Stop! before pitching an old treasure, or even an old pair of sneakers,
into the waste stream, check to see where it can be reused or recycled
by somebody else. Here's a growing guide to internet and community
resources to help you get started. If you know of other resources,
please drop us a line.
The Internet Consumer Recycling Guide
is a starting point for consumers in the U.S.A. and Canada searching the net for recycling
Creative Uses for Everyday Items
Appliances, Furniture, Dishes and Rugs
If they are in good shape, contact women's shelters of groups providing
transitional housing or helping people set up their first home.
Alternatively, check with local churches or the city's or county's
recycling office to see whether they know where your donation can be
Drop off old athletic shoes (any brand) at sporting goods stores
participating in Nike's Reuse-a-Shoe program, or look for neighborhood
collections sponsored by the National Recycling Coalition (NRC) and
their community member affiliates. On average, Nike recycles between
one and two million pairs of athletic shoes each year. The shoes are
taken apart and ground into small pieces which are used for several
purposes: weight-room flooring and surfaces for outdoor playing fields,
basketball and tennis courts and playgrounds in communities that cannot
afford to build them. http://www.nikebiz.com. Call Nike at
Donate your old bike to a regional Yellow Bike program. Many local
advocacy groups in towns both large and small have started a Yellow Bike
program, refurbishing workable thrown-away bikes that are then painted
bright yellow both to identify them and to prevent theft. The bikes are
left in downtown areas to be used by any citizen for downtown errands or
transportation. Citizens are asked to return the bikes to a public bike
rack or other public place after they ride them, so other citizens can
use them. Many programs also sponsor a kid's bike program, where bikes
are reconditioned for children, or kids learn bike mechanics and fix up
their own. Just search for "yellow bike project" on the web, or see if
your community is listed on the International
Bicycle Fund's Community Bicycle Programs page
Want another way to make a local impact?
has a great publication online: Tools
for Life: A Start-Up Guide for Youth Recycling & Bicycling Programs. If
your community doesn't have a local program for recycled bikes, and you
want to give it a go, take a look at this publication. It covers
everything from finding funding to safety, to PR. Don't miss the
resource directory - you
might find that you already have a local program in place.
Top of page
Books and Magazines
Adopt A Library keeps books and magazines out of landfills by
encouraging people to donate used books and library equipment to
schools and libraries around the world. It does not ask for, or
accept, donations. All donations go directly to libraries and
schools, or organizations that aid them. To learn more, visit Adopt A
BookEnds collects used children's books (infant - 18 years old) and
distributes them to schools, youth centers, homeless shelters,
juvenile detention faciilities and literacy programs in California.
If there is no further need for more books in your community, you can
mail them to BookEnds; 6520 Platt Avenue #331; West Hills, CA 91307
Books are special. If they weren't, we wouldn't feel so guilty about
tossing them. Solution time is nigh. The group called "Book Crossing"
is dedicated to the idea that books, once read, should be set free. If
you join their group, you can document the release of your book and
track it. It is registered by a number, and can be followed from owner
to owner. Also, reviews and recommendations are posted all at no
charge. Freed books can be left in waiting rooms, park benches,
laundromats, in your work break room - anywhere you choose. Or, if you
really don't care to track them, just release them into the wild
independently. For more information, go to
New York City Books - The Bureau of Waste Prevention, Reuse and Recycling, NYC Department of
Sanitation, provides a list of local organizations and national organizations
based in New York City that accept book donations at:
Selling books online. The popular Portland bookstore Powell's has come up with a super, eco-friendly system for
selling your used books online. All you do is enter the book's ISBN numbers on the store's website, mail the books in,
and they'll send you virtual store credit you can use on other books. It's like reverse e-commerce--and it helps keep
tons of books out of the earth's landfills. So, go look through your dustiest bookshelves, then visit:
Take Back the Bulbs
Sometimes, recycling isn't just a good idea... it's the law.
Seven states - California, Maine, Wisconsin, Illinois, Minnesota, Ohio and Indiana - now prohibit disposing of the corkscrew-shaped compact fluorescent lightbulbs (CFL) with regular household waste. Those twirly little energy-savers contain a tiny amount of mercury, and while it poses little danger in the home even if the bulb breaks, it still doesn?t belong in the landfill.
One place to take your dead bulbs is home décor giant IKEA, whose U.S. locations all accept discarded CFLs for recycling and have done so since 2001. Find a store near you at www.ikea.com.
More information about CFL recycling is available at www.lamprecycle.org, which can help you set up a lamp-recycling program at your business; http://earth911.org, which can help you find a recycling center near you; and www.lightbulbrecycling.com/regulations.html, which provides state-by-state links to recycling regulations and centers near you.
Several organizations recycle old cell phones to help women at risk of
abuse. They either reprogram the phones with 9-1-1 to call for immediate
help in the event of a threat, or refurbish and sell them. Proceeds
earned help the fight against domestic violence. Contact: Phones 4
Charity (http://www.phones4charity.org) or Call to Protect
Prom Dress Donations - In an effort to keep Cinderellas away from the hearth during their high
school proms, an increasing number of volunteer organizations in cities
throughout the country collect new and almost-new formal dresses and
accessories and provide them--free of charge--to high school students
who are unable to buy their own ensembles. Students receive
individual assistance when they visit "boutiques" to select dream
dresses. Chicago's Glass Slipper Project (which, in just five years,
has helped 4,000 young women put their best foot forward) has a
(http://www.glassslipperproject.org) explaining what it does. It also
provides links to 17 established similar projects in other cities and
mentions over two dozen more which were being formed.
Women's Business Clothing - Dress for Success is a group providing a business suit or other clothing
appropriate for the workplace to women needing outfit for job interviews
and, after they get the job, a second suit to wear to work. They also
provide clients support to help them develop their careers. There are
66 chapters in the U.S. and 78 in other countries. To find the chapter
nearest you, contact http://www.dressforsuccess.org.
Clothing in size 14 and up is especially welcome.
Top of page
Music, movies, computer games, family photos - CDs and DVDs hold
everything now, but are obviously not biodegradable once they are no
longer useful. However, their materials can be recycled into
everything from electrical cable insulation to auto parts. Although
most recyclers accept only huge shipments from software companies,
two businesses accept relatively small batches for a nominal fee:
GreenDisk (www.greendisk.com) and
Computers & Electronics
EPA "Plug-in To eCycling" gives extensive list of web links for
computer and digital equipment recycling. Nearly every peripheral
requires batteries, a hazardous waste unless you know what to do with
them. What about your old cel phone? Can someone else find a use for
your old monitor, computer or printer? Find out here.
Recycling Printers, Scanners, Projectors (and More)
Your printer (or other computer-related equipment) gives up the ghost
and, after the dismay subsides, you wonder what to do with it. The
good news is that it doesn't have to land in the waste stream as-is.
The bad news is that you need to pay $10 (or more) to provide it with a
(http://www.hp.com/recycle) will accept any HP or non-HP
brand of printers, scanners, fax machines, personal computers, desktop
servers, monitors, handheld devices, cables, mice, and keyboards using
a standard form available on its website. Larger equipment is accepted
using a custom-order process. You pack the equipment and order the
recycling service on the website. HP will arrange to have the equipment
picked up at your home or office. The cost is $13-$34 per item. Custom
price quotes are also available.
When received, the equipment is evaluated; functioning products are
donated to charitable organizations that accept them. The remainder is
recycled to recovered materials for reuse in new products.
only accepts Epson products:
printers, scanners, projectors, digital cameras, laptops, and
projectors. The fee for this service is $10 per item. You pack the
item and mail it to them, using their form, using UPS ground. Just
fill out a form on their website and they will send a pre-paid shipping
label through the mail and a $5 coupon per item returned for a purchase
at the Epson store.
When received, products are separated into components and sent to mills
for reuse. If you use equipment by other manufacturers, search the companies'
websites for their recycling policy, if you do not send it to HP.
The Lions Club
accepts used but useable eyeglasses either by mail or at conveniently located drop-off centers — check the
website for one near you. Give the Gift of Sight
rounds up eyewear donations at local LensCrafters, Pearle Vision, Sears Optical, Target Optical or Sunglass
Hut stores for distribution around the world. Many eye doctors also collect old specs, too, so ask during
your next exam.
Do you know what recycling resources are available in your community?
Now there's an easy answer at Earth 911
lists (among other things) household hazardous waste facilities
throughout the country. All you have to do is type in your zip code on
their website for a list of local activities and contacts.
Junk Mail - Personal and Business
Although 50% of all U.S. mail is discarded, unopened, 60 million trees
and 28 billion gallons of water were used to produce U.S. mail for just
one year. And habitat loss is a major cause for plant and animal
extinction. Here are practical steps to reduce both personal and
business junk mail
http://www.globalstewards.org/junkmail.htm which will save trees and
preserve our forests.
Top of page
Materials exchange programs
Work with your regional materials exchange program to help reduce your
company's solid waste, and to obtain raw materials for free. The EPA
hosts an online site that lists regional sites:
A couple to check out: NY
Wa$teMatch, New York City - http://www.wastematch.org;
and Hudson Valley Materials Exchange - http://www.hvmaterialsexchange.com/.
The Freecycle Network - Got a couch you don't need any more? Need an end-table, a planter, or a
bicycle wheel? Check out The Freecycle Network
(http://www.freecycle.org) is a non-profit inspired
network of regional email listservs where people can post items they
want to get rid of and find items they need. The only catch: everything
must be free. If you don't have one in your area, why
not start one? The Freecycle network is organized by "Downtown Don't
Waste It," a nonprofit recycling organization in Tucson, Arizona, where
the first Freecycle listserv was started in spring, 2003.
Throwplace (http://www.throwplace.com) -
"Take What You Need and Throw
What you Don't" is the theme of this site where surplus or outdated
inventory and possessions can be listed for donation to charities and
nonprofits or to businesses and individuals, for reuse, recycling and
refurbishing. Everything listed is for give-away, not for sale.
Donations are listed in the site's three sections: (1) Charity, where
only charities and nonprofits registered with the site can make
requests for listings and are obliged to return receipts to donors;
(2) Business, where individuals and businesses can "take" or "throw"
donated items for reuse and recycling, such as computer equipment, cell
phones, furniture and appliances; and (3) Up-For-Grabs, a category to
list or find miscellaneous items such as bottle caps, corks, magazines,
egg crates and unusual items for art projects.
Media Swaps (Books, CDs, DVDs, Video Games and Gift Cards)
First there was the lending library, then there was the book club, now there is the online book swap.
Several sites bring book and music lovers together to exchange items for almost no cash. It started with
BookCrossing.com, the site that invented what the Concise
Oxford Dictionary defines as "the practice of leaving a book in a public place to be picked up and read by others,
who then do likewise." Members are alerted by email of the latest "releases," which are approaching 4 million,
according to the site. At paperbackswap.com, members
list books - hardbacks are OK, too - they'd like to swap. When other members request a book, the lister receives
an email from Paperback Swap. It's a simple matter to print out the clever wrapper with the requester's address,
add postage of about $2 per book and mail it. Once the requester receives the book, the sender gets a credit
that entitles you to order a book to come to your house.
Sister-site swapacd.com works the same
way for music CDs, and bookmooch.com allows book-swapping internationally. Movies and video games as well as
music CDs are available for trade on barterbee.com, another free except for postage site.
Zunafish.com charges $1 per trade plus shipping to
swap books, CDs, DVDs and video games. And for the ultimate swap, there's
Swapagift.com, where you can turn unwanted gift cards.
Top of page
Wedding and Bridesmaids' Dresses
Nearly New Bridal (http://www.nearlynewbridal.com)
contains a large collection of ads by people who want to both buy and sell wedding
dresses, bridesmaids' dresses, tuxedos and flowergirls' dresses.
Donate used wedding dresses to
www.makingmemories.org which uses the
money raised to fulfill wishes of breast cancer patients throughout the
Colorado artist John Boak's website has a stunning section
"How to wrap presents creatively, using fragments of paper and miscellaneous items from around your house." Each of six
sections has beautiful photographs and offers ingenious ideas for wrapping presents with reused or scrap materials.
If you live in the northeastern United States, you can join TerraCycle's Yogurt Brigade to recycle No. 5 yogurt
containers - and raise money for your favorite charity at the same time.
TerraCycle has partnered with organic food maker Stonyfield Farm in a pilot program to collect used yogurt
containers. The pilot Yogurt Brigade includes schools, community groups and others collecting 6-ounce and 32-ounce
yogurt containers not normally included in local recycling programs. For every container collected, Stonyfield will
donate 2 cents or 5 cents, depending on size, to a charitable organization or school of the collector's choice.
There are no signup fees for the Yogurt Brigade, but you must provide a non-residential address to receive the
four pre-paid collection boxes.
Once the boxes are filled with 400 small or 50 large yogurt cups, they go back to TerraCycle via UPS.
TerraCycle will then transform them into planting pots and sell them to large retailers to use in place of
the millions of black plastic planting pots discarded by consumers every year.
This program is available only in Connecticut, Washington DC, Delaware, Massachusetts, Maryland, Maine,
North Carolina, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Virginia, Vermont
and West Virginia.
Get more information on the Yogurt Brigade and check out TerraCycle's other Brigades for recycling
hard-to-discard items, including drink pouches and energy-bar wrappers, at
www.terracycle.net. For questions, send an email to
email@example.com or call 609-393-4252 ext. 36.
Top of page