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The Green Life: Junk Drawer Recycling Challenge

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October 09, 2013

Junk Drawer Recycling Challenge

A blue recycling bin sitting in a fieldEverybody has a junk drawer. When we move, the junk drawer becomes a surprisingly large junk box of items that don't really belong anywhere — the contents don't go in the kitchen, but not necessarily in the living room, and definitely not in the bathroom. What do you do with the accumulated knick-knacks and not-quite-trash of years past? Avoid adding to our ever-growing landfills and recycle your leftover junk with these programs.

ReCORK America collects wine corks at grocery and liquor stores throughout the U.S. Deposit your collection during your weekly shopping trip, or look up the location of the nearest collection bin. These souvenirs of happy nights with friends can be recycled into soles for shoes and fund the effort to plant trees.

Broken crayons see new life with the National Crayon Recycle program, whose representatives estimate they've diverted more than 92,000 pounds of unwanted crayons from landfills. With crayon production in the U.S. around 12 million per a day, they can use all of the help they can get. Parents can box up the stragglers and send them off to be given a second chance at coloring within the lines. 

Keys are the ultimate junk drawer menace. It's like they multiply in there, and you don't know what any of them actually unlock. So into the junk drawer they go, where they produce mysterious key friends and gather dust. Instead, try boxing them up and putting them to good use raising money for the Multiple Sclerosis Society. Keys for Kindness is a family-run organization that recycles keys in hopes of finding a cure, and that old key to the back door of the basement of your old apartment building can help.

Yes, your 4th grade spelling bee trophies are an important part of your history, but it is time to let go. Every child outgrows her trophy collection at some point, but the mementos of hard-earned recognition can be difficult to part with. The little gold soccer players can go on to do good, however, as programs throughout the country collect and recycle old trophies. Total Rewards and Promotions, Inc uses discarded trophies for parts, re-engraves them to sell online, and donates them to charities that can't afford to buy them new. 

And for everything else, TerraCycle collects junk of all kinds, from empty Scotch tape dispensers to used highlighters. The company offers free shipping for most items it collects, and awards you a monetary credit for each item recieved, which it will donate to the cause of your choice. Check out its website to see what it's collecting now. 

When in doubt about what to recycle where, check out Earth911's quick-search tool to find recycling locations near you. 

 -- Image via iStockphoto/yalayama

Headshot_Julie_BlogJulie Eng is an editorial intern at Sierra. She studied literature and anthropology at the University of California, Santa Cruz and wrote for several publications before joining the Sierra team.



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