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How to Recycle, Donate + Discard Almost Anything

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We all know to recycle newspapers and bottles, but what about the myriad of random objects like batteries, device cords, laptops, old pills, appliances and socks that have long lost its other half?

Don't let them languish in your home, cluttering the garage, closets and drawers. Here's the best and most responsible ways to get them out of your home.


Clothing - Lightly worn clothing and shoes can find a second life when placed on consignment or donated to a non-profit. There are many groups devoted to doing good with your old duds, we can't list them all. We recommend sending bras to Free the Girls, business wear to Dress for Success or Career Gear, and shoes to Soles4Souls as a few examples.

Scrap Fabric - Old towels, sewing project scraps and damaged clothing no longer in wearable condition can be brought to some farmer's markets where there is designated time and place for textile collection. If not, take them to a retailer such as H&M where they'll take textiles in any condition.


Batteries - Check your city or town's department of sanitation for disposal events and drop-off locations. Many grocery stores and electronics stores will accept your old AA and AAA batteries, just take a look on your next shopping trip or give them a ring.

Cell Phones - If your phone is still in working order, consider trading in or selling it. If not, many wonderful charities would be happy to help take an old handset off your hands. A few include HopeLine, the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Cell Phones for Soldiers.

Cords - Best Buy will take your cords and cables from old laptops and devices. Stop by a local store and look for the designated receptacles.

Electric Toothbrushes - The two main electric toothbrush manufacturers, Oral B and Philips/Sonicare, have a recycling program for you to send in old models for recycling. If not, remove the battery and recycle as locally suggested.


Cosmetics - This is the most thought-provoking item on the list because proper disposal may require a trip to a local hazardous waste disposal site for safe processing. This applies particularly to nail polish and nail polish removers but also includes certain lipsticks, shampoos and lotions. We cannot emphasize the importance of purchasing products that are eco-friendly and made with natural ingredients. When you connect the fact that so many of cosmetic products are applied directly to our bodies yet require the same special disposal as caustic solvents is eye-opening.

Glasses - Donate them and give someone in need the gift of better vision. Lions Club is reputable and accepts old eyeglasses via local drop off points or mail.

Light Bulbs - Compact fluorescent bulbs contain mercury which requires special disposal. Do not place them in the trash. Home Depot and IKEA have a receptacle in most stores to drop off old CFL bulbs. LED bulbs generally can be recycled as they do not contain dangerous materials.

Paint + Paint Thinner - If you have several buckets or cans, combine them into as few units as possible. Bring to a local hazardous waste disposal site for safe processing.

Auto Batteries - Bring them to the auto supply store the next time you shop or go into the garage for a car tune-up. Most chains will accept old car batteries.

Ceramics - For ceramics in good condition, gift them to a friend, family member or charity. For chipped or broken ceramics, some cities will accept them for recycling. If not, consider using them for crafting or donating them to crafters before placing in the trash. Be careful not to place old pyrex and other heat-treated glass in the trash as it cannot be recycled.

Unused Medicine - Crush or pour old, expired meds into dirt, coffee grounds or anything entirely unpalatable to humans and animals, seal up in a plastic bag and place in the trash. Avoid sending them down the drain where it can enter the water supply and create pharmaceutical pollution. Some pharmacies have take-back programs and accept medicine for disposal, check with your local store. Don't forget to remove personal information from bottles and boxes before disposing.

Most other unwanted but usable items like toys, furniture, books, art can be donated to a local 'Buy Nothing' group, church, school, charity, community organization or Goodwill. Free yourself and rest easier knowing your cast-offs will get a second life. We're so pleased not only with regaining physical space in the home but also the mental relief of recycling these items. (Looking at those paint day jeans!) 

We hope this guide is a good starting point to tidying your home of stubborn clutter you've been meaning to responsibly dispose of. If you're looking for more information for your area, pay Earth911 a visit.

What items are you looking forward to decluttering from your home?

 (Image courtesy of Roman Kraft)

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