We are a nation (and a world) of consumers, and we’re not showing any signs of slowing down. Many items can be reused rather than chucked in the trash. In fact, more than 80 percent of items donated to charities are sold or resold within six months.
The remainder is recycled or composted. That means landfills aren’t full of broken toys and outdated gadgets from decades ago – they’re brimming with things you could donate to someone else! So if your kids don’t like their old toys anymore, consider giving them new life instead of tossing them away.
And make sure you donate usable goods before you recycle anything so that it doesn’t end up sitting in a landfill for hundreds of years. Here are some things to avoid throwing away:
Old cell phones and laptops
Cell phone recycling is extremely important, as only 15 percent are recycled! The rest go into landfills and incinerators (where they can release toxic metals like lead, mercury, and cadmium). There’s no reason to throw them in the trash when you can make money off of an old device that still has so much life left. You could even get cash for your laptop if it’s still usable.
Many book publishers offer free recycling services online or through non-profits like Books For Better Life http://www.donateabook.org/
Many clothing companies have drop-off boxes so you can donate directly to charity (and get a write-off, too!). When in doubt about an item’s condition or safety, consider donating to a local thrift store that will sell it for a low price. Such stores also help the vulnerable and homeless by giving them jobs.
You could always cut up your jeans into rags for cleaning or repurposed crafts like wallets and purses! And if your shoes are still wearable but unwanted, try selling them online or setting out some shoe boxes at work with a sign on top asking people to take a pair home!
Whether it’s second-hand, donated, or bought at a garage sale, furniture is a huge help to those who have lost their homes or are in need of some extra seating. Some companies even sell vintage pieces online.
A lot of outdated or unused electronics can be donated for recycling with programs like TechSoup that offer free software, tech support, and more to non-profits. Some states even let you drop off your old electronics at municipal refuse centers; find out exactly where by looking up your local waste disposal website. And don’t forget about smaller items like cables and batteries! At the very least, if they still work, try selling them on an online marketplace like eBay or Craigslist.
Canned food has a long shelf life, and it’s a quick meal when you don’t have other options. The best part? You can donate your extra cans!
These can be sold directly for cash at places like GameStop or locally used DVD stores, donated to libraries, or even given away in goody bags during events (just make sure people know not to try to play them on their computer!). Remember: if there are any scratches on the surface of the disc, they won’t work in most cases…but those discs still have value as giveaways or for crafting.
Even though textbooks are often bought and sold online, there’s still a chance your college bookstore can take them off your hands when they have too many in stock.
Donate your car
If you have a car that’s been sitting in your driveway for years, don’t let it sit there! You can sell or donate it for cash online or even give it away to someone else (like an elderly neighbor) who will appreciate the free ride! Another option is to offer your old car up as a prize in a raffle where people buy tickets and win a chance at driving off with your car after you no longer need it.
This might bring in more money than selling it directly, though there are costs associated with running the contest (and if you’re giving the vehicle away, you won’t get as much money).
Even the trash from your home can be repurposed! Take a plastic bottle, fill it with water and freeze it in an empty ice tray. Then you’ll have shatterproof ice blocks for outdoor events or parties that will keep drinks colder for longer (and depending on how long you leave them out, you might not even need to freeze all of the water!).
If they melt before being used, at least a little bit of water will end up back in your home instead of as runoff where it could damage plants or bring about flooding.