surprisingly recyclable items

You made it to the No. 1 super surprising recyclable item: your shoes. Unless you're a women's size 7 and want to donate them to me (I tend to be on the receiving end of my more fashion-forward friends' castoffs), plenty of places will happily accept your kicks, whether they're stilettos or sneakers. If you're short on cash but long on style, you could always sell them. Down-and-out socialites might fare better with this approach, as consignment stores tend to look for brand names. A pair of well-heeled vintage Chanel pumps = score. Your scuffed black boots from Target = not so much. The organization Soles for Souls seems to be less discriminating on the label front, but the folks behind it are still looking for new or gently used shoes. If you have a few laying about, you can ship them to one of its three U.S. warehouses or drop them off at one of its participating locations.

There's a closet in our house that's piled with stuff like old cell-phone chargers, various video games that my husband has never played and an oddly high number of headphones. Beyond compulsively tidying it, I never knew what to do with all this electronic junk, or e-waste, until I heard about the local electronics recycling day sponsored by the city of Decatur. And yeah, we actually did recycle our Mac one year, but it was one of those old desktops that resembled a TV. Nothing exciting enough to get freegans dumpster diving. E-waste may not be the most shocking item on this week's list of top 5 surprisingly recyclable items, but it feels irresponsible not to mention it, especially since it's a huge and growing problem for landfills. As our days become more digital, the electronics clogging our landfills swell, along with the amount of mercury, lead and other toxic chemicals leaching from these devices into the groundwater.

You're moving. You open up your medicine chest and an army of squat brown bottles with old prescription medications challenges you from the shelves. Deal with me in an efficient manner, they taunt. What do you do with them? You're not supposed to hang on to them past their expiration date. If you flush them down the toilet, will you be helping to create some superbug that flourishes in the sewage underworld and rises up to kill us all faster than you can say swine flu? Or maybe methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus? Relax. You have another option: recycle them. In the United States 37 states have passed drug reclamation, or recycling laws and started related programs, according to the National Conference of State Legislature. The organization's Web site lists the states that have enacted this type of legislation, as well as who will accept what. According to the site, almost all of the programs have the following requirements:

Top 5 Surprisingly Recyclable Items - No. 4: Your Mattress

If you read yesterday's post, you know that I'm on a quest this week to expand your recycling outlook. In fact, HowStuffWorks.com has a bit of a green mission this week. Esteemed podcaster, writer, blogger and general funnyman Josh Clark is writing about 5 emerging green technologies to watch while green goddess and editor Sarah Dowdey is obsessed with five ways to cut energy costs.

No doubt you recycle assiduously, fishing out aluminum soda cans mixed with regular trash and rescuing them, like a demented George Costanza saving that tasty chocolate ├ęclair resting on top of the garbage. This week, I'll be sharing with you five everyday objects that will have you scrambling among the trash even more, but only one a day, you greedy green people. Here's the first: your toothbrush. Ewwww. Who wants to recycle a toothbrush? I can barely stand to borrow my husband's toothbrush when mine can't be found. I'd rather just do that toothpaste-on-the-finger trick. But no, if you buy the "toothbrush made from yogurt cups" sold by Preserve, you can practice good dental hygiene and good stewardship of the Earth. When you're done with the toothbrush, you pack it up with the handy postage-paid label and send it back to be turned into reprocessed plastic lumber.