle, mentioned many times in our article above, shows all the other ‘hard’ recyclables you can collect with their program: https://www.terracycle.ca/en-CA/collection-programs