Seven ways to recycle plastic you may not have thought of!

You may or may not have thought about different ways to recycle plastic bags or plastic products. Sure, you can do the traditional recycling and put your used plastic bags and other products into the blue generic cycling bins, or you do some of these different, creative ways to recycle to mix things up a little bit! It's always fun to try something new and different when it comes to recycling, not only can it be an interesting experiment, but it's equally good for the environment! Here are seven surprising and creative ways to dispose of plastic that everyone should try at least once!

 1. "Reverse" Vending Machines

PepsiCo Dream Machine is one machine that doesn't distribute soda or beverages of any kind. Instead, this machine will collect empty plastic bottles and aluminum cans! In return for recycling, the machine gives points that are redeemable at, one of Pepsi's online partners.  This site gives recyclers discounts and coupons for various retailers and can be found in grocery stores, gas stations, and parks. Currently most of the machines are concentrated in Southern California and North Carolina but are becoming a trend and expanding across the rest of America!

2. Re-Gift Card Kiosk

Best Buy is now providing a service for gift card users in order to encourage recycling across the country. Once you find yourself overwhelmed with used gift cards, you can take them to Best Buy and drop them off at their gift-card-recycling kiosks. Although gift cards don't seem like much, and throwing them in the trash may not seem like a huge deal, gift cards are made of one of the most toxic plastics, PVC, or polyvinyl chloride. The production of PVC releases cancer-causing elements into the atmosphere, and then builds up in our good supply. It is very important to start recycling this cards because currently, more than 75 million pounds of PVC from gift cards are entering our waste stream every year! This is a trend that needs to come to an end. 

3. Recycle on the Road

Road trips are a popular trend among Americans, always trying to get to new places and see new things seems to be everyone's favorite thing to do all throughout the year. We've all been in a situation where we stop at a gas station or rest stop, and ten miles later our cars are full of garbage. There a few options for environmentally conscientious travelers to dispose of this trash,  Speedway SuperAmerica started a recycling program, installing recycling bins at most of its gas stations around Kentucky. If you don't plan on being in the Kentucky area, you can always get rid of your trash in a Dream Machines (see point #1), or take them to a nearby highway rest stop, both of these options are very good resources. In some states, like California and Wisconsin,  new recycling programs are required at all state-operated rest areas! If all else fails, bring an extra garbage bag with you to hold your recyclables from the trip until you get home and dispose of them then! 

4. Return to Sender

If you find yourself with extra electronics on your hands, there are perfectly good alternatives you can access if you don't have a responsible e-waste recyclers in your area! Instead of just throwing away your used electronics, stop by your local post office. The U.S. Postal Service has teamed up with Clover Technologies Group  to create a recycling program that lets consumers freely recycle of inkjet cartridges, PDAs, BlackBerries, digital cameras, iPods, and MP3 players (all made with plastic). There are roughly 1,500 post offices in the United States that are now participating in the program. In addition to allowing free recycling, Post Offices are offering free envelopes and allowing users to mail in whatever item they choose to recycle, as ways as paying for postage!

5. Get Rewarded for Recycling

I found this to be one of the most interesting ways to recycle your recyclables. It's such a simple, yet rewarding idea on multiple levels. Recylebank gives your recycling bin a special ID tag, allowing it to be tracked. After being tracked, recyclers are rewarded points that can be used at Origins, CVS, and Whole Foods.

6. Keep Sporting Goods in Play

Being a big time sports fan and former athlete, I am always upset when I see old, used gear being thrown out when there are much better alternatives. You might be surprised to hear just how many different types of recycling programs there are used gear! For instance, if you need to get rid of old swim caps, you can send them to Ecoathlete, and they will turn your cap into a pair of flip-flops.  Another very good option is The Stearling Rope Company, that turns out rope into dog collars and Key chains. Additionally, Nike's Reuse-A-Shoe program grinds up old athletic shoes, collected through the mail or at Nike stores, and turns them into new sneakers or athletic surfaces such as running tracks. There is always the option of taking used gear to old sporting good stores like Play it Again Sports or Freecycle.

7. Precycle

The last creative way to recycle plastics is to precycle, or in other words, find new uses for stuff you’d normally toss out. There are all sorts of websites on the Internet that show creative ways to reuse everyday items, such as cartons and t-shirts, as well as various other household things., Pinterest, and all offer fun, creative DIY projects that allow people to get rid of and use stuff you'd typical want to throw out. As an alternative to throwing out your used stuff, get creative and make something completely new!

Regardless of your choice of recycling, make sure to recycle and not just throw out your used plastic. Not only will recycling give you that feeling of doing something good, which is always amazing, recycling prevents dangerous chemicals from getting into the atmosphere and building up. Whether you want to gain a reward for recycling and use Recyclback or get really crafty and precycle, just make sure you are recycling and doing your part for the environment.