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By Veronica Rajadnya

If “summer cleaning” is at the top of your to-do list, you’ll find all sorts of items you can get rid of to make room and give yourself some peace of mind. But during the fervor of freshening up your home, be sure you continue to be mindful of the environment! When it comes to discarding difficult-to-recycle items, sometimes you have to think outside of the garbage bin. Give your “clutter” a second life and consider these seven alternatives:

Take Back Programs

Take back programs are company or retailer-sponsored initiatives to collect and “take back” old or used products. Instead of an item being lost in a landfill, the company instead takes responsibility for their product waste.

Some of these initiatives are brand-specific (think Apple Renew). Others accept items regardless of brand, like cosmetics brand Origins and the Back to Origins recycling program. Generally, individuals can give back or drop off items at a storefront or retail location, sometimes being rewarded for their return in the process.

For example, this past Earth Month, TerraCycle partnered up Target to create a free recycling initiative for old baby and child car seats in the Houston area. Every individual who recycled a car seat was rewarded with a 20% discount on a new one purchased at Target. Waste is diverted from landfills, and customers are rewarded for doing the right thing!



To help the planet, we first have to help those in need. Donating used clothes and household items you no longer need to a charity of your choice is a dynamic opportunity to do good in your community, all while giving unwanted items a second life.  Durable items like furniture, old-yet-functional small appliances and electronics, kitchen dishware, clothing, jewelry and accessories are all great to donate, and can provide someone with something they need.

Goodwill and Habitat for Humanity are two well-known and reputable nonprofit organizations that accept a full range of gently used household items. You can donate to these organizations in-person at a designated location center or donation drop-off bin, or schedule a pick-up of your unwanted items for your convenience. Other options for clothing donations include more specialized organizations like Dress for Success, Fairy Godmothers, and One Sight. Donations to some non-profit organizations are tax deductible, so keep that in mind when planning out your donations.


If you want to recoup some of the value of your difficult-to-recycle, but still usable items, consignment is an option that allows you to make money with the help of a third party. Consignment stores and dealers essentially provide the service of reselling your items for you through their platforms. Any money exchanged for the goods is then distributed between you (the primary owner) and the dealer, who owns a stake in your goods for selling them on your behalf. Like some non-profits and many thrift stores, consignment stores and dealers accept a great range of items in working condition.


Finding creative ways to manage difficult-to-recycle items may inspire you to get creative and try your hand at upcycling. Upcycling reuses discarded objects or material in a way that modifies its parts to create an item of a higher quality or value than the original. Instead of it going to landfill, the waste is transformed into a brand new, functional product.

Upcycling, unlike recycling, maintains some of the form of the original items, which lends itself to the function of the new items. Simple examples of upcycling include using an old tin can as a flowerpot, a coaster as a jewelry “catch-all” dish, or braiding plastic candy wrappers together into a bracelet.

TerraCycle’s Design Team is dedicated to creating exciting ways to turn discarded items into functional products. In fact, all of our international offices are outfitted with upcycled furniture, decorations, and more. Our headquarters in Trenton, New Jersey acts as the pinnacle showroom for all the things we can do with “waste.” Check out TerraCycle upcycled products for sale here, or read about how to do-it-yourself.


Why throw something out if you can give it another home with someone you know? Start by asking friends and family if they’d like your old stuff, or you can swap items, before you throw it into the dumpster. Have clothes you no longer like stuffed into your closet? Perhaps a younger sibling would like to give it a try. Upgrading to a new phone? This might be the right time to get your grandparent off of their flip phone and into the 21-century.


Yard Sales

Like consignment stores, yard sales are a great way to both make a profit off your unwanted items and get to know your neighbors. As the saying goes, “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure,” and yard sales are a fun way to clean house, make trades, and get outside.
Yard Sale


For everything else, there’s TerraCycle. At TerraCycle, we specialize in recycling typically hard-to-recycle waste streams. We offer a range of free recycling programs funded by conscientious companies like Colgate, Garnier and Newell Brands (makers of Sharpie and Papermate writing instruments). Through these programs, difficult-to-recycle items are collected by people across the world, sent to TerraCycle, and are then upcycled or recycled into new products.

An innovation in premium recycling solutions for waste, TerraCycle also has a Zero Waste Box platform which allows offices, organizations and individuals do their part in moving towards a culture where nothing gets thrown in the trash.

Trash is a human concept, and we have all the tools and knowledge at our disposal to divert our waste from landfills. What do you do with your difficult-to-recycle items to keep them out of the trash? / Issue 184 - September 2018
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