The Biggest Ever “What to Do with Your Stuff” Page

by Gia on November 14, 2009

In honor of America Recycles Day, I am attempting to pull together a huge list of “What to do with your stuff.” There are many good resources for different types of recycling and freecycling out there, but I often find that I need to go to several different websites depending on the type of stuff I need to dispose of. So I decided to make a list of all the different ways to get rid of the things you no longer need while making sure those things get reused, recycled, or disposed of in a proper manner. I hope you will add to this list so it will be a wonderful resource for all.

Here we go, let’s start with the obvious, stuff that is collected by “curbside recycling” in your municipality:

Plastic Bottles, Glass Bottles, Aluminum Cans, Paper (Newspaper, Magazines, Printer Paper, Cereal Boxes, Cardboard, etc), Aluminum Containers, and some other plastic containers and aluminum and steel items. has a great tool to lookup what can be recycled in your neck of the woods.

But what about all those take out containers, all the plastic yogurt, cream cheese, butter, whipped cream “tubs” that, at least here in NYC, can’t be recycled through curbside recycling? I was SO EXCITED the other day when I discovered a collection box at Whole Foods for these types of containers through a company, Preserve, that makes products out of recycled yogurt containers and other #5 plastic. Yay! Check out where to find a drop off location for “Gimme 5″ near you!

Next, lightbulbs. Don’t want to throw them in the trash, especially those Compact Florescent ones (CFLS) that contain mercury. Where can I get rid of those? Well, Home Depot has a takeback program for CFLs, look for the big orange boxes in their stores. CFLS are considered “Special Waste” along with Car Batteries, Fluorescent Tubes, Mercury Thermostats, NiCad Batteries, Paint, Rechargeable Batteries, Transmission Fluid, Used Motor Oil, Used Oil Filters, and Used Tires. Again, check for your local Special Waste collection. Here’s the info for NYC Special Waste collection. As for regular old incandescent light bulbs, I have not been able to find any recycling resources. I did find one blog from 2007 that gave some ideas to reuse them for decorations, but that’s it.

Toys, oh those horrible plastic Toys. What to do with them? Well, of course there’s the local church or synagogue, thrift shop, etc. But I’ve been finding more and more that thrift shops no longer want toys. They just throw them away. Many of the holiday toy drives actually request NEW toys. There have to be kids out there that would gladly play with the Bionicle Castle my son outgrew or the puzzles my daughter got bored with! I was very happy to have found Second Chance Toys, an organization that collects and redistributes used toys to children in need. While it doesn’t serve the whole country yet, it looks like a promising organization.

Don’t throw out those shoes or soiled clothes! There are a few organizations out there that collect used shoes: Nike collects old sneakers and makes running tracks, basketball and tennis courts with the ground up parts! Shoe4Africa collects used shoes and sends them to Africa. Cool! What about clothes? We all know that lightly used clothing can be donated to your local thrift shop – but what about the stained clothing with holes in it – how can I avoid sending that to a landfill? Another awesome discovery (although only serving NYC for now) is They will actually take any kind of clothing, shoes, linens, towels, hats and handbags – even if they are ripped or stained or whatever, and recycle them. How cool is that? I am so happy to no longer have to throw away my daughter’s ripped leggings – she always rips them at the knee and I never could give them away – until now!

OK – the last thing I will add here (for now) is how to get rid of EWASTE – computers, televisions, cell phones, etc. – it is a big problem and warrants an entire blog post, but for now here are my recommendations: the EPA’s Plug-In to eCycling program lists Retailers, Manufacturers, and Cell Phone Service Providers with responsible take-back programs. There are a lot of companies out there that collect and “recycle” ewaste, but be very cautious! The US Government Accountability Office reported that exported U.S. e-waste was often disposed of unsafely in countries such as China and India. Make sure the vendor is certified by E-Stewards – a certification program run by the non-profit Basel Action Network.

So, that should cover most of the stuff you want to get rid of. If all else fails, you can always FREECYCLE it.

Please, please, please add your resources to the comments section, to make this the BIGGEST EVER “What to do with your stuff” page!

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Emily November 15, 2009 at 3:05 pm

Hi Gia/EcoPlum,
Thanks for all these great recycling resources!! They really came in handy!

Steve Kaye November 18, 2009 at 10:59 pm

Great article on how to get rid of stuff without making a mess. Congratulations!

Andrea at MiniMonos November 19, 2009 at 12:17 am

Fantastic! What an amazing resource!

A bunch of us women friends get together a couple of times a year and have a party where we eat, drink wine and swap clothes! At first we were all a bit embarrasssed to be bringing what we thought were the dregs of our wardrobes, little anticipationg what a joy they’d be to the rest of the group. It all gets frenzied and fun and we split our sides laughing and love it! We’re thinking about doing the same thing with kids clothes and toys and can see the whole thing getting bigger!

Thanks for your great post.

Gia November 19, 2009 at 12:40 am

Great idea Andrea! Sounds like a lot of fun. Does anyone ever fight over the best outfit? I take it you are all around the same size? I really like the idea of swapping kids’ clothes and toys! You’ve inspired me to throw a “swap party” too! Thanks!

Rick Schulman December 7, 2009 at 2:38 am

OK, here are a few resources for environmentally concious readers to check out:
EYEGLASSES: New Eyes For the Needy. (
Good long established program based out of Short Hills, NJ. I send them collected frames, lenses, sunglasses, cases, even jewelry or precious scrap metal and they forward on the glasses to those in need in foreign countries. They use donations and proceeds from jewelry, metal and other miscellaneous items they receive to buy glasses for those in need here in the USA. (US law prohibits the redistribution of used eyeglasses here in America) I am even using the program to teach kids in 2nd grade not only about helping those in need and the value of reusing, but also we will be separating the different glasses and doing math graphs. Very rewarding. You can run a program at your local school, church, synagogue, gathering place or apartment building. Even ask local eyeglass stores if they are getting rid of unwanted glasses-many will give them to you so they don’t have to send them in themselves.

This is a company that accepts the above items and will actually pay you cash for the acceptable items. I am running a program through my children’s school and every time I send in a box with these items I am able to give a check to the school PTA. For those items that they aren’t able to reuse, they responsibly recycle.

I have found a cool way to deal with those old stuffed animals that you can’t launder, nobody wants to take them because they are just too old or used and you just can’t stomach throwing them away. This OVAL ANIMAL BAG is like having a beanbag that you just fill with your old, used or current stuffed animals!
It’s soft, useful and puts stuffed animals at the end of their life to use again. Bonus: No nasty polystyrene pellets or foam filling.
Here’s a link:

That’s what I’ve been doing with some of my stuff. I hope this has helped some.

Tracy December 17, 2009 at 1:28 pm

Awesome post! Thanks for the great resources. I am going to link to this from my post on hoarding. I hope you don’t mind. You can see the link here:…too-much-stuff/

Desiree December 17, 2009 at 2:45 pm

*A message from our friends at the Parks Department:*

On Saturday, January 9th and Sunday, January 10th, the New York City
Parks Department will host the annual MulchFest from 10:00 a.m. to
2:00 p.m. each day at locations citywide. Bring your holiday tree to
one of 80+ designated parks to be recycled into mulch that will
nourish plantings across the city or your own garden!

This year, we hope to encourage thousands of New York households to
help the environment and the community by bringing their trees to our
nearest collection site – there will be over 30 chipping sites and
about 50 drop-off sites throughout the five boroughs.

Remember to remove all lights and decorations before bringing the
tree to a MulchFest site. You will have the opportunity to take home
your mulch at designated chipping sites.

For more information about MulchFest and a list of sites in your
borough, visit

*Treecycle and help NYC grow!*

Claudia February 11, 2010 at 2:16 pm

Fabulous ideas! Be sure the stuff goes to where they say it will cause a bunch of it goes overseas and is BURNED! Check it out:

Regarding the CFL bulbs: They’re dangerous and it’s best to not buy them at all. Traditional incandescent bulbs can be thrown away in the garbage but CFLs will poison our water supply according to the EPA.
They’re everything BUT green from the the mining of the Mercury, to ALL being produced in China, to the excess packaging, to the disposal of what’s considered “Toxic and Hazardous Waste” once they’re dead.

Gia March 2, 2010 at 3:15 pm

Thanks for the additional information, Claudia! Yes, the fact that CFLs contain mercury is a big problem. LED bulbs seem to be the better choice – although they still expensive to produce and not widely available commercially.

Gia April 29, 2010 at 11:08 pm

Check out this great post by Elizah Leigh on Greenwala about all the great cosmetic container take back programs: Cosmetics “Empties” Get a Makeover Thanks To 4 Recycling Programs:

Gia January 5, 2011 at 5:15 pm

Wrote this post BEFORE our big partnership with Check out their amazing widget on our site:

liga typerów May 2, 2013 at 5:51 pm

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