We’ve all experienced recycling guilt. It’s not uncommon to find yourself wondering what to do with old things.
“Can I recycle a CD case?”
“Should I throw away this broken toaster?”
Unfortunately, too many recyclable items are thrown away and shipped to landfills, where they sit forever. We can help reduce landfill waste by donating and recycling old or unused household goods, appliances and clothing items. If you’ve ever wondered if you can recycle these unusual items, the answer is yes!
1. Flip Flops TerraCycle has teamed up with Old Navy to reward you for recycling flip-flops of any brand and condition. Once you have saved 10 pairs of flip-flops, or 20 individual flip-flops, simply mail them in to TerraCycle with a free postage label. They will reward you with a free pair of Old Navy flip-flops and 25 coupons for the store. Find out more at www.terracycle.com/en-US/brigades/oldnavy.html.
2. Packing Peanuts If you’re all too familiar with moving or have received a fragile package in the mail, you may find yourself with an abundance of packing peanuts. They are not typically bio-degradable and are not accepted at most recycling centers. Luckily, companies like Kinko’s and The UPS Store will often accept them and reuse them. There are also two official drop-off centers for used packing materials here in the Birmingham area. You can find them at www.loosefillpackaging.com.
3. Clothing & Fabric Most people know that used clothing donations are welcome at local thrift stores, but did you know that most animal shelters also take used clothing, towels and linens? They can use the linens to create pet bedding. Used name-brand clothing can also be traded in for cash at Plato’s Closet locations in Hoover and Trussville.
MGB Tip: Consider donating business attire to an organization that gives them to low-income professionals in need. See www.dressforsuccess.org
4. Water Filters If you have a water filter, you are already helping reduce landfill waste from bottled water. Brita, a company that makes water filters designed to reduce the common impurity Chlorine (often found in tap water), follows their mission statement through and encourages customers to recycle their filters once retired. Their water filters are made using #5 plastic and are free to recycle through the Filter for Good campaign. Simply drop used water filters off at your local Whole Foods, or send them to Brita using a free shipping label. Water filters of all brands and conditions are accepted.
5. Greeting Cards Nearly all greeting cards are made of paper or cardboard and can be dropped in any paper recycling bin, but if you need motivation to finally throw your old cards away, consider sending them to the St. Jude’s Ranch for Children. They use donated all-occasion cards to create new cards for children and families in the care of St. Jude’s Hospital.
MGB Tip: Frame old greeting cards for beautiful, instant art.
6. Running Shoes Nike’s recycling program, Reuse A Shoe, encourages shoppers to recycle their old pair when buying a new one. The shoes are shredded and turned into athletic flooring surfaces for gymnasiums and playgrounds. Shoes deemed still wearable are sent to struggling nations and given to athletes in need. Find out more at www.nike.com.
7. Cell Phones & Small Electronics Tech items like cell phones, cameras, stereos and calculators are welcomed at your local Best Buy recycling center. They even accept hair dryers and curling irons. Last year, the company celebrated one-billion pounds of recycled electronics waste. If you can’t make it to Best Buy, most thrift stores will accept donations of old electronics and retired appliances. The Wireless Foundation accepts old cell phones and refurbishes them for victims of domestic violence. Free shipping makes it hard to say no to this one. Find out more at www.wirelessfoundation.org.
8. Yoga Mats Yoga mats are completely recyclable. Charities like The Bolder Mat Company refurbish used yoga mats into new ones that are given to community centers. Yoga mats can also be upcycled into chair cushions, doormats or lining for your kitchen cabinets and drawers. They can also be donated to animal shelters that use them to line crates. If all else fails, you can usually offer them to a community center or after-school care program.
9. Computers If you’ve recently upgraded to a new computer, consider donating the old one to the Alabama Environmental Council. They accept most computer towers, screens, keyboards and cables and ensure that they are properly recycled or repurposed. Best Buy and Staples locations will also take used computer parts.
MGB Tip: If the computer or laptop is still in good condition, consider donating it to a local school or public library.
10. Bicycles When you find that old bicycles are taking up valuable garage space, try donating them to Redemptive Cycles right here in Birmingham. They restore old bikes and give them to youth organizations in low-income areas. They also offer public workshops to help people repair broken bicycles, and organize community riding events in the downtown area. To find out more about donations or ask about acquiring a bike, call them at 205-224-5631. You can also donate your bike to local thrift stores and after-care centers, or post a free ad on Craigslist!