Conquering clutter is one of cleaning’s most satisfying victories. But tossing everything into a landfill isn’t exactly a win for the environment. Here’s what to do with those unwanted items, courtesy of Jennifer Berry from Earth911.com, an environmental website featuring a comprehensive list of recycling resources.
Keep landfills from filling up with electronic waste—the fastest growing type of trash in the U.S—with these programs:
- Allgreenelectronicsrecycling.com buys and recycles a variety of electronics, offering free pickup services nationwide and hundreds of drop-off locations. The company refurbishes unwanted electronics to sell, and customers receive 70 percent of the revenue.
- Call2recycle.org offers local drop-off locations to recycle rechargeable batteries (like those found in cell phones and laptops), as well as old cell phones. Metals recovered from the used batteries create new batteries and other products.
- EcoSquid.com lets you enter your gadget’s info (cell phones, MP3 players, cameras, rechargeable batteries, monitors, and laptops) and see the best options—whether it’s reselling, recycling, or donating.
- Gazelle.com features free shipping on a range of gadgets, such as computers and calculators. Enter the gadget’s info, send in your electronics, and get paid for your items.
- Guzu.com buys working and non-working electronics for cash and then recycles them. For each order, the company plants a tree through the nonprofit American Forests.
- Mygreenelectronics.org is a site powered by the Consumer Electronics Association that lists local recycling opportunities and resources for selling your old electronics.
- Reconnectpartnership.com is a computer recycling program by Goodwill and Dell that allows you to donate any brand of computer or computer gear at nationwide drop-offs.
- Techsoup.org is a nonprofit that provides libraries and other organizations with technology products, such as donated computers.
Clothing and shoes
According to the EPA, Americans throw away more than 68 pounds of clothing and textiles per person each year, says Berry. Local thrift stores and charities are a great place to start, and you can also consider these options:
- Nikereuseashoe.com uses worn out shoes to make playground materials and tracks. Drop off old kicks at a local recycling center or mail them in.
- Soles4Souls.org collects used shoes to send to those in need worldwide; drop shoes off at locations nationwide or mail.
- Clothingdonations.org is a service of Vietnam Veterans of America that picks up clothes in 30 states to help support programs for vets.
- DressforSuccess.org helps disadvantaged women get back on their feet by providing professional attire. Donate suits and accessories at drop-off locations nationwide.
- Wecollectclothes.com is part of the American Red Cross and accepts clothing donations for local disaster victims via bins nationwide. You can also schedule a free pickup.
- Salvationarmyusa.org has hundreds of nationwide drop-off locations for adult and children’s clothing.
Baby and children’s gear
- Musicgoround.com has over 900 locations throughout North America where you can sell or trade used musical instruments.
- Onceuponachild.com buys outgrown kid gear—such as clothing and highchairs—for cash, and has more than 240 locations nationwide.
- Playitagainsports.com buys used sports equipment and resells it for a profit—sellers either get cash or can trade for other items.
- Purpleheartpickup.org is part of the Military Order of the Purple Heart Foundation, a nonprofit that funds organizations for wounded veterans. They offer free pickup on a multitude of household items in New Jersey, Delaware, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia.
Medications are considered Household Hazardous Waste (HHW), so they’re not suitable for your trashcan, and it’s never okay to flush them, says Berry. You can call your local HHW facility to confirm they take medications, or search for a local facility at Earth911.com. Many pharmacies also offer drug take-back programs.
There are a few ways to handle your old paint, depending on whether or not it’s still usable. The National Paint and Coating Association suggests donating usable paint to local charities like Habitat for Humanity, church groups, or theater organizations. If it’s dried out, contact your local HHW facility for proper disposal, or search for one at Earth911.com.