Pile of light bulbs.

How to Reduce Waste of Common Household Items

I’ve talked about large categories of waste here, like paper and plastic, but what about all the random things we all have lying around in our houses? On this page I will list common household items to help you reduce waste at home.

Help batteries last longer by keeping them in cool places and turning off gadgets when not in use.

Go Green: Rechargeable batteries

Start buying rechargeable batteries instead of single-use alkaline, especially if you go through a lot with video game controller, toys, remotes, and other gadgets. Rechargeable batteries cost more up front, but can be recharged hundreds of times, lasting years and saving you money overall in addition to less landfill waste. And you don’t need to go all at once. The process can be gradual–I have waited for existing alkaline batteries to die before replacing them with rechargeable replacements, just one device at a time.

I like this EBL battery charger and there are plenty of rechargeable battery options to choose from, like these Amazon brand batteries. Unplug the charger when not in use or batteries are fully charged to save on electricity. I keep some extra charged batteries on reserve to exchange when needed.

Where to recycle batteries

Never throw any type of batteries in household curbside recycling.


Alkaline batteries

Alkaline batteries are not hazardous and are reportedly safe to throw away, although some states require recycling. Mine does not, but I prefer to keep them out the landfill. Because they are safe to dispose, it is difficult to find places that will recycle alkaline batteries. All the more reason to start using rechargeable batteries.

The only drop-off locations I have been able to find are Staples and IKEA. Batteries Plus is another option but they will charge you $2 per pound. I have used mail-in programs like Terracycle’s battery bucket and the Big Green Box; both are great (albeit pricey) options.

Rechargeable batteries

  • Nickel Metal Hydride (Ni-MH) – These are the rechargeable alternative to single-use alkaline batteries. They come in AA, AAA, 9 volt and D sizes.
  • Lithium-Ion (L-Ion) – Used in personal electronics such as smartphones, laptop computers, tablets and cordless power tools.
  • Nickel Cadmium (Ni-Cd) – Used in power tools and communication devices.
  • Small Sealed Lead Acid (SLA) – Most commonly for large items like motor vehicles and lawn mowers.

Do not put these types of batteries in the trash. Besides being bad for the environment, they are a huge fire hazard. Even when “dead’ they can still carry enough charge to create a spark. The operations manager of my local landfill said lithium batteries are the biggest culprits of fires.

Because of the fire risk, it is recommended to tape the ends of these types of batteries to prevent sparking.

Drop off rechargeable batteries for recycling at Staples, Home Depot, Lowe’s, and Batteries Plus (which charges a fee). Recycle button cell batteries and non-rechargeable lithium batteries at these same drop offs. Find more locations near you with the Call2Recycle locator.

Car batteries

Most auto parts stores recycle car batteries. Municipal hazardous waste collections are another option.

Learn more about responsibly disposing of and recycling car fluids and parts here.

Curbside battery collection for recycling

Recyclops is a company available in some areas that picks up hard to recycle items directly from your home. For $15/month, they collect light bulbs, batteries, plastic films, and clothing/textiles. Clamshells are an additional $1.50/month, and Styrofoam is an extra $5/month.

Ridwell is another option for hard-to-recycle items, available in a handful of areas. They will collect alkaline and rechargeable batteries, along with an extensive list of other items.

Go Green: LED bulbs

If you haven’t already, switch from incandescent light bulbs to LED bulbs, the most environmentally-friendly light bulbs available. They use 75-90% less energy and last up to 25-30 times longer than incandescent lighting, and five times longer than CFL. And unlike these, LEDs don’t contain any hazardous chemicals.

Another energy saver is, of course, one of the first lessons we learn as kids: turn off the lights when you leave a room.

How to recycle light bulbs

Incandescent & halogen

It is difficult to recycle incandescent light bulbs because they have small amounts of glass, metal, and wire that are difficult to separate. Halogen bulbs are rarely recycled for the same reasons, in addition to the glass being thicker than other types of glass; it can contaminate loads if thrown in with regular glass recycling.

The only drop-off option for incandescent and halogen bulb recycling I have come across is Batteries Plus, which recycles all types of bulbs, but they charge a fee, usually around $0.35/bulb. You could spend money on a mail-in program like EZ on the Earth, or they will have to go in the trash. The difficulty in recycling these bulbs is just another reason to transition to LED bulbs.

CFL (Compact Fluorescent Light)

CFL bulbs & tubes contain mercury so don’t throw them in your trash. Recycle fluorescent bulbs at IKEA or Home Depot. Fluorescent tubes need to be disposed of in your city’s hazardous waste. Learn more about CFL bulbs from the EPA.


Recycle LED light bulbs at Home Depot, Lowes, and IKEA.

Curbside light bulb collection for recycling

Recyclops (as mentioned above, under batteries) is a company available in some areas whose home pickup service includes incandescent, CFLs, and LED light bulbs for recycling (as well as textiles, plastic films, and batteries; styrofoam and clamshell pickup is available for an additional fee.)

Ridwell (also listed above) will take all types of light bulbs, including incandescent, halogen, CFL, and LED bulbs; fluorescent tube recycling is available as an add-on service.

Christmas Lights

Christmas lights

Go Green: LED Christmas lights

Make sure your Christmas lights have LED lights, which use 80-90% less energy than incandescent lights and last much longer. In addition, don’t leave the lights on when away from home or sleeping. Utilizing a timer can help decrease energy usage.

Recycle Christmas lights

Take your old burnt out lights to a scrap metal recycler.

Learn more about eco-friendly Christmas lights here.

See Sustainable Furniture page.


First, refuse hangers that come with clothing if you do not intend on using them. Leave it with the store so they can reuse.

Go Green: Natural materials

There are a variety of metals and woods that make great alternatives to plastic hangers.

What to do with unwanted hangers

Maybe you have a bunch of hangers you don’t want or need but that are still usable. Check whether a local dry cleaner or thrift shop will take extra hangers. Some retailers may take back hangers from purchases made at their stores. I’ve had good luck with posting kid-size hangers on Buy Nothing.

Can you recycle hangers?

Hangers are difficult to recycle. Plastic hangers are most likely not going to be recyclable in most areas. They are usually composed of multiple types of plastic, which makes them very difficult and expensive to recycle.

Wood hangers cannot be recycled or composted because most are coated with varnish or paint. Still, they are a good choice since they will probably last for years and years.

Metal hangers are the only type that can be recycled, but even they aren’t simple to recycle. They must be dropped off at a metal scrap yard—otherwise they are likely to jam up machinery at mixed recycling facilities.


How to recycle keys

Send to Keys for Kids, which helps students with things like in-school scholarships and replenishment of negative lunch accounts.  

Recycle keys at a scrap metal recycler, taking care to remove any rubber or plastic casing if you can.

Sell old key fobs for a few dollars to We Buy Key Fobs, or check with local e-waste recyclers.


Can you recycle lighters?

It doesn’t matter whether it’s a cigarette lighter or a butane wand lighter, it can’t be recycled so it goes to the landfill. Make sure it is completely empty, otherwise it needs to be disposed of with hazardous waste.

Mattresses & pillows

See Sustainable Bedding page.

Where to donate musical instruments

Check with local schools, find a local music-focused non-profit, or check with a music retailer for options to donate unneeded instruments. If there are none in your area, try a national organization.

Recycle musical instruments

If you have a brass instrument that is beyond repair, you could take it to a scrap metal recycler.

Toilet seats

Yep, this is random. But I recently had to replace one, and thought I would see if there is such a thing as an eco-friendly toilet seat. Turns out there is. Bemis uses wood scraps and dust rather than cutting down trees for their manufacturing. They also use water-based paints and package the seats in recycled and recyclable packaging. no plastic = winning.

Can you recycle toilet seats?

Nope, they go in the trash.

Twist ties

Here are some upcycle ideas for twist ties.

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