Today, I’m super excited to be collaborating with the most organized person I know, my sister-in-law, Michele! I don’t say that lightly. I’ve envied her ability to sort, plan and order for well over a decade. If there is a project to be done, and you’re not sure where to start, ask Michele.
So imagine my excitement when she told me she had been researching ways to recycle all those random whatnots we all have lying around the house, but have no idea what to do with! She doesn’t take on a project lightly, so we can all benefit from her impeccable thoroughness in searching for ways to get rid of old stuff in an eco-friendly way!
Thanks so much for welcoming me to your blog, Leah! I’m excited to be here and appreciate the chance to share with your readers my adventures in figuring out how to recycle and donate “weird stuff”. What an adventure it has been!
When it comes to recycling everyday items, in my house, we’re pretty good at that. We’re fortunate to live in a community with curbside recycling for glass, plastic, cardboard, and paper. So it’s easy to recycle those items. But what about household “stuff”? The clutter that piles up in corners. My husband and I both come from long lines of clutter bugs and are constantly fighting our genetic predisposition to stuff every closet to the ceiling with junk. This result? Multiple piles of “stuff we need to figure out what to do with” in corners all over this house. The intention is noble – if we don’t need it, let’s donate it to someone who can use it. If it can’t be used, let’s try to recycle it. But the reality is a LOT of the stuff accumulating in the corners of our house isn’t accepted with that weekly curbside recycling. So the piles in the corners collect more & more STUFF.
Feeling ambitious, I set out this weekend to corral this assortment of stuff and try to figure out what to do with it. The “stuff” included:
– Old purses I just don’t use anymore, some are really nice designer-brand-names, and all are in great shape
– Old power tools
– Gargantuan home theater battery backup power thing with a dead battery
– Old Palm Pilot
– Old Nintendo controller
– Laptop computer (several years old, still works, just not awesome or fancy)
– Stack of old computer keyboards
– Old camera & cell phone batteries
– Empty CO2 cartridges from refilling flat bike tires
OMG! It is HARD to find places to take all this stuff! We’ve never had much success with garage sales, so I wanted to donate or recycle all this stuff. I quickly found the internet is full of places telling you how important it is to re-home or recycle household items, but not so big on telling you WHERE or HOW to do it (unless you live in California, in which case there appear to be options on every corner). The irony is, I eventually found recycling options for everything on my list, and all right in my local area. It just took the better part of the day to figure that out.
So here goes… my adventures in recycling all this STUFF!
First up, those purses. I have quite a few old purses that need new homes. My purse storage is overflowing with beautiful, designer bags in great shape that I haven’t used, in some cases, in years. These bags need a good home. Of course Goodwill and Salvation Army will accept purses, but I wondered… is there another option? Turns out, there is! Dress For Success (as described on their website) solves the catch-22 that confronts disadvantaged women trying to enter the workforce: without a job, how can you afford a suit? But without a suit, how can you get a job?
I love this mission! Women-helping-women enter the professional world. That is right up my alley! Dress for Success accepts donations of all sorts of professional clothing. Suits, of course, and also accessories, such as my collection of purses. Donations are tax deductible, and tax receipts are provided at drop off. In my city, Dress for Success accepts donations at their boutique one Saturday each month, and daily at a local dry cleaning shop. I love the thought of my purses going to women in need. Maybe, just maybe, a sharp suit and a smart purse will help give a local woman the confidence she needs to succeed.
OK. So that’s the plan for the purses. Next it was time to figure out what to do with the electronics & power tools. Ugh. That stuff is not nearly as much fun as playing dress up with my old purses.
We have amassed a ridiculous pile of random old things with cords & batteries. Figuring out what to do with these was an item-by-item challenge. And a LOT of Googling. Or is that Google-ing? Not sure. Anyway…. it was quite an adventure figuring out where I could recycle or donate these items. I was stunned at the number of hits online wanting me to pay to ship donations to some far away state. I’m not interested in paying to get rid of this stuff, and shipping old broken stuff across state lines doesn’t exactly scream “eco friendly”.
Small Electronics – I started with small electronics. Turns out, this was the easiest one. Target, Home Depot, and Lowe’s all have bins just inside the front doors that accept small electronics such as old MP3 players and cell phones. Lowe’s & Home Depot also accept compact fluorescent light bulbs and small batteries. Fantastic! I can get rid of virtually all my small stuff the next time I’m out running errands at any of these places. Palm Pilot, cell phone batteries, camera battery, old Nintendo controller, I’m looking at you!
Power Tools – This one nearly did me in. Searching for recycling options for an old drill turned up numerous sites preaching the value of recycling old tools, but virtually no info on HOW or WHERE to recycle old power tools. Do those big box stores that sell so many power tools recycle the old ones? Nope. A common suggestion on the interweb was to contact the manufacturer and ask about their recycling programs. I suppose that could work, but Every. Single. Tool. in my heap is a different brand and contacting every single manufacturer seemed like a great way to turn a Sunday afternoon purge into a month long email tango. Our old drill works fine, but my hubby has a bigger more powerful one now, so the old one needs to find a new home. Eventually I discovered the Salvation Army accepts tools, and since the old drill is in good working condition, I’ll donate it with my next batch of Salvation Army stuff. By the way, the Salvation Army is a great way to re-home all sorts of items and contribute to a great cause at the same time – more on that in a bit.
But what about the power tools that don’t work? I looked high & low, and couldn’t find a good alternative to get rid of our old busted Dremel tool & battery operated drill. Eventually, I decided I would at least recycle the batteries if not the tools, and in the process… I found it! I may have actually squealed with excitement (yes, squealed – it’s the little things, ya know) when I discovered Batteries Plus accepts not only batteries, but portable tools. These guys are my new best friends for recycling. And there’s a location between my house and grocery store. Yahtzee!
Batteries – Cell phone & camera batteries can be recycled in the self serve bins at Target, Home Depot, Lowe’s, and Best Buy. Batteries Plus accepts those small batteries, too, and also accepts BIG batteries for recycling. Batteries Plus will even accept the battery out of THE BEAST. THE BEAST is a gargantuan home theater battery backup power thing with a dead battery that can’t be replaced. That thing is HUGE. It’s easily the size of a stereo receiver, and really, really heavy. Ridiculously heavy. God bless Batteries Plus for taking the beast off my hands. At this point, I was feeling like I’d hit the recycling lottery with Batteries Plus, and my list was getting shorter.
Laptop computer – The next item was the laptop. It works just fine but is a few years old & just not the latest or greatest. I got a new laptop a year or so ago, and am embarrassed to say the old one has been leaning against my desk ever since. Now it’s a full year older & that much closer to being obsolete. Shame on me! But what do you DO with an old laptop? Yeah, that’s why it’s been sitting there for a year.
My hubby & I once sold an old computer on Ebay, and that’s definitely an option, but frankly I just don’t have the energy. We were nearly overrun with scammers trying to get us to ship the thing C.O.D., and it was just not worth the time or hassle.
Could I donate it to a school or maybe my church? In theory, maybe, but the reality is schools & churches, like every other organization, have very specific technology needs and the chances of my little ol’ laptop fitting the specific needs of any given organization are pretty slim.
When I searched for options to donate the laptop, I was inundated with websites wanting a LOT of my personal info to in turn give me a quote on whether they’d buy or accept my old computer. No thank you. I just want to give this thing a new home; no way I’m giving you all my personal info.
Staples & Best Buy both accept used computers for recycling, but I hated the idea of just recycling this laptop since it still has some useful life under its lid.
Enter the Microsoft Registered Refurbisher program. Microsoft Registered Refurbishers repair & upgrade older computers, then donate or sell them at very little cost to individuals or charitable organizations in need. Computers & parts that can’t (or are too old to) be upgraded are broken down and the parts recycled. Use the link above to find a Microsoft Registered Refurbisher. In my area, Goodwill is on the list & accepts computers & components (like keyboards) with regular donations. Score! If they can use the old laptop, they will, and if they can’t, I know it will be properly recycled by donating it to Goodwill. Plus, donations to Goodwill are tax deductible. And easy. Nice!
Just a friendly reminder – if you’re donating, selling, or recycling an old computer, be sure to clear it of any personal info BEFORE letting it go.
Empty CO2 cartridges – I was down to the last items on my list – a couple of empty CO2 cartridges from fixing flat bike tires on the trail. The things are solid steel, and should be infinitely recyclable. They’re completely emptied of the CO2… but last I checked my local curbside recycling doesn’t accept these things. So what next? The most helpful suggestion I could find online was to call a local bike shop & ask them how or where they recycle. No luck. The friendly folks at my bike shop had no idea what to do when the local recycling doesn’t accept the little buggers. I decided to check my county’s website in hopes there would be a “special items” recycling program or something. Lo and behold, they actually DO accept these steel things! I should have started there… that would have saved me quite a bit of time. Lesson learned there for sure. Our communities are constantly expanding recycling options.
Phew! It took an entire day of my weekend, but I found a way to re-home or recycle every single item on my list! The counter in the laundry room has been cleaned off, and is now ready to begin accumulating the next round of, ahem, stuff.
The surprising irony in my my quest to find a way to recycle all this assorted stuff was the fact there are resources right in my community, on my day-to-day errand-running route, for recycling all this stuff and more. Who’d have thunk? Not me. Definitely not me.
I mentioned earlier how much I LOVE the Salvation Army. I support their mission & work, and they make it soooo easy to donate! They will actually send a truck to your house to pick up your donations. Yes, you read that correctly, they will send a truck. To your house. To pick up all your old stuff. And they don’t just haul it away – they sell it in their Thrift Stores and use the proceeds for their Adult Rehabilitation centers. An awesome cause, supported by my old stuff? Yes, please! In addition to accepting clothing, household items, and furniture, they accept working power tools, and even artificial Christmas trees! (Am I the only one with old artificial trees dating back to college in my attic?) Plus, the Salvation Army is an IRS 501(c)(3) charitable organization, so your donation is tax deductible.
Recycling other random stuff – In searching for recycling options for my pile of stuff, I found ways to recycle some other random stuff, too:
– Christmas lights – If they work: Salvation Army. If they don’t: Home Depot
– Christmas trees – Salvation Army accepts artificial trees
– Coat hangers – Most dry cleaners accept wire hangers for recycling
– Running shoes – My local running store accepts used running shoes and donates them to those in need. If you don’t have a local option like that, check out Soles4Souls
Where do you recycle items not accepted by curbside recycling?
What tips do you have for recycling out-of-the-ordinary stuff?
Here’s the somewhat-comprehensive summary of my Adventures in Recycling:
– Best Buy – In addition to kiosks at the front of the store for ink and toner cartridges, rechargeable batteries, and wires, cords and cables, plastic bags and gift cards, Best Buy also accepts a variety of larger electronics; exactly which ones vary by state. Click here to find the details for your state. Be sure to check their list for the items you need to recycle. They take a LOT of stuff, but not everything.
– Dress For Success – Specifically for women’s professional attire & accessories. Dress for Success is an IRS 501(c)(3) charitable organization, so your donation is tax deductible.
– Goodwill – Accepts clothing, household items, and furniture. My local Goodwill also participates in the Microsoft Registered Refurbisher program, and accepts old computers, cell phones, and the like. Exactly which items are accepted varies by area, so check with your local Goodwill for details. Goodwill is an IRS 501(c)(3) charitable organization, so your donation is tax deductible.
– Home Depot – Has bins at the front of the store for rechargeable batteries, compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) and more. They also accept used Christmas tree lights! Every year there are a few dead strands in my decorations. It’s great to have an option to recycle these!
– Lowe’s – Has bins at the front of the store for rechargeable batteries, cell phones, compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) and plastic shopping bags
– Salvation Army – I LOVE the Salvation Army! I support their mission & work, and they make it soooo easy to donate! They will actually send a truck to your house to pick up your donations. In addition to accepting clothing, household items, and furniture, they accept working power tools, and also artificial Christmas trees! The Salvation Army is an IRS 501(c)(3) charitable organization, so your donation is tax deductible.
– Staples – Accepts electronics for recycling, but be sure to check their list for the items you need to recycle – they take a LOT of larger electronics, but not everything.
– Target – Has bins at the front of the store for glass, plastic bottles, plastic bags, MP3 players, ink cartridges and cell phones
Thanks so much, Michele! Now I know where to turn for all of MY piles of “stuff!”