I have the below list on our fridge (mainly for my husband) so I don’t have to constantly answer the question: does this go in the trash? Feel free to use it for yourself!
Save for compost pile (browns)
Newspaper ripped into pieces
Hair + pet hair
Vacuum and dryer dust
Toilet paper rolls ripped into pieces
Facial tissue (on the rare occasion it’s used)
Paper towels (on the rare occasion it’s used)
Parchment paper ripped into pieces (incl. cupcake liners, butter wrappers)
Used matches, toothpicks, skewers
Bamboo cleaning supplies
Pizza boxes ripped into pieces (recycle non-oily top)
Paper egg carton ripped into pieces
Bokashi for compost pile (greens)
ALL food scraps (incl. small bones, dairy, eggs, meat, tea leaves, leftovers, baked goods)
Newspaper bags, grocery/produce bags (on the rare occasion it’s used), cereal liners, bread bags, dry cleaning bags (put it all in one bag and drop off at Target)
1-7 plastics (no styrofoam, pumps with metal in them)
Glass (take off metal caps and put in metal scraps tin, recycle plastic caps separately)
Paper and cardboard
Add to specialty recycling receptacles
Small metal scraps (nails, safety razor blades, bottle caps) in tin (recycle regularly when full)
Electronics and old batteries for city’s electronics recycling
Toothpaste and floss tubes for recycling by TerraCycle’s Colgate Recycling Program
Beauty/skincare/makeup/hair empties in box to go to Returns to Origins Program
Packaging material for re-use
Fabric that cannot be donated for recycling by city
Landfill (booooo!) Snack bags
We all have bits and bobs floating around the house — most are things that go unused because a. we have no need for it b. we have too many of the item c. we don’t like/use it anymore but hold on to it because we don’t want to throw our hard earned money in to the trash. While some of these items may end up in the landfill, most can be donated somewhere it will be given a second life. Yes — your local Goodwill or Salvation Army will take a large chunk of your donations. However, recently I’ve been working on “spreading out” my donations to other organizations that might only collect very specific items. I feel that donating this way allows my donations to go where they might be utilized faster, instead of wasting away on a dusty Goodwill shelf.
Clothing and Shoes
Good options for donating clothing (besides Goodwill) are local shelters and Dress for Success. For shoes (that are still wearable), I like donating to Zappos’ Soles 4 Souls (they also take clothing). Zappos will provide you with a pre-paid shipping label — just attach it to a box, fill with shoes, and send away! If your athletic shoes are beyond repair, donate to Nike Reuse-a-Shoe — just drop your shoes off at one of their stores and it will be recycled in to Nike Grind material (to make athletic surfaces).
* However, if an item is pricier or mostly new — I will try to sell it on Poshmark, ThredUp, or Ebay. I’ve read that many people have also had luck selling these items directly on Instagram.
Unused or Gently Used Beauty Products
This is definitely where I am guilty. I love beauty products/skincare — and will frequently move on to a new product before finishing up the old one. Or trying samples, not loving it, and still keeping it around (I’m working on it!). Recently, I found Project Beauty Share in Spokane, WA. They are one of the few places I have found that take not only new but gently used beauty products (that can be sanitized). And you can ship to them! The products go to “women and families overcoming abuse, addiction, homelessness and poverty.”I packed up a small box with products and shipped it to them for just a few bucks. Definitely worth it. If you have completely unused products, your local womens’ shelters usually take these items as well.
* Fancy, barely used beauty products can also be sold on Poshmark.
New or Gently Used Pet Supplies
Take these to your local animal shelter!
Again — the local animal shelter!
Arts and Crafts Supplies
I usually never donate these supplies to Goodwill because I don’t think too many people are going there in search of a half used tube of acrylic paint or a sad spool of yarn. Instead, search for local organizations that take old art supplies (or even ask any teacher friends if their school is in need of any of these items). In North Texas, I found Scrap Denton and a preliminary search in Houston led me to the Texas Art Asylum (they really seem to take EVERYTHING!). I’m sure most major cities have some place to donate all the random craft and hobby supplies people tend to accumulate over the years.
Pens + Other Writing Utensils
We all have that random stash of pens collected from hotels, company events, the dentist, etc. (We really need to stop accepting these things that will ultimately end up sitting at the bottom of a drawer.) I send all my extra/old/broken pens, markers, crayons, etc. to Pen Guy Art and only keep a small handful of writing utensils that I like and use. This only cost me a few bucks and I know the pens will be used in a unique way.
Old Magazines, Books, DVDs
Try your local library before resorting to Goodwill.
* I don’t buy many books these days as I tend to get everything from the library. However, when we paired down our book collection, most were sold to our local Half Price Books.
Your local food pantry. One that I volunteered at took items that were expired up to 1 year (depending on the type of item). Check with your local pantry for their guidelines.
Home Goods and Tchotchkes
I haven’t found a great place to donate these besides Goodwill. Freecycle is another option to give away miscellaneous items to people in your own community. I’ve seen the most random items on here and they generally get claimed really quickly. (I once donated old candle wax that I was about to toss to a father whose daughters were working on some project that needed wax. Random but I’m glad the wax went to a good home instead of the landfill.) Give it a try if you are at a loss for where to donate an item.
What are some other items you have trouble donating? Have you found any other resources to donate the random items in your life?
Everyone has their own journey to reduce waste. It’s not about being perfect but about making small changes over time that ultimately leads to less stuff going out the door. For me, this looks like reducing landfill trash and recyclable plastics (since plastics tend to get downcycled). To do this, I first created a monster spreadsheet (that my husband laughed about but totally got on board with) that analyzed all our trash and recycled items. I organized these items by biodegradable/reusable/package free + aluminum + paper + glass + recyclable plastic + landfill. The ultimate goal for me is to move as many items from the landfill and recyclable plastic columns over to the other ones. For each item, I thought of the best possible alternative that reduced waste. Of course, there are also items that I am calling “luxury items” — items that we love that aren’t particularly zero waste (certain makeup, hair care products). And you know what? That’s okay! This is not about being perfect and depriving yourself. It’s just about doing the best you can. In the coming weeks and months, I’ll share more on composting, DIY-ing, and zero waste resources I’ve stumbled across. But for now… here it is. My monster list. I hope it gives you some ideas for alternatives to commonly used items. Or at least gets you thinking about your own trash production. I would love to hear your ideas on alternatives as well!