The Biggest Ever "What to Do with Your Stuff" Page by Gia Machlin, November 14 2009, 29 Comments

I Recycle

In honor of America Recycles Day, I am attempting to pull together a huge list of "What to do with your stuff." There are many good resources for different types of recycling and freecycling out there, but I often find that I need to go to several different websites depending on the type of stuff I need to dispose of. So I decided to make a list of all the different ways to get rid of the things you no longer need while making sure those things get reused, recycled, or disposed of in a proper manner. I hope you will add to this list so it will be a wonderful resource for all.

Here we go, let's start with the obvious, stuff that is collected by "curbside recycling" in your municipality:

Plastic Bottles, Glass Bottles, Aluminum Cans, Paper (Newspaper, Magazines, Printer Paper, Cereal Boxes, Cardboard, etc), Aluminum Containers, and some other plastic containers and aluminum and steel items. has a great tool to lookup what can be recycled in your neck of the woods.

But what about all those take out containers, all the plastic yogurt, cream cheese, butter, whipped cream "tubs" that, at least here in NYC, can't be recycled through curbside recycling? I was SO EXCITED the other day when I discovered a collection box at Whole Foods for these types of containers through a company, Preserve, that makes products out of recycled yogurt containers and other #5 plastic. Yay! Check out where to find a drop off location for "Gimme 5" near you!

Next, lightbulbs. Don't want to throw them in the trash, especially those Compact Florescent ones (CFLS) that contain mercury. Where can I get rid of those? Well, Home Depot has a takeback program for CFLs, look for the big orange boxes in their stores. CFLS are considered "Special Waste" along with Car Batteries, Fluorescent Tubes, Mercury Thermostats, NiCad Batteries, Paint, Rechargeable Batteries, Transmission Fluid, Used Motor Oil, Used Oil Filters, and Used Tires. Again, check for your local Special Waste collection. Here's the info for NYC Special Waste collection. As for regular old incandescent light bulbs, I have not been able to find any recycling resources. I did find one blog from 2007 that gave some ideas to reuse them for decorations, but that's it.

Toys, oh those horrible plastic Toys. What to do with them? Well, of course there's the local church or synagogue, thrift shop, etc. But I've been finding more and more that thrift shops no longer want toys. They just throw them away. Many of the holiday toy drives actually request NEW toys. There have to be kids out there that would gladly play with the Bionicle Castle my son outgrew or the puzzles my daughter got bored with! I was very happy to have found Second Chance Toys, an organization that collects and redistributes used toys to children in need. While it doesn't serve the whole country yet, it looks like a promising organization.

Don't throw out those shoes or soiled clothes! There are a few organizations out there that collect used shoes: Nike collects old sneakers and makes running tracks, basketball and tennis courts with the ground up parts! Shoe4Africa collects used shoes and sends them to Africa. Cool! What about clothes? We all know that lightly used clothing can be donated to your local thrift shop - but what about the stained clothing with holes in it - how can I avoid sending that to a landfill? Another awesome discovery (although only serving NYC for now) is They will actually take any kind of clothing, shoes, linens, towels, hats and handbags - even if they are ripped or stained or whatever, and recycle them. How cool is that? I am so happy to no longer have to throw away my daughter's ripped leggings - she always rips them at the knee and I never could give them away - until now!

OK - the last thing I will add here (for now) is how to get rid of EWASTE - computers, televisions, cell phones, etc. - it is a big problem and warrants an entire blog post, but for now here are my recommendations: the EPA's Plug-In to eCycling program lists Retailers, Manufacturers, and Cell Phone Service Providers with responsible take-back programs. There are a lot of companies out there that collect and "recycle" ewaste, but be very cautious! The US Government Accountability Office reported that exported U.S. e-waste was often disposed of unsafely in countries such as China and India. Make sure the vendor is certified by E-Stewards - a certification program run by the non-profit Basel Action Network.

So, that should cover most of the stuff you want to get rid of. If all else fails, you can always FREECYCLE it.

Please, please, please add your resources to the comments section, to make this the BIGGEST EVER "What to do with your stuff" page!