ABC's of Recycling,

U – Utensils, Unicorns and Umbrellas: What to do with the Unusual?

Sep 29 2023

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There are all kinds of objects around the house that wear out or wear down with use. Old knives, pens, stuffed toys, broken umbrellas–you probably have one or two of those somewhere in the house. Should you just throw them away?


What To Do With All Kinds of Metal

Ever have an umbrella turn itself inside out and snap? Drop a spoon down the disposal and have it chewed?

Old cooking pans, license plates, broken tools, bent forksthere are lots of metal objects all over the house that can end-up damaged or simply worn-out and no longer useful.

Don’t toss those things in the trash! Anything made from metal is a considered a refined resource. Taking these objects to metal recycling, keeps them out of the landfill AND makes re-use of the material possible at a much lower carbon foot-print cost! (Read more about the value of recycling aluminum here.) Strip the fabric off that broken umbrella and you can recycle the metal frame. (Read the next section to learn about how to handle the umbrella fabric.)

Scrap metal recycling takes place all over our area. If you have a big ol’ load of it–say, an ancient cast-iron radiator–consider contacting a metal recycling company that might even pay you to take it away! If you only have a few items, bring them to a monthly/quarterly recycling event near you.

Of course, before you toss anything made of metal, think about repairing first. Can those dull knives or garden tools be sharpened? Can the cast iron pan be scrubbed and re-seasoned?

Repairing our useful tools is a time-honored way to respect our environment.

What to do with stuff made of Fabric

Do you have a bag of rags taking up space in your laundry room? How about plush toys that kids have outgrown or the dog has loved to shreds?

Anything made of fabric or cloth can be recycled! Textile recycling happens all over the county. And they accept any household textiles (as long as they are clean!) even if they are torn, worn or a bit chewed.

You can recycle clothing, linens like sheets, bedding, and towels, and even shoes! (Match them up and tie the laces together, please.)

You can find a textile recycling site near where you are on the DuPage County Recycling page or on the SCARCE Recycling Events page.

What to do with Writing Utensils

Dry pens and markers, empty mechanical pencils, crop up in every office space and classroom. Did you know these can be recycled? Not in your Blue Bin, unfortunately.

These items can be taken to a Staples store near you. Consider creating a bucket or box to collect dead-pens, pencils and markers at your school or in a corner of your office. (The store also accepts ink jet and fizzy water/carbonation cartridges.) When the box is full–run everything over to the store and pat yourself on the back! You’ve kept a resource out of the landfill.

Cleaning out the office? If you have a few too many pens, markers, or crayons that still have life in them, drop those off at SCARCE. We’ll get them into teachers’ and students’ hands! SCARCE also accepts other classroom and office items like staples, rulers, protractors and scissors.

Recap: Where to Take Those Unusual Things

Scrap Metal


  • City of Wheaton’s Environmental Commission offers recycling for multiple items, including textiles and stuffed animals on the 2nd Saturday of every month, from 9:00-12noon. 820 W. Liberty Drive, Wheaton, in the Public Works yard.

Office Utensils

  • Find a Staples store near you.
  • SCARCE accepts donations Tuesday-Friday, from 9am-2pm. Call first, if you have more than 5 boxes.

The DuPage County website also offers a Drop-off Recycling Guide with information on where to recycle unusual items.

Recycling is habit that improves the more you practice it.
Setting up a collection box, bag or jar for metal, fabric, and writing utensils will help you remember to think resource –and recycle!

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