Guest Blog: 15 Unexpected Items You Didn’t Know Could Be Recycled

GUEST BLOG: You might be surprised to discover some of the more unexpected items that can actually be recycled, if you know where and how…

When we consider recycling, we usually think of paper, glass and cans. However, recycling is continually evolving. In this SustMeme Guest Post, Rebecca Currier, Marketing Manager at CarTakeBack, the largest scrap car recycling network in the UK, reveals lots of other unexpected items we can actually recycle. It shows the huge progress made over the past few years with recycling and helping to sustain our planet. Plus, just because it can’t be recycled now, doesn’t mean we won’t be able to soon. 

RC: Every year in Britain, we throw away over 22M tons of rubbish – and the majority of our unwanted goods end up in landfill. We know we can recycle our plastic bottles, tin cans and old papers, but what unexpected items can we also recycle to reduce thisimpact?

In fact, there are so many other everyday objects that can be reused and recycled…

Furthermore, by optimising opportunities to recycle, we can also take steps to cut carbon emissions, save energy and reduce pollutants into our environment.

So, join the war against climate change today — ask yourself, have you got any of these lying around the house that you could recycle… ?

Wine corks

Wine disappears surprisingly easily! However the same can’t be said for the cork in the bottles. Corks won’t break down in landfill, but you can recycle them with Recorked UK.

When you do so, they can re-sell them – and for each donated cork, they give a percentage of profit to nominated charities and also provide free corks to schools for arts and crafts.

Donate your corks for recycling here


Even the best vehicles come to the end of their life. Did you know you can recycle your car… and get paid to do so? CarTakeBack gives you the best price for your scrap car, their licensed recycling centres safely remove all harmful materials from it and re-use or recycle up to a whopping 95% of the car.

I want to scrap my car


Trainers can take a hammering, and once they can no longer hack another step, you can recycle them with Nike. Their Reuse-A-Shoe programme gives your running shoes plenty more miles.

Find a Nike store to drop off your athletic shoes


Do you have unwanted and unloved bras lying around? Don’t bin them, Against Breast Cancer recycle them and at the same time, raise vital funds for cancer research.

We can avoid bras going into landfill and give them a new lease of life in countries where bras are too expensive to produce locally.

Find a bra bank near you


‘Donate, Recycle, Transform’ – Vision Aid Overseas recycle donated eyeglasses so they can provide affordable eye care in isolated communities. Their incredible work reaches the poorest people in need of eye care.

Donate your glasses with Vision Aid Overseas


One peddle turn at a time, Re-Cycle change lives by sending bikes to people in Africa who desperately need them. They recycle UK bikes and send them to rural communities – in some parts, it can take up to 4 hours to get to school or to a water source. Re-Cycle have helped to improve school attendance by 30%.

Find out where you can recycle your old bike


Surprisingly, you can recycle your old respiratory inhalers. ‘Breathe new life into your old inhalers’ with Complete the Cycle.

Some 73 million inhalers are prescribed every year in the UK, when they’re not disposed of correctly they end up in landfills and harm the environment.

Find your local participating pharmacy and recycle your inhaler

Clothes and tights

H&M runs a global Garment Collecting Programme. They guarantee ‘all clothes collected by H&M are either reused, reworn or recycled with 0% going to landfill’.

They’ll accept any unwanted clothes, in any condition. Plus, you can secure yourself a £5 voucher for each bag you donate.

I want to find out more about recycling my unwanted clothes and tights at H&M

Mobile phones

We’re always upgrading our phones to the latest gadget. But what happens to all your old phones? There’s usually a whole drawer full at home. If no-one wants them, most charities accept donated old phones.

There are a number of ways to recycle phones – find out more here

Writing tools

When writing tools dry up and can no longer form another letter, you can recycle them. The BIC programme accepts any brand of pen, highlighter, marker, felt tip, and mechanical pencil.

Find out more about recycling your pens here


Post-DIY, any leftover paint can be donated to your local scheme with Community RePaint. They redistribute the paint so communities in need can brighten their spaces and lives.

Find out more about the Community RePaint scheme


Terracycle and Colgate have partnered so we can recycle oral care products and packaging. This also directly helps those in need too, you can redeem points you collect into financial donations for your chosen charity or school.

I want to recycle my toothbrush and oral care


Dreams don’t just bring you a new comfy mattress, they also pick up your old bed and mattress and take them to a bed recycling facility.

Find out how to recycle your mattress with Dreams

Tennis balls

When tennis balls can take no more hits and they’ve lost their pressure, they end up in landfill. However, Recycaball is a not-for-profit and they recycle them. What’s more, you can even get paid 25p for each one you recycle.

Find out how to recycle your tennis balls here

Fairy lights

Your festive and fairy lights are WEEE (Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment), so can’t just go into your normal black bin. They can actually be recycled, though, at your local household waste recycling centre. Some authorities across the UK even collect them from you.

Find out where to recycle your fairy lights here.

If you know of any more surprising items that can be recycled, feel free to Tweet us at @SustMeme and let us know!

More information on CarTakeBack can be found on the company’s website here.

Would you like to Guest Blog for SustMeme? Click here for more info…

SUSTMEME: Get the Susty Story Straight!

Portugal: The Harvest of the Cork

Nowhere on the planet is cork in more bountiful supply than Portugal, where the Alentejo Region is home to the largest proliferation of cork oak trees in the world. Ecologically, cork forests absorb carbon dioxide on a significant scale, assisting in reducing the impact of carbon emissions and other greenhouse gasses. Furthermore, the cultivation and management of these vast cork forests over hundreds of years has allowed a uniquely rich and varied eco-system to develop, preserving the habitats of a number of endangered species, some found only on the Iberian peninsular.

In combination, stewardship of the forests and harvesting of the cork serve both to maintain the cultural and farming traditions of the region and provide opportunities for local employment in rural communities – an all-round win-win for the agri-business sector in terms of both social and economic sustainability.

The harvesting of the Cork in Portugal: Hand-held axe, rare skill, brute force in searing heat – remarkable!

The actual harvesting of the cork really is something to see: Speed, strength and consummate skill combine on the part of the local labour employed to reveal the warm, honey-rich colour and natural beauty of the tree beneath the bark. The reveal is simply quite remarkable and completely renewable – each tree can be reharvested every 9 years.

The material is a thing of Nature, a product of ecology, geography and climate. The country crowned King of Cork is undoubtedly Portugal, with some 60 million trees and 54% of all global production. Accordingly, there is no wonder that a passionate life-long specialist such as Carlos Manuel, General Manager of leading cork producer Amorim Isolamentos, is as proud and protective of the provenance of his Portuguese cork, as a vintner of his vines. Which, as it happens, brings to mind another great use for cork . . .

Cork in construction

Picture this specification on the ‘Solutions Wanted’ list for a sustainable refurb scheme:-

• Insulation – must be based on a material with biodiversity benefits built in, plus zero ozone depletion / global warming potential, that is also 100 per cent natural, renewable and recyclable;

• In addition to strong environmental characteristics, it should boast positive attributes in terms of both social and economic sustainability.

Now at this point, a hardened eco-cynic might imagine that this is simply too much to ask of an insulation product or system – after all, material of that kind doesn’t exactly grow on trees. Wrong. Actually, it does. It does quite literally grow on trees, because the material in question is cork.

An organic, lightweight material with a cellular structure, cork is a natural insulator. No chemicals or additives are used in the manufacture of cork for use as an insulant and very low amounts of energy consumed by the manufacturing process. Thermally stable, fire resistant, durable and rot-proof, with relatively low embodied energy., good acoustic and airtightness properties, cork insulation is designated an A+ rating in the Green Guide to Specification, for maximum benefit in BREEAM and Code for Sustainable Homes assessments.

Footnote: Swistherm with Cork

Cork is ideally suited for use in External Wall Insulation (EWI) systems, with the typical components for such as the Alumasc Swistherm with Cork system being:-

1. Solid blockwork substrate;

2. ST1 Composite Mortar used as bedding adhesive;

3. High density Cork insulation slab;

4. ST1 Composite Mortar used as a reinforcing layer;

5. Glassfibre reinforcement mesh bedded into top third of ST1 Composite Mortar;

6. ST Render Primer to match silicone topcoat colour;

7. ST Silicone Render decorative finish in a range of colours and textures.

Swistherm with Cork can be used extensively on both new build and remodelling projects. Cork is also suitable for use with Alumasc’s Swisslab, Swisspan and Swisrail insulated render systems. For further information on Alumasc products and systems, please click here.

The Editor of sustain’, Jim McClelland, travelled to Portugal as a guest of Alumasc, whom sustain’ would very much like to thank for their warm hospitality.

All flight travel was carbon offset.

Author: Jim McClelland