Sustainable Living

10 Unique Recycling Programs you Need to Know About

In this post, I’m sharing some unique recycling and upcycling programs that you may not know about. While we may be mindful of the amount and types of things we buy, eventually we will likely need to dispose of worn out or unwanted belongings.

I’ve talked before about 10 ways to dispose your unwanted items, but some items need even more creativity. How do you recycle your contact lenses? What’s the right way to dispose of your yoga mat? Read on! I’ve got answers for you!

10 Unique Recycling Programs

These fantastic initiatives include recycling programs for:

  • Computers and hardware
  • Contact lenses
  • Sewing supplies and fabric
  • Yoga mats
  • Chop sticks
  • Shopping Bags
  • Books
  • Toys
  • Art Supplies

We’re not affiliated with any of these programs or companies. We just love what they are doing!

Reusable bag with recycle logo
Unique ways to recycle. (Image by Shirley Hirst from Pixabay)
1. How to Recycle your Computers and Hardware

If your electronics still have a bit of life left in them, Free Geek Vancouver will refurbish and repair the items. Reusing items is always the better option before recycling. Even better, Free Geek is a non-profit focusing on reducing electronic waste and helps provide free or low-cost computers to the public.

Learn about computer and hardware recycling, including what items they accept, here: Free Geek Vancouver

For all other electronics recycling, check out your Return-it Depot for drop off locations: Return-It Electronics

2. How to Recycle your Contact Lenses

Have you ever wondered if contact lenses were recyclable? It turns out they are! Bausch and Lomb have a recycling program that allows you to recycle any brand of contact lenses, top foil, and blister packs. Just search their site and find a drop off location for your contacts.

A couple things to note:
– Ensure your contact lenses and blister packs are completely dry before taking them in.
– The cardboard box your contacts came in can go in your regular recycling, so don’t take it to the store.

Once collected, the lenses and blister packs are melted down to be recreated into other products including benches and picnic tables. The packaging’s foil is recycled separately, so it is saved from the landfill as well.

Learn about recycling contact lenses here: Bausch + Lomb Every Contact Counts

Contact lens resting on open contact lens container
How to Recycle Contact Lenses (Image by Gedesby1989 from Pixabay)
3. How to Recycle Sewing Supplies and Fabric

Do you have extra fabric or sewing supplies at home? Our Social Fabric (OSF) is a non-profit textile recycling initiative in Vancouver, BC. OSF receive donations from various places inlcuding the film industry, estate sales, and home sewers, then sort the products and sell them to the public at reduced prices.

This initiative not only diverts materials from the landfill, but allows for reduced costs to everyone from hobby sewists to sustainable fashion designers and others. In 2019 alone, OSF diverted 11.5 Tons from the landfill!

A couple things to note :
– Fabric donations need to be 1 meter length or more
– Fabric must be clean and unsewn
– Other sewing related items such as trims, patterns, tools are accepted.

Learn more about recycling your fabric and sewing related items here: Our Social Fabric – Donations

4. How to Recycle Yoga mats

My yoga mat has recently started shedding and is clearly at the end of its lifespan, so that got me thinking on what I do to dispose of a yoga mat. And are yoga mats even recyclable?

Thanks to my local zero waste group on Facebook, I found an answer!

Mat Collective in Vancouver offers a way to recycle your yoga mat.

Their website is currently under maintenance, so I will update this section once they are back online. Currently, they have recycling programs listed on their services page along with a contact form.  

Learn more about recycling yoga mats here: Mat Collective – Services

Yoga mats and block
How to Recycle Yoga Mats (Image by bmwalkiewicz from Pixabay)
5. How to Recycle Chopsticks 

Recycling chopsticks? Really?? Yes! Used or new, Chop Value has created a unique business which involves urban harvesting chopsticks (i.e. collecting from the city) which they then use to create new products.

It’s a recycling initiative and business focusing on a circular economy. Collected chopsticks are used to create everything from furniture to accessories to games.

Learn more about recycling chopsticks here: Chop Value Recycling Locations

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6. How to Recycle Sturdy Shopping Bags

If you have any strong shopping bags collecting dust in your home, Food Not Bombs is a grassroots organization in Toronto, ON that are providing meals to those who are experiencing food shortages and homelessness.

Many of those that Food Not Bombs serves do not have access to vehicles, so they are accepting donations of strong shopping bags to assist in their food distribution.

Find out more about donating shopping bags here: Food Not Bombs – Individual Donors

7. How to Recycle Books

You may be thinking, “What is so unique about recycling books?” It’s a valid question, especially since books can be donated to thrift stores, taken to used book stores, or placed in little libraries around your community. Those are great options for keeping books out of landfills, but it doesn’t hurt to have one more!

Books 2 Prisoners is a community based organization whose goal is to broaden the range of reading materials provided to prisoners across Canada. Their website lists other organizations across Canada that offer similar programs, so you can find one local to you.

A couple things to note:
– Hardcover books, textbooks, and magazines are not accepted
– All kinds of books are accepted, but check their list for most sought after topics

Find out more about recycling books here: Books 2 Prisoners

stack of books
How to Recycle Mats (Image by 9883074 from Pixabay)
8. How to Recycle Toys

There is a place for your mismatched, incomplete toy sets! Located in Toronto, ON, Tiny Toy Co. collects unwanted toy “debris” to upcycle it into early learning activities. Created by a kindergarten teacher and expert curriculum planner, Tiny Toy Co. helps to divert toy waste from the landfill by giving it a second life.

A couple things to note:
– All toy and game pieces are accepted. Mismatched sets are combined to create whole ones.
– Broken, random bits of plastic are not accepted.
– Stuffed animals are accepted, but only specific brands.

Find out more about recycling toys here: Tiny Toy Co. – Upcyle Your Toys

9. How to Recycle Art Supplies

Art and creativity are such wonderful–and I’d even say essential–things, but the waste that is created is often hard to dispose of responsibly. Think paint tubes and paint filled paintbrushes–what can you do with those?!

There is actually a solution!

DeSerres created an art recycling program in partnership with Terracycle. The goal of their program is to recycle art materials others would label as “non-recyclable.” DeSerres are continually expanding their program to more stores and currently have 16 stores across Canada participating.

Items the DeSerres (Re)Art Program takes:

  • Pencils
  • Paint Tubes and Containers
  • Mediums
  • Paint Brushes
  • Markers
  • Spatulas

Items they do not take: spray paint; large paint cans; batteries.

Find out more about recycling art supplies here: DeSerres (Re)Art Program

Paint tubes and paintbrushes
How to Recycle Art Supplies (Image by Free Photos from Pixabay)
10. Repair Directory

This is still worthy of being included in the list even if it isn’t exactly recycling!

Repair Cafes are community gatherings where one can take a broken item and have it fixed for free by experienced volunteers. Repair Cafes are a great way to keep items out of the landfill and extend the life of your broken items. If you’re not wanting to keep your item that you get fixed, it could always be donated once it’s back up and running.

Learn more about Repair Cafes here: Metro Vancouver Repair Directory

Repair Manifesto
Image Source: iFixit

Do you know of any unique recycling programs near you? What items do you wish you could recycle but don’t have a way to?


What are your thoughts? Let us know in the comments!

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