We’ve all had that moment when we’re putting something into the trash that we know isn’t really ‘trash’. We wonder if there isn’t another use for that item even if it’s a broken sink fixture, an old cell phone, or a tattered piece of clothing.
Today there are more and more opportunities to give our ‘trash’ a second life. You can Do Your Part to conserve resources and generate less waste by knowing your options and you might even generate a little extra cash along the way.
Let’s start with used and broken electronics. We discard so many of these items that it’s become it’s own category called e-waste. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, 2.5 million tons of TVs, computers, peripherals (including printers, scanners, fax machines), mice, keyboards and cell phones were discarded in 2007. All of this e-waste makes up about two percent of the waste stream but it’s the leading source of toxins found in and around our landfills. Lead, mercury, cadmium and brominated flame-retardants are some of the toxic substances that can be released by tossed out electronics.
Today, there are many safer options for disposing of used or broken electronics. Many big box office supply and electronic stores have launched recycling programs for all kinds of electronics. I’ve also discovered a number of online sources that will pay the shipping for your e-waste whether it’s in working condition or not. You can even make a little money on your used or broken laptops and other electronics at CashForLaptops.com and BuyMyTronics.com.
If you have a remodeling project in your future you need to check out Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore. From old appliances and fixtures to doors and cabinets, the ‘demo team’ from ReStore will recycle or resale your donated items. This keeps tons of materials out of the landfill every year and proceeds from the sold or recycled items are used to build additional Habitat for Humanity homes in our community. You can find a ReStore near you at www.habitat.org/env/restores.aspx
When it’s time to discard your tattered clothing, Goodwill is among a handful of charities that can help. They will either reuse the item or sell it to a textile recycler as long as the fabrics are clean, dry and free of chemical stains like paint or oil.
If there’s an item that you’d like to recycle but you’re just not sure if you can, check out DoYourPart.com and our Earth911 recycling search engine feature. You’ll find that there are many more opportunities to keep your not-so-trashy trash from piling up in the landfill.