Find out which used baby gear items you can recycle, and which ones are safe to pass down to an expecting parent.

By Emily Elveru
Updated March 16, 2020
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Jeffrey Westbrook

Kids go through a lot of stuff. And while you may be tempted to stash or toss outgrown clothes, toys, and strollers, there’s a responsible—and easy!—way to clear the clutter.

Good news: You can ignore the numbers on the bottom of plastic containers. Instead, to make recycling easier, plastics are often categorized by type: bottles, jugs, tubs, and lids. So as long as your area accepts these items, toss them into your curbside bin.

Read on for more tips on the right way to recycle everything from tubs to pacifers.

Sippy Cuts and Dishware

Toss them into your curbside bin. Most are made of the commonly recyclable PET or HDPE plastic. If they’re still usable, ask local day-care centers or churches if they’d like extras for snacktime.

Food Pouches

In most cities, pouches and caps aren’t recyclable on their own. But Ella’s Kitchen, the organic kids’-food company, works with TerraCycle to recycle them (any brand!). Collect and send them in by printing a free downloadable label from terracycle.com.

Milk Jugs and Cartons

Beverage cartons have recently been accepted as curbside recyclables in many locales, so place these and plastic jugs in your bin. Just make sure that they’re completely empty and the caps are screwed on tight. (Caps are too small to be recycled on their own.)

Baby-Food Jars

If your curbside-recycling program accepts glass, which most do, place these in the bin. You can skip the step of rinsing them first, though. As long as most of the food is scraped out of the jar, they’re ready for recycling, says Alexa Kielty, the residential zero-waste assistant at the San Francisco Department of the Environment. And the metal lids? Toss them in if your community accepts them; a magnetic steel drum will collect them during the recycling process.

Baby Bathtub

You can donate it. But if your recycling program takes rigid plastics (these are plastics that hold a shape and are hard to break, such as a bucket or a laundry-detergent bottle), it can go in the bin.

Pacifiers

Because the nipples are prone to crack and harbor bacteria, Kielty doesn’t recommend donating used pacifiers. And unfortunately, they’re too small to make it through the recycling sorting process, so for now, these little guys have to go in the garbage. (Sorry!)

Plastic Bags

Any type of plastic bag or wrap is recyclable—bread bags, breast-milk baggies, plastic wrap, and frozen-food packaging. Keep a shopping bag under your kitchen sink for stashing extras, suggests Brenda Pulley, senior vice president of recycling at Keep America Beautiful. When it’s full, take it to a retailer such as Target that has a plastic-bag recycling receptacle, usually near the main entrance.

Diaper Pail

It’s made of rigid plastic, so if your town accepts that, recycle it. But post it on Craigslist or Freecycle first. No one likes diaper odor, so it’s an in-demand item!

Toddler Mattress

One too many accidents to give this away? Arrange a bulky-item pickup by calling your waste-management department. Depending on the program, your town may recycle it. If that’s not an option, try the nationwide company 1-800-GOTJUNK?, which is happy to get rid of your unwanted stuff responsibly.

Electronic Toys

General rule: If it has a cord or a battery, recycle it with other electronics. This means you can group these with a broken hair dryer, toaster, TV, and computer on your community’s electronics recycling pickup day.

Batteries

Don’t just dump them in the trash—they may contain lead, chemicals, and other metals that can contaminate and seep into our groundwater. Yuck! Instead, you can go to call2recycle.org to search 30,000 drop-off locations for old single-use, rechargeable, and damaged batteries.

Breast Pump

If, like 80 percent of U.S. hospitals, you use Medela, you can send both the motor unit and the cord back through the Medela Recycles program. Meanwhile, any manual pumps, breast shields, tubing, and other kit components can go straight into a curbside recycling container.

Clothing and Shoes

Participating Goodwill locations will take your kid’s threads even if they’re ripped or stained. Just put the items in a bag labeled “scrap.” They’ll go to recyclers for various uses: Jeans will be turned into insulation; T-shirts will become rags for the auto industry. To donate children’s shoes, print out a prepaid label from zapposforgood.com. Mail them off, and Zappos for Good, partnering with Soles4Souls, will get them to someone in need.

Books

Libraries, schools, and churches often welcome used books. If many of yours are beyond repair, put them in your regular paper recycling (remove hard covers). As for baby board books, they may not be recyclable because of their hard, coated cardboard, so check with your town.

Stuffed Animals

Most can’t be donated to kids because of the potential germ factor, but pet rescues love them! Ask your local shelter if it has safety restrictions on what’s donated, such as loveys with beaded eyes. Group any items beyond the point of donation with ripped and holey clothing that’s marked as “scrap,” and give it all to charity, Pulley says.

Broken Crayons

Instead of throwing away used crayons, which are made from wax that won’t break down naturally, send them to The Crayon Initiative, a nonprofit that turns any unwanted crayons into new ones that are then donated to children’s hospitals.

Car Seat and Strollers

Unfortunately, strollers aren’t recyclable curbside. If yours meets current safety standards, sell or donate it. For car seats, go to babyearth.com/renew. You’ll pay to send it in, but all usable parts are recycled. Any fabrics go to developing countries; foam, metal, and plastic are used for construction projects.

Parents Latina

Comments (1)

Anonymous
December 4, 2018
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