How to Recycle Hard-to-Recycle Items In Chicago | The Unwaste Shop

Have you ever wondered if there was a better way to dispose of something you usually throw away?

Many of the things we buy don't last forever and when your favorite hair dryer dies, what exactly are you supposed to do with it?

In a perfect world, we'd all buy less and never have to throw anything away, but the world isn't perfect so the best we can do is figure out how to dispose of things properly once we're done using them.

So, how do we recycle in Chicago?

A lot of companies realize they need to offer better ways to recycle everyday items. Many of them have started their own drop off recycling programs or partnered with others to do so. The best part? They're all free! Now we really have no excuse not to do the right thing!

Here's the list of recycling programs in Chicago for you:

1. Recycle on Us: Crest and OralB

What they recycle: Oral Care Waste

What they accept: Toothbrushes, brush heads, toothpaste tubes, mouthwash containers, floss containers, floss string, and floss picks

How to recycle: Collect oral care waste and download free shipping label from Recycle on Us website

 Visit Recycle on Us for more information.

2. Beautycycle: Nordstrom


What they recycle: Beauty products and packaging waste

What they accept: All brands of beauty products and skincare packaging, such as pump caps, hair spray triggers, lipstick cases, eyeliner pencils, and mascara tubes

How to recycle: Drop off at any Nordstrom store in the beauty department

Visit Nordstrom Beautycycle for more information.

3. Best Buy

What they recycle: Electronics and appliances

What they accept: Computers, tablets, cellphones, radios, stick vacuums, fans, ink and toner, hair dryers, curling irons, video games, cameras and more

How to recycle: Drop off at any Best Buy store (Maximum of 3 items per household per day)

Visit Best Buy for more information.

4. Wrap Recycling Action Program: Multiple locations throughout the US

What they recycle: Plastic bags, wraps, and films

What they accept: Grocery bags, produce bags, bread bags, dry cleaning bags, air pillows, product overwrap (from water bottles, toilet paper, and paper towels), etc.

How to recycle: Check the website and drop off at any participating location (Many Targets, Walmarts, hardware stores and grocery stores will have a drop off in store.

Visit Plastic Film Recycling for more information and to find a drop-off location near you.

5. Call2Recycle: Multiple locations throughout the US

What they recycle: Rechargeable batteries and cellphones

What they accept: Any rechargeable battery that weighs up to 11 pounds and is under 300 watt hours and any brand of cellphone

How to recycle: Check the website and drop off at any participating location (Many hardware stores (Home Depot and Lowe's) and Staples will have a drop off in store.)

Visit Call2Recycle for more information and to find a drop-off location near you.

6. Staples

What they recycle: Electronics

What they accept: Computers, cameras, eReaders, hard drives, mobile phones, laptops, routers, gaming consoles, ink cartridges and more

How to recycle: Drop off at any Staples store (Maximum of 7 items per customer per day)

Visit Staples for more information.

7. Office Depot

What they recycle: Ink and toner cartridges

What they accept: All brands of ink and toner

How to recycle: Drop off at any Office Depot Store

Visit Office Depot for more information.


8. The Unwaste Shop

While we'd love to offer numerous recycling options to help everything make it to the right place, we have a select number of offerings at this time. Come on in to the refill station with your bottles and bring in items for the following waste streams. 

Option 1: TerraCycle Zero Waste Boxes

What they recycle:

There are two zero waste boxes in store: Beauty Care and Packaging Waste and Oral Care Waste.

What they accept:

Drop off your hard-to-recycle items like lotion pumps, plastic makeup containers, toothpaste tubes, floss containers and more! Full list available here.

How to recycle: Drop off your oral care & beauty care waste at The Unwaste Shop!

Option 2: Craft for Climate PakTech

What they recycle: Can carriers (the plastic tops to packs of beer)

What they acceptPakTech can carriers are the industry standard for four- and six-packs. Unfortunately, they are not easily recycled and often end up in the landfill. In Chicago, it’s virtually impossible to ensure can carriers stay out of the waste stream. In fact, just 2% of these can carriers get recycled, so most end up in the trash or are incinerated. And just 10% are reused. Help us stop this cycle.

How to recycle: Drop off your can carriers at The Unwaste Shop and we'll take care of the rest!


9. EcoShip

This amazing non-profit takes your gently used shipping materials (think Amazon mailers and bubble wrap) and redistributes to local businesses who can use this material for free instead of having to purchase virgin shipping materials.

What they recycle: Gently used shipping supplies. 

What they accept: Their list of accepted materials is subject to change but generally includes: plastic bubble mailers, poly bags, bubble wrap, packing paper and peanuts.

How to recycle: Drop off at their storage container or The Unwaste Shop!

Visit EcoShip for more information


10. Reduce Waste Chicago

Reduce Waste Chicago is a nonprofit organization that empowers residents to address climate change through waste reduction on a personal, producer and policy level. 

They host Reuse & Recycling Pop-Up events across the city, they collect a selection of items that can be reused, repurposed or are difficult to recycle. Check out their event schedule on their  events page. Before visiting, please check out their list of accepted items.

Drop off your bread tags, keys and more at The Unwaste Shop!

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

In the end, recycling is ALWAYS better than throwing in the trash, but it's important to remember that recycling doesn't solve everything. Only buy what you need and love and try to invest in things that are durable and can be fixed over and over.

We can all do our part to dispose of things responsibly and thanks to these free recycling programs, it's becoming easier and easier to do so! Woohoo!



I heard about your store on ABC Ch7 over the holidays. I am fairly new to dedicated recycling. It is good to have your local store and your website as a helpful resource. I intend to share your information with my family and friends.

DHenderson January 04, 2024

Manufacturers also need to look into recycling their own products responsibly by finding ways not just how to separate their plastics from organic material but also how to recycle their plastics into something new. Read more:

Nikunj September 04, 2021

Thank you so much for your latest blog Jess!
I appreciate the information and maybe now I can get rid of many of the things I’ve collected in my basement…
It’s great to have a list of places that can recycle them.
I will miss your on-line store and I regret never having made it to your bricks and mortar.
Best to you and Ben on your return to NY.
So proud of you!!

Lisa August 24, 2021

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