What to Do with My Stuff after Spring Cleaning: Recycling

By John Rose, March 31, 2014, Green

Most homes go through the great annual purge known as “Spring Cleaning.” Clutter accumulates in every corner of free space in your house, and can slowly overtake your home if you are not careful. It is rather amazing how overrun your house can become with toys, ill-fitting clothes, and other cast-off items. In the third installment of our “What To Do with My Stuff after Spring Cleaning” series, we discuss how to recycle your stuff appropriately.

Spring Cleaning: love it or hate it, it’s something that most of us do each year. If you’re like me, you want to get rid of as much stuff as you can with your cleaning efforts, but the question is: “How do I do this in the most green way possible?”

What to Do with My Stuff after Spring Cleaning: Recycling

Here are a few recommendations to help get you on your way:

Electronics: Have an old computer, stereo receiver, cell phone, or TV to get rid of? Make sure you recycle them properly. Improper disposal of electronics is a major contributor to environmental toxins, and it’s easily avoided. Most major metropolitan areas now offer recycling for consumer electronics, and some stores like Radio Shack, Best Buy, and Costco offer trade-in programs. You can also look for local businesses that will not only pay you for your old electronics, but pick them up for you as well!

Rechargeable Batteries: Rechargeable batteries are a good way to go green, but what do you do with them when they die? As rechargeable batteries contain mercury, cadmium, and other substances harmful to the environment, it is now law in many places that they are recycled as opposed to disposed of in a landfill. Many retailers such as Radio Shack and Best Buy now offer to collect your rechargeable batteries for you at no charge. If you cannot find a retailer who will take your rechargeable batteries, there are many services that will allow you to mail them.

Furniture: Believe it or not, the curb and the trash can are not the only options for your used recliner or love seat. Many areas have specialized businesses that can upcycle and/or recycle your furniture to give new life to your cozy old couch.

Medications: While this suggestion isn’t technically recycling, it’s worth a mention. When you dump old medications down the toilet, our normal sewage processing cannot filter out all of the chemicals, and as a result, they end up in the ecosystem. Please take them to your local pharmacy for proper disposal.

Household Hazardous Waste: Household cleansers, motor oil, pesticides, paint, and the like are a difficult one for sure. While it should be part of your green plan to reduce your use of household chemicals, we all have a few of these, and we need to dispose of them properly.  While recycling in the traditional sense is not always possible, there are programs to help you get rid of these ecologically hazardous substances responsibly. The EPA and other environmental sites are a fantastic resources for educating yourself about the environmental effects of these chemicals. When it comes to recycling and disposal, your best bet is to simply search for “household hazardous waste disposal” on your preferred search engine for options in your area.

What to Do with My Stuff after Spring Cleaning: Recycling

Other items are harder to figure out.  Here are a few miscellaneous things you can recycle locally:

  • Ikea will recycle your CFL bulbs, as they release toxic mercury vapor into the environment if disposed of improperly
  • Lion’s Club and LensCrafters will recycle your old eyeglasses
  • Local moving companies will accept used packing peanuts
  • Office supply stores will often pay you to recycle your ink cartridges
  • Nike will take your old sneakers

And the list goes on. If there is anything you want to throw away, chances are there is someone willing to recycle it for you. A simple search of the web will guide you to a new home of your old stuff.

One Man’s Trash is Another Man’s Treasure

Have something that you don’t want to send to a landfill? Use a service such as Freecycle.org or Craigslist to get rid of things that you don’t want. Try it one day: post something random for free and see how quickly it flies off your doorstep!

Over the years, I’ve not only gotten rid of random and sometimes un-recyclable things with these two services, I’ve also been the recipient. For example, in 2 hours, I got rid of a 400 lb. workbench that I would have had to pay a junkyard to dispose of. On the flip side, I picked up an expensive Onkyo stereo receiver and speakers from someone on Freecycle who recently upgraded and didn’t want to bother haggling to sell the old one.

Upcycling as the Hipper Version of Recycling

Lastly, let’s talk about the ultimate in recycling: upcycling in your own home. I have a habit of reusing tins to hold screws, loose change, and other odds and ends. I’ve taken old sheets and blankets destined for the trash and used them as packing cushions. I’ve even deconstructed a bed frame to become attic flooring for storage. I know that the overall theme of spring cleaning is to get rid of clutter, but when you upcycle, you can use things you would otherwise chuck and re-purpose them in ways that help you reorganize your life.

So, get cleaning America and, by recycling your leftover stuff and trash, you’re keeping Mother Earth in mind!

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