10 Things in Your Backyard You Can Reuse or Recycle

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Sun, rain, snow and ice can wreak havoc on just about anything that stays outdoors year-round. No matter how well-designed items may be, everything we make eventually succumbs to the elements. But, what do you do when that once comfortable patio set is left tattered and worn down?

Reuse or recycle it, of course! Let’s dig in to discover how to reuse and recycle these 10 common outdoor items.

1. Outdoor Furniture

If you have metal outdoor furniture, you’re in luck. Metal furniture can be sanded down and repainted to be given a whole new life. If you’re completely done with it, you can likely sell it or give it away for someone else to breathe new life into. If it’s simply unusable, then most scrap metal yards will take it, but check for rust first (some locations won’t accepted rusted metal).

If your outdoor furniture is plastic, you may have a harder time. If it’s still in usable condition, consider donating it to Goodwill or any other reuse center. If it’s ready for recycling, here’s what to do. First, look for a recycling symbol with a number 1 to 7 on it. This will give you the type of plastic. Next, give your city a call and see if they recycle rigid plastic of that number. You can also jump over to our recycling search and search for your number, (i.e., “#5 Rigid Plastics”). You’ll also need to remove any metal components like metal screws before recycling.

2. Pots and Planters

Photo: Adobe Stock

A common question we’ve received here at Earth911 is what to do with broken terra-cotta pots and other planter containers. While these pots are wonderful for creating a container garden, they don’t handle any kind of fall well. Unfortunately, they aren’t really recyclable, so you’ll have to stick to reusing them before tossing them in the trash. Consider placing the broken fragments in the bottom of other pots to improve drainage or using them in a decorative manner.

If you have plastic planting containers, check with your city to see if you can recycle them in your curbside bin. If you can’t, search the Recycling Directory for the plastic number found on the containers to see if there is a location nearby that will accept them.

3. Outdoor Power Equipment

When it comes to equipment like lawn mowers and other large outdoor power tools, you can often find a second home for them. If you have a tool breakdown, search for a local repair shop to get it up and running again. Lawn mowers and other gas-powered equipment can often last for many years if you repair rather than dispose of them when they break. If they’re getting quite old or beyond repair, you can still check in with a repair shop, as they may want them for spare parts. If not, you can check in with your local scrap yard to see if they will accept all or part of your non-working equipment.

4. Gardening Tools

Maintaining that coveted garden can often take quite a few tools and other supplies. Things like hand trowels, pruners and wheelbarrows can all wear down and break. In many cases, a simple repair can keep them up and running. If they’re beyond repair, consider one of these inspirational ways to repurpose old garden tools. If you’d prefer to recycle, you’ll have to separate any metal components from wood and plastic and take that portion to a scrap metal yard. Remember, if it’s rusty, call ahead to see if they will take it. Unfortunately, in most cases the wood used on garden tools has to be thrown away and cannot be composted or thrown in with the rest of your yard waste because it has been treated with special chemicals.

5. Hoses

Photo: Adobe Stock

If you have a hose that’s spraying water in all different directions, don’t just toss it in the trash. Repairing it is actually quite easy. Here are some simple instructions for repairing a hose wherever it’s broken. If the hose has already been repaired multiple times or is just too damaged to continue on as a hose, consider one of these easy DIY projects to upcycle it. Unfortunately, the only other option is to dispose of it with your trash. Because of the variety of materials that go into making a hose, recycling it proves to be more costly than it’s worth.

6. Bricks and Concrete Blocks

When it comes to these hefty materials, it’s always best to see if you can find another use for them. Turning them into a backyard walkway or fire pit are great options. If that’s not possible, ask around — this is a great use for social media. Chances are high you have a friend, or a friend of a friend, who is looking for some materials for a backyard project. If you can’t find anyone, consider posting them as “free” on Freecycle or Craigslist. They are bound to get picked up. Unfortunately, recycling brick and concrete blocks can be a bit difficult, as most construction waste recyclers want to take much larger quantities than you’ll probably have.

7. Fencing

If you’re replacing an old fence, snap a few pictures before you tear down the old one and list it for sale or for free on Facebook or Craigslist and see if someone will take it off your hands for reuse. Chain link fencing, once removed, can be taken to your local scrap metal facility where you’ll get paid for the material. If you have old wooden fencing, you’ll likely be stuck placing it in the trash. Most modern wood fencing has been treated with various chemicals to withstand the elements, so it cannot be composted or sent in with your normal yard waste.

8. Trampolines

The surface of a trampoline is made of plastic and technically recyclable. Unfortunately, you’ll be hard-pressed to find anyone that will accept it for recycling because it’s such a special form. So it will more than likely have to end up in the landfill. The metal frame and springs of the trampoline, however, are completely recyclable and will be accepted at just about any scrap yard. Of course, you can also repurpose your old frame into a chicken coophanging bed or a greenhouse if you’re particularly crafty.

9. BBQ Grills

Photo: Adobe Stock

A working barbecue grill can easily be donated or sold to someone who needs it. If it’s old or beyond repair, it can be taken to a local scrap metal yard for recycling in most cases. Call beforehand in case they have any special requirements. The propane tank may not be quite as easy. Check with the retailer where you purchased it to see if they have a takeback program — most do. If that doesn’t work, check with your city to see what disposal options they have available.

10. Yard Debris

Many cities and counties provide a yard waste disposal bin. This yard waste is taken to commercial composting facilities and turned into mulch. If one of these programs is available to you, it’s great to take advantage of, but don’t forget that in many instances you can reuse those materials in your own yard. For several years, we would rake up all the leaves in the fall and use them as ground covering in our 100-plus bush rose garden. This made weeding far easier, as the leaves stopped weeds from sprouting and also acted as fertilizer as they broke down. You can also use yard waste in your own backyard composting bins to fertilize the plants in your own yard.

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Brian Brassaw

Brian Brassaw

Brian formerly managed the Earth911 Recycling Search and shared green living tips and tricks on Earth911’s Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter accounts. Brian also shares DIY projects on Little Pilots Lounge.
Brian Brassaw