Your city or town most likely recycles your bottles and cans, mixed paper, and even some plastics. But there’s no reason many other household cast-offs should be destined for the dump—plenty of nearby agencies are more than willing to give your old stuff a second life. Here’s how to find them:
If you prefer to donate your items to an organization, thegivingeffect.com is a great place to start. The site links donors to organizations with specific needs—from a school short on art supplies to a shelter looking for baby gear to a local public TV station in need of videotape.
If the person to person approach is more your speed, finding a home for that box of ancient film canisters that’s been gathering dust under your bed, or those bowling shoes you have yet to wear, is as simple as logging on to freecycle.org. Like craigslist or eBay, Freecycle is a digital marketplace that connects people who need things with others in the same area who have items to unload—only without the exchange of funds.
Goodwill and The Salvation Army are the “big names” when it comes to donating used goods of all kinds. Proceeds go to support services for those in need, and even well-worn or damaged clothes are often accepted to be sold as scraps. You can also donate your no-longer needed garb directly to a homeless or women’s shelter, though it’s a good idea to call ahead for drop-off hours and to inquire about which items they will or will not accept.
Still holding on to that VCR? Many cities hold electronics recycling events at specific locations several times a year. Check with your local department of sanitation to find out when the next event will be taking place. Chain stores like Best Buy, Staples, and Office Depot also accept a variety of electronics for recycling, including TVs. For additional recycling locations, of if you’d prefer to sell your gear, check out the website ecosquid.com. To recycle computers, the EPA recommends the following resources:
For battery recycling, go to call2recycle.org.
Stuffed Animals and Other Toys
Tommy may have outgrown Teddy, but if he’s still in huggable condition, there are plenty of kids in need who’d be happy to give him a new home. Check the donation guidelines at a nearby shelter or visit the websites for Beanies for Baghdad and Loving Hugs, two organizations that send gently used stuffed animals to kids struggling to survive in war-torn nations, refugee camps, and hospitals. Other organizations that collect toy donations for children in need include Project Smile, Project Night Night, Stuffed Animals for Emergencies, and AdoptaPlatoon.org.
Most charity shops that take clothing and furniture donations will also take gently used sheets, towels, and other linens. If yours are closer to well worn than gently used, most animal hospitals, pet boarding facilities, and veterinary offices will gladly use them to make Fido and Fluffy’s cages a little cozier during their stay. In countries other than the U.S., even these items are recyclable.