It’s not uncommon to get a little confused about recycling rules. You can recycle cardboard boxes, but not pizza boxes. You can recycle glass jars, but they must be washed first. Some cities take yard waste, some don’t. It’s tough to keep up.

While it’s not out of the ordinary to find the occasional grease-covered pizza box in a blue bin, you might be surprised at some of the things that recyclers find.

Here’s a look at some of the craziest things found in recycling bins:

  • Large snake
    In Toronto, a large dead snake made its way to a recycling plant. It had to be sorted out and property disposed of.
  • Dead animals
    Philadelphia recyclers have removed their fair share of dead animal carcasses from blue bins. In some cases, people are trying to recycle the family pet rather than bury it in their backyard.
  • Sex toys
    From some reason, residents in London toss sex toys into their recycling bins. Everything from blow-up dolls to vibrators has wound up at recycling plants.
  • Urns
    An urn was found among London’s recyclables – with ashes inside! Fortunately, the guys picking up recyclables on the curb noticed it and returned it to the owner’s doorstep.
  • Bowling balls
    Folks apparently have a penchant for tossing bowling balls into their recycling bins. They’re discovered on a consistent basis.
  • VHS tapes
    Still got a collection of VHS tapes? Ohioans think their copy of Dirty Dancing is best suited for the recycling bin now that Blu-rays have banished VHS tapes to the corner.
  • Prosthetic legs & A Lizard
    Oh Ohio!  Recyclers in Ohio were a bit surprised to find a prosthetic leg mixed in with recyclable bottles, cans and plastic jugs. But the wackiness didn’t stop there. Recyclers had to call the Cincinnati Zoo to collect a live Nile Monitor Lizard that was in a recycling bin.
  • Dumbbells
    If you’re fed up with exercise, tossing your dumbbells into the blue bin might feel gratifying, but they’re not recyclable. (Apparently, people in Toronto didn’t get the memo).
  • Car bumpers
    Get in a fender bender? No problem, some people just rip off that dented bumper and put it out with the rest of their recyclables. (Just because it’s made of plastic or metal doesn’t mean it’s recyclable).
  • Bathtubs
    Residents in Toronto have somehow figured out how to fit a bathtub in their recycling bins.
  • Kitchen sinks
    People try to recycle everything but the kitchen sink –  oh wait – recyclers in Toronto see kitchen sinks regularly too.

The need to simplify waste management

While recycling is meant to be a simple way for consumers to protect the environment, it’s actually a complex system with rules that vary from city to city. When in doubt, most residents just toss the questionable item into the bin.

Those questionable items often cause contamination, which forces recyclers to send the whole lot to the landfill.

There’s a better way

Rather than sort, rinse and haul recyclables around, why not simplify the whole system. Why not refill bottles?

Consumers can refill products that they use on a regular basis at their local retailer. Refill laundry detergent, soap, cleaning products – you name it.

By refilling, the need to remember intricate recycling rules is almost eliminated.

Encourage retailers to offer refill stations in your city. Sign the petition below to refill, and stop wondering whether or not something’s recyclable.