We reduce, we reuse, we recycle. But inevitably we end up with items that we just aren’t sure what to do with. We want to dispose of them responsibly. But how? Where? That’s where Bluedot comes to the rescue with our guide on how to get rid of (almost) everything. We know there’s plenty we haven’t yet covered (we’re working on it!) so please tell us what we’re missing. And if you know of how to get rid of it, please share.
Everything in our lives seems to rely on battery power these days. But with all that power, comes the responsibility of properly disposing of batteries when they’ve come to the end of their lives. And different batteries require different disposal methods. Let’s break it down:
According to Bluedot’s eco-advice maven, Dear Dot, “most disposable alkaline and zinc carbon batteries do not contain hazardous material and, according to the state of Massachusetts’ Recycle Smart initiative, throwing these in the trash is the best option.” However, because batteries can contain materials that are worth conserving, you might want to take any batteries to the nationwide Call2Recycle, which will sort and handle a variety of battery types, including single-use, rechargeable, damaged or recalled batteries (you’ll need a special package for these), and cellphones.
Lithium batteries found in watches, remote controls, and cameras:
These can leak heavy metals into our soil if they’re tossed to please ensure they’re disposed of properly. Call2Recycle has you covered.
Check out Call2Recycle or with your local transfer station to see if they accept rechargeable batteries, which contain significantly more toxic chemicals than alkaline. Make sure your rechargeables truly are at the end of their lives though before you dispose of them or they’re actually worse for the environment than single use.
Return vehicle batteries for safe disposal to stores where they’re sold (handle them carefully!). For hybrid or electric vehicles, refer to manufacturers’ instructions on how to dispose of batteries. Never put vehicle batteries in household trash or curbside recycling. E-bike batteries: Check with bike stores — many will accept them for disposal. Or rely on Call2Recycle.
We are huge fans of Little Free Libraries, where you can drop off or pick up your latest read. But if it’s time to purge your personal library and it requires more space than a little house on a pole offers, then try:
- Prison libraries in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom (among other countries, of course).
- Salvation Army
- Your local library (call ahead)
- Local theater groups. Older books are sometimes needed for props.
- Books for Africa
- Better World Books
- Appalachian Prison Book Project
It can take over 200 years for textiles to decompose in the landfill. Instead of sentencing your old bras to that slow death, give them a new life by sending them to Bra Recyclers. This organization accepts old bras and donates them to women in need, including survivors of domestic violence and human trafficking, women who are homeless or living in poverty, and women struggling with medical expenses, such as breast cancer survivors. Bra Recyclers sends usable bras to these women, and will recycle unusable bras — so feel free to donate your bra even if it isn’t in pristine condition.
Ready to tear up that old broadloom? Find local recycling centers that will accept carpet scraps by searching Carpet America Recovery Effort’s partner locator for locations in the United States or (for a fee) 1-800-Got-Junk for carpet recyclers in Canada and Australia.
Greendisk will supply you with shipping materials so you can send in your outdated tech waste. They will properly recycle and dispose of CDs, DVDs, VHS, audio cassette tapes, and more.
While the greenest coffee pod is the reusable one, makers of disposable coffee pods are recognizing that people want the convenience without the guilt. Consequently, they’re offering recycling options, such as this one by Nespresso. Keurig’s K-Cups and Tassimo’s T-Discs are recyclable in your municipal stream but you must peel off the foil top and empty out any coffee grounds before putting them in the bin. You can theoretically recycle Nescafe’s pods but it’s a bit complicated so you might instead rely on the company’s partnership with TerraCycle.
Cold Gel Packs:
Food subscription services are rising in popularity, and while they can be a sustainable choice, they can also leave you with an excess of cold gel packs. Donate excess packs to to local food pantries, non-profit organizations like Meals on Wheels, or other charities that handle and deliver food. If you cannot find a local donation site, cut open your cold pack and remove the goo inside of it. Let the goo dry out before throwing it in the trash, and allow the plastic wrapper to dry before recycling it.
You might be done with your old laptop, but it can still be of use to someone. The nonprofit Computers with Causes accepts old tech items and donates them to students, foster children, shelters, disabled US veterans, and a number of other causes. World Computer Exchange is another nonprofit that will donate your unwanted tech items to people in need. If you prefer cold-hard cash for your old electronics, Backmarket works like this: You go through an assessment, get a price offer from an electronics refurbisher, and then mail your device for free using Backmarket's prepaid shipping label. Once the refurbisher receives the item, they'll check to see that it matches the assessment. If it's fine, they'll pay you by direct deposit. If things are a little off, all is not lost! The refurbisher will send you a counteroffer. You're free to accept or reject any offers. Backmarket accepts smartphones, tablets, gaming consoles, headphones, earphones, and speakers.
Contact Lenses and Eye Care Products
Terracycle’s Bausch + Lomb One by One free recycling program offers thousands of drop off locations for your used lenses and blister packs. You can also send in other eye care products including eye drop packaging and contact lens containers with Terracycle’s Biotrue Eye Care free recycling program. Send in your unused lenses and solution to the non profit, youth-founded organization DonateContacts, where they will redistribute the donations to folks in need who match the same prescription.
As long as your cosmetic compacts, lipstick tubes, foundation pumps, and makeup jars are clean and empty, drop them off at a Pact bin. The non-profit collective has bins at 950 locations across the U.S. and Canada, and offers a mail-in program as well.
When your holiday decor has exhausted its merry-making for you, they might still have life in them to deck someone else’s halls. For holiday decor that’s still in working condition, donate to Goodwill, Greendrop, or other thrift shops.
Donate your unwanted functioning artificial tree to The Christmas Tree Project. If your tree is not functioning, you can reuse it to make other decor such as garland or a wreath!
Lights contain glass, plastic, and copper, and those components can therefore be recycled. Take your no-longer-working holiday lights to hardware stores, such as Lowe’s, Home Depot, and Ace. If you live in an area with a Mom’s Organic Market, they will also accept Christmas lights.
And don’t forget your local municipal recycling depot, which will often accept all sorts of electronics, including holiday lights.
Or consider donating festive decor to nursing homes or hospitals.
Let Blue Jeans Go Green transform your old denim into creative new products, from insulating material for building efforts to pet bed inserts to thermal insulation used in sustainable food and pharmaceutical packaging.
Disposable Razors and Razor Blades:
Terracycle’s Gillette Recycling Program offers free shipping labels to send in razors, blades, and plastic packaging. Albatross sends its customers an envelope with every order that customers can send their used safety blades in as a part of their recycling program; they also accept other brands of razors. If you use a straight-edge razor, simply collect the blades in a recyclable metal container and recycle them with your tin cans and other metals.
If your electronics are well and truly of no use to anyone, ensure that they get disposed of properly. Best Buy will accept three items daily at its stores. Goodwill has partnered with DellReconnect to recycle e-waste at any of its 2,000 locations. Staples will take your e-waste for free, and also recycled ink and toner cartridges. Or send your items to Amazon (via a free mailing label).
If you’d like to get some cash for your electronics, sell them to Decluttr or through Amazon’s trade-in program, which will give you Amazon gift cards in return. If you’re looking for more options, check out SellCell, a site that compares buyback companies and helps you find the best deal.
Lions Clubs around the world will accept your eyeglasses and ensure they make their way to someone who needs them. You can find locations here.
Various retailers, including LensCrafters, Target Optical, Pearle Vision, Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club Optical will accept donations and get them to the appropriate nonprofits either for responsible disposal or reuse. Check with your closest optical retailer to confirm.
The fur industry is on the decline, and awareness of the animal cruelty behind the once-chic fur coat has spread. You might not be shopping for these pieces anymore, but if you have an old fur coat gathering dust, there are organizations ready to help. PETA, for one, is taking these remnants of a brutal industry and turning them into something positive for those in need. Mail your unwanted fur to PETA, and they will donate it to the homeless or refugees. Some wildlife rehabilitators also accept these garments and recycle them into bedding and tiny capes to keep injured animals warm. Find a list of rehabilitators who will take your fur coats here.
Furniture, Building Materials, Appliances:
Habitat for Humanity: Habitat for Humanity accepts these new or gently used items, including furniture, household appliances, and building materials, which you can either drop-off at a Habitat ReStore near you or schedule for pickup. The money raised at these stores goes toward the organization’s efforts to help families in need build affordable homes.
RAD: Sure you can turn to Facebook Marketplace for your still-has-some-life-left-in-’em fridges, freezers, dehumidifiers, and air conditioners, but for appliances that have nothing left to give, check out the Environmental Protection Agency’s Responsible Appliance Disposal (RAD). Just type your state into the search bar and discover who the partners are in your area that will dispose of these appliances in an earth-friendly way.
St. Jude’s Ranch for Children will accept greeting cards — used or new ones that you just never got around to sending. Children at the hospital will attach new backs to the cards to create new cards, which St. Jude’s sells on their website. The only cards you cannot send in are Hallmark, American Greetings, and Disney (for copyright reasons) and cards from other nonprofits.
Our world seems up to its eyeballs in hand sanitizer (thanks Covid!) but did you know that the EPA considers any unwanted hand sanitizer to be hazardous waste, mostly due to how flammable it is? While you can dispose of teensy amounts in your household garbage, don’t even think about dumping it down the drain. Instead, take it to your local hazardous waste depot.
Buy Nothing groups are popping up everywhere and offer the ideal place to unload (or get) kids’ clothing, sports gear, and more.
Just Between Friends is an online consignment shop that focuses exclusively on children’s items and maternity wear.
Do your kids have an entire menagerie of stuffed friends that need new homes? Consider donating them to other children for comfort in emergencies via Stuffed Animals for Emergencies. Second Chance Toys focuses specifically on plastic toys to keep them out of landfills.
If you’re letting old mascara wands pile up in your bathroom, unsure about how to recycle them, there’s an adorable solution for you. Wands for Wildlife repurposes these beauty tools for use by wildlife caregivers to brush ticks, dirt, and fly larva from orphaned or injured animals. Mascara wands are suitable for this task because of their soft, fine bristles. The organization also repurposes wands for art projects. Due to overwhelming support, they are currently not accepting wands. Sign up for their newsletter to get updates on when submissions become available. Take a look at their website where they share how to donate your wands locally, ideas to repurpose them in arts and education, and other recycling options including Pact Collective bins.
After the hassle of finding the perfect new mattress, you’re left with the daunting task of getting rid of your old one. Instead of just leaving it out on the street, contact a nearby mattress recycling service. If you live in New York, Renewable Recycling will pick up your old mattress for $95 and up depending on your location (the company also accepts drop offs for $40 per mattress). They repurpose the material for use in animal beds, bicycle seats, light posts, and a number of other products. For those who don’t live in NYC, check out ByeByeMattress.com or Earth911.com to find similar services near you.
October 29 is Take Back Day — when the DEA urges all of us to get rid of no-long-needed prescription medications to help avoid misuse or overdoses. Do not flush or dump medications down the sink, where they find their way into waterways and, potentially, harm water creatures. If you miss Take Back Day, ask at your local pharmacy, or visit this site for other disposal locations.
At-home oil changes are relatively easy and cost-efficient, but what do you do with all of that old motor oil and the old filters? In the U.S., all Autozone and O’Reilly’s locations and some Walmarts accept used motor oil and oil filters free of charge. In Canada, drop it off at Canadian Tire locations. Or check out your municipality's Hazardous Waste Disposal depots.
Nail Polish and Remover (Acetone):
Although pretty, nail polish and nail polish remover are considered hazardous waste materials. To dispose of them properly, find your local hazardous waste depot.
If you’re saddled with a few cans of not-quite-empty latex paint, the EPA suggests you expose it to air until it dries into a solid, or mix with shredded newspaper or kitty litter, let dry, and then dump in your household garbage. But if you have loads of paint — and you live in one of the nine states where Paint Care operates — they’re happy to recycle it for you.If your paint is oil-based, it’s hazardous waste (which should also give you pause about using it in your home). Drop it off at your closest hazardous waste disposal site.
Got a piano that you never really play taking up space in your living room? Piano Adoption accepts free pianos and keyboards. Just add a listing to their website and shoppers looking for a free piano in your area will contact you if they’re interested in purchasing. The buyer and seller then coordinate the exchange.
Prescription Pill Bottles:
What to do with all those empty prescription pill bottles? While they’re ubiquitous in North America, they’re much needed in other countries. Matthew 25: Ministries accepts donations of empty plastic pill bottles for inclusion in shipments of medical supplies. “Our pill bottle program fulfills the dual needs of improving medical care in developing countries and caring for our environment.” The site offers instructions on how to prep your bottles and a drop-off location in Ohio, as well as a mailing address.
When a high school student died in a car accident, her family and friends decided to carry on with her incredible initiative to provide prom dresses to anyone who needed one. Thus Becca’s Closet was born, with chapters through the U.S. We should all leave a legacy so beautiful.
Clean out your kitchen’s designated takeout sauce packet drawer with Terracycle’s free sauce packet recycling program. They partnered with Taco Bell to offer free shipping labels so you can send in your empty sauce packets (all brands and types) to be properly recycled.
Whether your shoes still have some spring in their step or their treads are truly dead, there are organizations that will help you keep them out of the landfill.
EcoSneakers wants you to be a “shoe-gooder” and provide protection to shoeless folks around the world or give your kicks new life as a dog bed or stadium seat. The organization operates in Georgia, Florida, and via participating locations of Foot Solutions USA.
Nike will take most brands of athletic shoes for their NikeGrind program, which recycles them into building materials and consumer products.
OneWorldRunning puts still-usable athletic shoes to work helping military recruits and athletes around the world.
HavASole, whose founder grew up in a shelter without good shoes, will get your shoes to organizations around the US.
It’s From The Sole puts your old shoes on the feet of marginalized people around New York City and the world.
ShoeAid provides shoes to British children living in poverty so that a lack of proper footwear doesn't prevent them from participating in school or sports.
GotSneakers? is an organization that says it will pay you to clean out your shoe closet. Send away for a post-paid bag, fill it, and your still-good sneakers will be given to someone who can use them and your no-good sneakers will be recycled.
Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detectors:
Some manufacturers, including First Alert, offer mail-back services where you can send your old detectors, you only have to pay the postage. Curie Environmental Services and EZ on Earth offer their own mail-in recycling services for these life-saving electronics for a fee.
Smartwool’s “Second Cut” Project will recycle donated socks into dog beds. They will take any brand of socks.
Tom’s of Maine has a first-of-its-kind tube that can be recycled in home recycling bins – including the cap. Parent company Colgate-Palmolive says it will share technology with others but, thus far, Tom’s is the only brand you can toss in the recycle bin.
You’ve made the switch to an eco-friendly bamboo brush. Yay! However, to ensure your switch really makes a difference, you’ll have to take a few extra steps to dispose of them properly. Remove the bristles by plucking them out with something like pliers and throw them in the trash. The bamboo handle can be added to your compost bin and will decompose over time. Break up the handle into smaller pieces to speed up this process.
If your vinyl records are starting to sing a sorry tune, donate them to any local thrift/secondhand store. However, if they are damaged beyond use, consider using them for decorative crafts or check the Vinyl Institute Recycling Directory to find a recycling center that accepts vinyl near you.
Is your wedding dress taking up too much space in your closet? You can make someone else’s big day memorable and make some extra money by selling it through stillwhite.com. You pay a one-time fee, post some photos and videos of the dress, and get connected with potential buyers all through the website.
You can throw your glass wine bottle in the recycling bin — but what to do with the cork? Recork and Cork Forest Conservation Alliance will accept them and use them to make shipping material, fishing tackle, shoe soles, and model-train tracks, among other things. To limit their carbon footprint, these organizations do not receive shipments and instead accept materials at drop-off locations. Search for one near you on their websites.
Women’s Work Attire:
Dress for Success has locations around North America, the UK, the EU, and Africa and will take your business-attire cast-offs (clean and in good condition, please) and outfit women seeking to achieve and maintain work.
Yoga mats that still have some life left can be used for people or pet beds at shelters. But if your mat has truly hosted its last downward dog, put it to rest. Terracycle offers a Sporting Goods Zero Waste Box starting at $142 that you can use to ship your yoga mat and other sporting equipment for proper disposal. If you live in Europe, Continuum Collective’s Second Flow Initiative offers shipping labels or drop off locations for any brand.
GreenDrop is a donation dropoff-and-pickup service that serves the East Coast of the U.S. with roughly 40 locations. You can designate which of the handful of charities it partners with you’d like your flotsam and jetsam delivered to. The organization accepts kitchenware, games, books, small appliances, and furniture.
DonationTown will accept anything from toys and jewelry to CDs and skates — and charities in cities around North America will benefit. It’s all free and you can arrange a drop-off or pickup by visiting donationtown.org.
If you know of somewhere accepting items that are typically hard to dispose of, let us know. Email ed****@bl*****.com.