ByChase Ezell

Jan 6, 2016
Recycling bin

Lets face it – recycling works best only if you can find an outlet that will take your material.  Without that outlet, it’s up to you – the consumer – to find the proper place to dispose of the material. This isn’t always the easiest or most convenient.  But there is hope!

Recycling revolution

Every month, tens of thousands of people just like you and I rely on Earth911 for information of where to best recycle materials.  From common items to not-so-common items, Earth911’s recycle search has loads of information on what to recycle and where to take it – customized to your local area.

Ever wondered what materials others are searching for recycling information on? Well, you’re in luck.

In honor of the New Year – 2016 – here were the Top 16 Most Searched For Materials on the Earth911 Recycle Search (data set from 2015).

CFL bulbs1) CFLs – Because CFLs contain a small amount of mercury, the EPA recommends that consumers take advantage of available local recycling options for burnt-out bulbs. Most major home improvement retailers, including Lowe’s, Home Depot and Ace Hardware, offer free recycling collection for unbroken bulbs.  As other, more efficient lighting options become available, more and more people are looking to properly recycle their CFL light bulbs.

2) Paper – Probably not surprising, how to recycle paper gets searched for a great deal. Paper, which includes everything from packaging to mail, makes up the largest percentage of the municipal solid waste stream at 33 percent. It’s also one of the most recovered materials, as recycling opportunities are often readily available.

3) Aluminum Cans – Aluminum is a sustainable metal and can be recycled over and over again. A can is generally turned into a new can and back on store shelves within 60 days. Cans are usually available through curbside pickup or community drop-off locations nationwide.

4) Electronics – Electronics are everywhere you look. Heck, you’re reading this on one right now. More than 70 percent of the collected gadgets can be recycled, recovering items such as plastic, steel, aluminum, copper, gold and silver to be used in new products. Electronic recyclers repair, refurbish and resell functioning electronics as used products both at home and abroad.

5) Used Motor Oil – The bad news? Oil is toxic and is slow to degrade in the environment.  The good news? Old motor oil can be refined, reconditioned or reprocessed to become usable again. An oil filter is made of three basic items: paper, steel and plastic. All of these items are recyclable when sent to the proper recycling outlet.

6) Paint – Latex paint is recyclable, but oil-based paint is considered household hazardous waste (HHW). Often HHW facilities will collect usable paint to combine and resell or give away to residents. Check with your local government to find a HHW facility in your community.

Recycling bins
Image courtesy of Rubbermaid Products.

7) Aluminum Beverage Cans – Aluminum is a sustainable metal and can be recycled over and over again. A can is generally turned into a new can and back on store shelves within 60 days. Cans are usually available through curbside pickup or community drop-off locations nationwide.

8) Christmas Trees – Top of mind with the holiday season just behind us, lots of people are searching how to properly recycle their (real) Christmas tree. Christmas tree recycling, also known as treecycling, is a simple way to have a big impact after the holidays have come and gone, and a growing number of communities are offering seasonal programs to make it easy to extend your tree’s useful life.

9 & 10) Batteries & Alkaline Batteries (combined) – Single-use batteries contain materials that are recyclable. You can recycle them by dropping them off at a local facility using our search tool or by participating in the many mail-in or take back programs that are available.  Rechargeable batteries come in all shapes and sizes used across a wide variety of areas, from your car to your wireless phone. Many of the materials within these batteries, such as lead, plastic and metal, are recyclable. Rechargeable batteries can be recycled through mail-in, drop-off or take-back programs. In fact, many states prohibit throwing batteries in the trash.

11) Plastic – So many things are made with plastic these days – things like bags, bottles, caps, lids, packing peanuts, wrap and film.

12) Fluorescent Tubes – Fluorescent tubes are frequently found in office buildings, garages and many kitchens. They’re efficient and pretty universal for use and installation, but they can also be cumbersome to transport for proper recycling and disposal. Tubes contain a small amount of mercury, but generally, proper handling mitigates any real danger.

13) #1 Plastic –  Along with Plastic #2, Plastic #1 is the most commonly used form of plastic in bottled water containers – and therefore most commonly collected. The plastic in jugs and bottles is lightweight, durable, flexible and, yes, at times controversial.

14) Cardboard – Corrugated cardboard is abundant and the market demand for the material isn’t nearly as high as other materials. It is generally bought and sold in bulk. When not wet or contaminated with food or oil, cardboard is recyclable. It is also naturally biodegradable, but it’s always a good idea to put it in the recycling bin instead of leaving it as litter.

15) Car Batteries – The typical new lead-acid battery contains 60 to 80 percent recycled lead and plastic, according to Battery Council International.  Car batteries are the most recycled products in the U.S., having a 98 percent to 99 percent recycling rate. Most individuals simply return their old car batteries to the dealership or the store where they are purchasing their replacement.

16) Antifreeze – Like some car fluids like transmission fluid, power steering fluid, gear oil and motor oil, antifreeze can be processed and recycled into new fluids. Fuel and other flammable liquids are considered hazardous and, therefore, must be stored and disposed of properly, but many of them can be recycled or reused as alternative fuels.

We believe here that 2016 is going to be a fantastic year. No matter what materials you choose to use (or not use) and eventually discard, repurpose or recycle, Earth911 is a wonderful tool to get you there.

Feature image courtesy of Beth Jusino

By Chase Ezell

Chase has served in various public relations, communications and sustainability roles. He is a former managing editor for