Thoughtful Disposal

By Kate Riley January 5, 2010

I was laughing at myself last night because I really boxed myself into a corner on this one.  Day Two of my week long topic on ‘Starting Fresh’ is marked “Donate/Recycle”.

At first, I was amused because I assumed the subject of recycling was elementary.  I thought, what the heck am I going to talk about?   Doesn’t everyone know how to recycle?  Isn’t everyone a participant in responsible disposal ?  Even my kindergartner knows all about recycling, so I thought.

Then I started doing some research online.  I realized I had much more to learn.   Here’s just a few tidbits I picked up having spent some time researching the subjects of recycling and donating unwanted goods. christmas trees

Christmas trees.  If you’ve purchased a live tree like I did this year, you’ve got to get rid of it.   Do you know where your tree goes when you put it out on the curb ?  Do you treecycle ? Many waste companies will recycle, compost or mulch it for you.  The Boys and Girl Scouts have a national program to pick up your tree curbside for a small donation.  For a great article on disposing of your live tree in an eco-friendly way, click on over to for their helpful tips.

Plastics. Ever wonder what those numbers mean on the bottom of your containers?  There’s a uniform coding system for manufacturers, and as it turns out, not all plastics get recycled.  It’s based on the container’s imprinted code that identifies the type of plastic.  If you’re curious how to recycle different types of plastic, click here.

Unwanted or Expired Medicine: Most local pharmacies will accept your unwanted or expired prescriptions for recycling.

HHWs (Household Hazardous Waste). Aerosol cans, antifreeze, florescent light bulbs, gasoline, fertilizers, insecticides, paint, chemicals, paint thinners and strippers, solvents, motor oil.  All of these should be disposed of at your local HHW disposal site.   Click here to find one near you.

batteries Batteries: Ever since 1996, the use of mercury in single use alkaline batteries was outlawed, so these batteries are often thrown into the trash.  But there is a growing trend to recycle them.  In the state of California, it’s required.  I keep my expired alkaline batteries in a plastic container, then drop them at the local HHW disposal site a few times a year.

Nickel cadmium batteries are those rechargeable alkaline batteries – they have toxic cadmium in them, so they need to be disposed of with your other HHWs.  Silver oxide batteries (watches, calculators, small toys) contain mercury, so they also should be disposed of at your local HHW site.

Rechargeable batteries and old cell phones can be disposed of for free with  Click here for a drop off locator by zip code.  Most home improvement stores like Home Depot, Lowes, Orchard Hardware and Sears are included. is a non-profit group that is dedicated to repurposing and keeping gently used items out of landfills.  Then of course, there’s always Craiglist’s “free stuff” category if you want someone to come and pick up, well, just about anything.

Typically, I take just about everything I donate to my local thrift store.  But then I realized there are other needy organizations that might benefit even more than just my local Goodwill.

Unwanted Furniture. Most of us know where to find used furniture.  But did you know the Salvation and will not only accept your used furniture, they might even pick it up for you ?

blankets Toiletries, sheets, coats and blankets. You can donate these to your local homeless shelter.

Towels and small blankets.  Consider donating these to animal shelters.

Books and recent magazines.  Donate to rehabilitation centers, senior centers, or nursing homes.

Professional women’s clothing. Donate to Dress for Success or to your local women’s shelter.

Eyeglasses. You can donate to NewEyesfortheNeedy.

Old computer equipment. Dispose of your old computer cords, printers, or hardware through Hewlett Packard’s Recycling Program.

Unused tools, paint, trim, or other home improvement products. Consider your local Habitat for Humanity for drop off.

Don’t have time for all of these individual drop offs ?  There’s always 1800 Got Junk.

What about you ?  Does your community make recycling easy ?  Are there any tips you can share to help others donate unused items for a great cause ?  Know of any organizations that accept gently used items for charity ?  Do share !


***** Is anyone else having problems reading with this brown grasscloth background ?  There should be a white columns on top of the brown background to make the posts perfectly readable.  Email me if you’re still having problems. . . *****


  1. No problems here reading it! We have recycling bins here in the UK as well as normal bins and as well as garden waste bins. Take up LOADS of space but are much better and make recycling a doddle. Lots of “recycle your mobile phone” and “recycle you ink cartridges” for loyalty points with some of the big supermarkets too. I can get about £8 back for an empty ink cartridge so ALWAYS recycle them!

  2. Great ideas! I remember while growing up and visiting my family in Austria I was amazed at all the recycling bins they had even then (about 20-30 years ago). They even had a bin for compost that a company would come pick up!

    I do try to do a lot of recycling here…but I have to wonder. We’re allowed to put all of our recyclables into the same plastic bags and they go into the same big bins at our dump (I don’t have trash pick-up where we live). Soo……do they actually separate the recyclables or not? I also try to donate items to local not-for-profit organizations.

  3. We try to recycle as much as possible around here. We don’t have compost pick-up in our area so we have 2 composters in the back… which is great for the garden in the spring. All kids clothes either go to Goodwill or donate to a family who might be able to use it. I am impressed at how my kids schools educate them on recycling. I think they know more about it than I did at their age. Mind you it was just being introduced here in Canada when I was their age.
    Great post and great information.

  4. Great list of recycling resources! Our community does recycling – picks up once a week just like our regular garbage cans. :o) We call my hubby the recycle police because he’s always finding stuff in the wrong can. :o\

    Regarding the towels for animal shelters – I had to take a stray cat to our local animal shelter a couple years ago (very sad!!!) and I brought some towels with me. I thought the woman at the shelter was going to hug me when she saw the towels! They were so happy to receive them.

  5. I can read it just fine (I have a white column), Kate, and I love that background. :) These are great tips…I hadn’t considered donating our old towels to an animal shelter. That’s a great idea. I wish we had a recycling truck come through our neighborhood, but we have to take stuff to the dump. I’m a little ashamed to admit that we don’t recycle as often as we should, but we are zealous about recycling our newspapers. I guess that’s a start, huh?

    Great tips today!

  6. Hi Kate, Thanks for the great list.

    One thing I think many people have are old cassettes, CDs, VHS tapes and their containers (CD covers/holders). I couldn’t find anywhere to recycle them until recently.

    Goodwill takes them all and actually recycles them. A woman from the stores told me directly. It was great to find a place to take them!

    (Background and columns are good in IE)

  7. We recycle and I have to take it to our dump also. I try to go every other week. I donate most of my stuff to local thrift shops and my favorites are the church run small thrifts. Harder to find these days as the big Goodwill’s are taking over.

  8. what an awesome list you have compiled for all of us. i’m printing it & hanging it on the wall in my pantry for referral.

    sometimes i feel like our garage is a drop-off center for all things you could possibly repurpose! everyone calls us when they buy new appliances & we always find someone to give the old ones to (it might take a few weeks, though). just 2 days before Christmas one of my daughter’s friends posted on facebook that their washer went kaput. i posted that we had one in our garage & they picked it up the next day. then another of her friends saw that message & said she’d take the dryer that went with it. it takes a lot of time & effort on my husbands part to pick these things up & store them but being able to help someone out quickly makes it worthwhile.

    looking forward to this series of posts. thanks a lot.

    peace –

  9. I would love to do more recycling, however I must admit I don’t do enough! Will definitely try and do much better job of it.

  10. I can’t read the posts on the brown background. The white boxes show up on the comment section, though. Weird.

    And thanks for the recycling tips!

  11. great post! i try to recycle as much as i can. its so hard to but you have inspired me to try harder.

  12. I love this post, but I just wanted to let you know that a few of your links aren’t working! :) Love your blog!

  13. I can read it just fine. This is great information. I’m feeling very guilty. Our town isn’t all that encouraging about recycling and therefore we’ve gotten lazy about it since moving here. I need to do much better.

    Thanks for the reminder.

  14. I really like that you’re focusing on recycling today. Sometimes I run across incongruous places that recycle; for instance, our library recycles batteries. Also, our Salvation Army even takes very tattered clothes (jeans with worn-through knees, etc). They sell these scraps to recyclers that make insulation and other things out of recycled textiles. I used to throw these things away until I found that they could be of use. Purple Heart takes almost everything here, and even picks it up from your front porch. They even take old magazines.

  15. Thanks for the list! I like to keep my recycle box in my kitchen so that i can just dump something in there rather than have it pile up in a dirty mess. I tend to have more recycling every week than trash!

    The plastics and HHW links don’t work, do you mind updating them? thanks a bunch!

  16. I was amazed when we started recycling — we downsized our ‘real’ trash can because there was so much less going into it. Now for two people, we go through one small trash bag a week. And 2-3 times as much for recycling. I appreciate this blog as it is an important reminder and also, really handy to have all that info in one spot!!!

  17. Thanks for the info! You answered a lot of questions I had. In my area in Orange County, not many people recycle more than bottles and cans so it helps to know where to take all of the other items. I love your blog and have no trouble reading it.

  18. I’m from Argentina. I live in a little town (Necochea) in the state (we called provincia) of Buenos Aires. There isn’t so many places to recycle things. It’s so sad that we live in this situation in all of the country. We recycle only soda plastic bottle and in a supermarket there is bin or container to put the batteries. Every month, I donate all the clothes that my children doesn’t wear anymore and toys that they don’t play. And the rest goes to the trash containe.
    Soory about my english, I read better than I write and speak.

  19. Great article. I am so happy you posted this. Such valuable knowledge.

    I just wish MORE people would Recycle. Here in Ontario, Canada, we RECYCLE practically everything! We have to, as we are only allowed 1 bag of garbage per family, per week. PLUS we pay for that bag. $2 a bag. At first I found it hard, especially with kids, but now, we put out 8-10 big blue recycling boxes every pick up day and our one small bag of garbage.

    They key for us, is to have a Recycle box next to EVERY garbage in the house. It is amazing how little needs to be thrown out.

    We don’t use plastic bags in stores anymore IF you forget your cloth bag, then you have to pay for the plastic ones. We also use Grocery Bins, which helps, as I find it easier to carry my groceries in from the car that way.

    The Woman’s Shelter is another great organization to donate to, too! I love that one.

  20. Great post! I am very excited because my city went from having residents pay for recycling last year, to offering free recycling this year. The best part is that the city has partnered with recycle bank to reward residents for recycling. We will not get points based on the amount we recycle, and we will be able to cash in for gift cards and more.

  21. A lot of cell phone vendors will take used cell phones back and donate them to charities. I know Verizon and Sprint have donation programs. I’ve heard it’s a good idea to wipe out your text history and contacts before donating though.

  22. Great ideas! At first I didn’t think we were recycling enough, but then I realized that we actually do a good bit and it isn’t hard at all. We just recently started having curbside recycling, but for many years we have had a place at a local park that takes newspapers and magazines, another that takes cardboard and one that takes class. So, I would keep those seperated and once a month would drop them off. The park is across from our library so it is convenient. We have a decent sized lot and compost things from the kitchen as well as the limbs and leaves…it has given us some wonderful amended soil to grow vegetables and herbs on. Finally, we have a local woman’s shelter that will come pick up items. I have them come every other month and they also came and picked up after our garage sale last year and arrived just as it ended. I’m so glad that there are places to take gently used items and reuses them. And love the animal shelter idea…will defenitely be taking some old but still usable towels and sheet to them as well as some food which they can always use.

  23. Thanks for this list of resources. Very handy. I think the figuring out what to do with the stuff you’re getting rid of is the least fun part of the declutter process.

    This list makes it easier.

    The grasscloth is fine for me on my Mac using Firefox 3.5.6.

  24. I’m known as the “recycle nazi” at my work – and in my private life, as well. It’s a title I accept with honor! :)

    I started a recycling program at my work because while the town recycles, my company did not. There are times where I still see people toss soda cans/plastic/glass into the regular trash and I don’t hesitate to pick it out. People are amazed at the amount of recyclables that accumulate every week and can’t believe it used to go to the landfills.

    My favorite Christmas gift was something my niece gave me. It’s a stainless steel water bottle (recycled, of course!) that says “Go Green – Recycle A Racer” with a picture of greyhound in the center. Of course, we have greyhounds so it all makes perfect sense. :)

  25. Great, great post! And I can read it just fine. :) But some of the links are not links for me–I was hoping to find an HHW place near me, but there’s no link.

  26. Hi Kate,
    Thanks so much for posting this, I thought I was up on recycling but your post gave me a few tips that really helped. Because I read your blog today I was able to find an HHW location in my county. Yay!!! I can finally get rid of lots of paint cans that have been cluttering up the cabinets in the garage. I’m in major declutter mode right now, thanks for the inspiration!

  27. I’m not sure if someone else mentioned this… I didn’t have time to read through all the comments. The link for finding a local HHW recycling center is not there. Funny it’s the only one I tried to click on because I have a pile of these type of items in my garage and I have no idea where to take them! =)

  28. Yes, Kate, the print is on white and I have no problem reading it. Our Town sends out the recycling calendar for the year {alternate weeks for plastic/glass/cans and paper}. We have a separate week for Christmas tree pick-up and things like tree branches/leaves, etc. My clothes always go to a local place that picks up and I can even schedule that online with them. One place even takes household items and one year I donated my son’s old bike from when he was about 10.

  29. Recycling everything is second nature to me, thanks to my mom who was a pioneer in Northern California back in the 60s (the dark ages according to my boys). Unfortunately, many people do not recycle even though it is so easy so your post is great. Almost everything can be recycled, reused, or repurposed. Every week my recycling bin is full to the brim with material while my garbage can has only a couple of bags. It brings a smile to my face every trash pick-up day! I have piles of metal, batteries, electronics, toxic materials waiting for someone (guess who that would be) to take them to the appropriate disposal sites. And all the household items I no longer want or need go to the local animal shelter thrift store. If it’s close to Christmas, items that are in great condition or new that I don’t want I donate to a local charity that puts together Christmas baskets for needy families. Something I’ve been doing the last couple of years is buying products that are in recyclable containers over those that are not – kind of like precycling. Thanks for all the great info and reminding us all that this is easy to do and so important.

  30. I’m always picking up trash and recylables when I walk my dogs at the greenspace across from my home.
    Just So Ya’ Know: flattening plastics makes them more dense so they dont blow out of the boxes…across the road, down the street and so on and so on.
    Same goes for paper boxes from detergents etc.
    It is as simple to recycle as it is to do anything else. What is the excuse not to???

  31. Thank you for sharing all the ways that we can save this earth of ours and for the future of our children’s. I have so much batteries that I have sitting around the house (use and just laying in drawer thinking it still work..) that now I can go and gathering them up and recycle them.

    I get so mad when I see people throwing things out of the car window, throwing cigarettes on the floor. I wish people will be more conscience of what they are doing to this earth. I make a point to teach my kids that recycle is the way to go. I even signed up on my local freecycle in hope that someone can use what I can’t.

    Thank you for posting this.

  32. It is really important that household wastes are disposed of properly. Recycling some of it is also a good idea. This practice will not only help in protecting the environment but also help us to be organized in our homes.

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