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8 Hard-to-Recycle Kids Items: And What to Do With Them

What do you do with those endless boxes of broken crayons or the outgrown toddler mattress sitting in the basement? Here are a few helpful tips to de-clutter your home.

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Recycling can be easy—toss paper, soda cans, and newspaper into the recycle bin—but what do you do with those endless boxes of broken crayons or the outgrown toddler mattress sitting in the basement? Harlin Savage from recycling nonprofit Eco-Cycle, which runs the Center for Hard to Recycle Materials (CHARM) facility in Boulder, helped us find solutions for some common hard-to-recycle kid items.

Juice Boxes

Savage explains that with a quick shake-out of any leftover liquid and removal of the straw, juice boxes can be recycled in a traditional recycling bin. Just be sure not to flatten the box, otherwise it will be placed in the incorrect recycling stream, labeled a contaminant, and redirected to the landfill when it reaches the recycling facility.

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Gear

WeeCycle, based in Aurora, accepts new and gently-used baby gear and clothing like baby monitors, bassinets, breast pumps, car seats, strollers, and many more to be donated to families in need.

Crayons

Crazy Crayons, based in Arvada, collects crayons to recycle into new shaped and swirled crayons for drawing fun. Mail or drop off unwanted crayons at the Arvada-based drop box. The Crazy Crayon National Crayon Recycling Program also has suggestions for school, scout troop, and group crayon recycling drives.

Mattresses

Mattresses aren’t great for landfills, says Savage. Instead, bring clean, dry mattresses, futons, and box springs to CHARM in Boulder. Or drop them off at Spring Back Colorado in Denver and for a small fee—$20—they will collect, disassemble, and recycle mattresses. (Pick-up is also available for an additional fee.)

Lego Bricks

While the Lego group is working toward a goal of using all sustainable alternatives to their raw materials and packaging by 2030, the bricks that fill bins and boxes in your home are not recyclable. They are nearly indestructible, making them perfect to sell, trade, or pass along to other kids. Bricks & Minifigs, in Littleton, buys, sells, and trades loose bulk bricks, assembled figures and kits, and unopened Lego sets. Basically, if it’s the Lego brand, they’ll take it.

Electronics

Denver Recycles offers Denver residents an e-cycle coupon for recycling televisions, monitors, and other electronic items at a discounted rate. Their website lists all of the electronic items accepted. Outside of the city of Denver, check for community electronics recycling days on your city’s website.

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Best Buy’s recycling program, available at all stores, allows you to recycle almost any kind of unwanted electronic for free, including printers, cell phones, computers, and tablets. Bring in any used printer for recycling, and save 15 percent on a new HP inkjet or laser printer. bestbuy.com

Toys

The CHARM center accepts toys made from #2 plastics, which will be indicated on the toy. Call CHARM to verify if a toy is recyclable at their facility. Toys that aren’t accepted by recycling centers can be donated to select childcare centers, homeless shelters, or Goodwill and Arc thrift stores.

Sneakers

Nike’s Reuse-A-Shoe program recycles any brand of athletic shoes at the end of their life, turning them into new shoes, apparel, and Nike Grind sports surfaces, such as running tracks, turf fields, gym floors, and playgrounds. Used shoes can be donated at any Nike retail store.

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