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It’s time to dig yourself out of denial and start cleaning the house or apartment. While emptying old boxes and containers into the dumpster can be a tempting way to declutter and make some space, you may be throwing away things that could be recycled or reused instead. Here are some items you may come across when tidying up this year that you should think twice about before tossing into the garbage bin. 




Still in denial about that old and broken tube television, or the computer monitor in your garage that came with your 1995 Gateway computer? You’re not alone – throwing old electronics (e-waste) like these in the trash is quickly becoming illegal in most parts of the United States. The EPA ( lists a variety of take-back programs offered by manufacturers and retailers like Samsung and Best Buy, some of which allow you to send your old devices through the mail. A quick Google search of your municipality can also help determine if your local recycling program accepts e-waste. If not, a company like All Green Recycling ( operates free drop-off locations and a pick-up service for residential electronic waste.




If you wear glasses you probably have a bunch of old prescriptions lying around, and no clue what to do with them. You can recycle these via Lions Recycle for Sight (, a free recycling program for eyeglasses operated by Lions Club International. They offer a ton of different options – you can send glasses by mail, take them to a collection box at a local Lions club, or take them to one of their Lions Eyeglass Recycling Centers. 


Holiday Lights

Holiday Lights

The holidays are long gone, but your decorations and holiday light strands are still stuck in a corner of the closet. If you plan on retiring any of last year’s holiday lights, you can send them to Christmas Light Source (, where they will be recycled. Even better, any money generated from recycling is used to buy things like toys and books, which are then donated to the DFW Marine Toys for Tots Foundation.







Credit Cards and Gift Cards

Credit cards

How many unused customer loyalty cards, empty gift cards, and old credit cards are shoved into your wallet or junk drawer? Save some space and thin out your wallet by sending the cards to a company called Earthworks (, who will recycle them into new, 100% recycled cards.


Discs and CDs

Discs and CD

Almost everything is in “the Cloud” nowadays, and CDs and DVDs are quickly becoming obsolete. If you’ve found a box of old discs you no longer want, consider donating them before recycling. If that isn’t an option or if the discs are damaged, CD Recycling Center of America ( has a mail-in program for discs, their packaging, and even printer ink cartridges and e-waste. The best part: it’s free. All you have to do is download a shipping label and send in your waste.


Packing Materials

Packing Materials

Here’s one you may never have thought of. From packing peanuts to bubble wrap, there are actually many alternatives to the garbage bin. For instance, many UPS Store locations will accept and reuse clean packing materials that you bring in, but be sure to call ahead to be sure. If your town or city accepts film waste like grocery and bread bags, they may also accept bubble wrap or air pillows, which are often made of the same type of plastic. Loose-fill packing materials like packing peanuts can also be recycled by a company called Pak Mail – check out their website ( to find a location near you.


Household Goods and Construction Materials

Construction materials

Whether you have materials from an old renovation project, a forgotten piece of furniture, or old-yet-functional appliances, Habitat for Humanity’s ReStores accept them all. Check out their website ( to find a ReStore near you. Many even offer free pickup services that will come directly to your home.


Old Food

Old food

After a long winter season, your fridge is likely full of old food that’s a bit too...  ripe to eat. If you can help it, don’t throw food waste in the garbage bin, as food that ends up buried in a landfill will generate methane – a greenhouse gas 20 times more potent than CO2! To avoid this, why not take the opportunity to learn about composting ( Composting can be as simple or as complex as you want to make it, and there are many techniques: from the big backyard compost pile, to the small countertop composters you can buy for $20 on Amazon. You’ll be lowering your environmental footprint while producing some nutritive compost to use on your plants and in your garden!




Here’s something that just about everyone should have a few dozen of lying around the house. From the traditional bulb-shaped incandescent, to the coil-shaped CFL bulb, you should try to recycle these at every opportunity. CFLs and fluorescent tube bulbs are especially dangerous to the environment and human health as they contain mercury and electrical microcomponents. Your best bet for recycling is a Home Depot or other home improvement retailer, as they offer in-store collection programs for these lightbulbs. If you can’t find one that accepts them near you, you can also do a search on to find a drop-off location closer to you.

For Everything Else


TerraCycle has another option if you can’t find out where to recycle other materials you uncover on your spring cleaning binge, Zero Waste Boxes. After receiving a box, all you have to do is fill it with waste and ship it back to us when full. Everything you send in will be recycled. There are boxes for single waste streams like batteries or latex paint; boxes for room-separated waste streams (bathroom waste, for example); and even a No Separation box for any accepted waste. Zero Waste Boxes 

You’ll uncover all sorts of weird things while going through your spring cleaning spree, many of which can be donated, recycled, reused or upcycled. Spring is a time to refresh, and there’s no better way to do it than by making sustainable decisions about the old clutter you were just going to throw in the dumpster anyway. / Issue 170 - September 3930
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