Most homeowners feel pretty good about recycling. There’s a nice feeling that comes from doing your part to help keep waste out of landfills and oceans, no matter how small the contribution. And many municipal governments are getting in on the action, providing recycling bins or containers for Northern Virginia residents so there is no excuse that it’s too hard or inconvenient.

You know that you can recycle newspaper and glass bottles, of course, but you might be surprised by how many other consumer items you can recycle with just a little bit more work. Some of the most surprising items are the ones that can do most damage to the ecosystem. Read more to find out about the “say what?” items you aren’t recycling yet.

If you are a parent, teacher, or babysitter, you are probably drowning in crayons. These get thrown away in large number, because they get broken, get dull, or simply because you bought a new pack. California nonprofit The Crayon Initiative turns dull crayons into smiles by melting them down and creating new art supplies, which are donated to children’s hospitals coast-to-coast. 

You probably don’t think twice before binning your contacts. After all, they are small and completely harmless, right? Wrong. Scientific research estimates that there are billions of used contacts in our waterways because of careless disposal. The Bausch & Lomb company has a program to collect and recycle not only used contacts, but also the blister packs used to package them. 

Lowes, the home improvement store, is doing its part to help consumers recycle items that they normally wouldn’t. For one, they take batteries of all kinds. Billions of batteries clutter landfills every year after they’ve served time in TV remotes or game controllers, and they are terrible for the environment. There are even some batteries that you can’t legally just toss, like lead and nickel cadmium models. Lowes accepts them all, along with plastic plant pots. If you have a home garden, you have likely accumulated a lot of these over the years, and they are either growing dust in your shed or getting binned. You may be able to recycle them curbside, or bring them to Lowes with the batteries. 

Lastly, consider recycling and not disposing of your old running shoes. If they are made by Nike, the company will accept them as recyclables and melt them down to create new products. The North Face will accept any sneakers, regardless of brand, in addition to all used clothing. Best of all? They will give you a coupon for $10 off $100 as a reward for doing the right thing!