19 Things You Should NOT Throw in Your Trash!

Is your email inbox like mine, full of spam? I have no idea how I’ve gotten on so many spams lists, but I am and I have to spend the first few minutes sorting through crap to get to my real email. I used to click on the unsubscribe links, but they started looking weird and I was afraid I was actually signing up for more spam or worse, viruses! I don’t know if that’s true, but, as the official Queen of Worry, as titled by Alan, I just don’t trust anything in those emails.

However, I recently got an email that I had to open. I do get a lot of emails about zero waste and veganism, and this email subject was close, but wrong, so I felt compelled to investigate. It was from Smart Living Tips, and I don’t believe I ever signed up with them, especially after reading their tips. The subject was 19 Things You Should Immediately Throw in the TrashSay what? Yes, it was provocative, and thus worked to get me to open it (I’ll probably get even MORE spam now because I did that). But, the article is really telling people to throw things in the garbage! It’s really sickening!

What’s worse, is that the article opens with a photo of a big pile of garbage in a dump, and says, “There are few experiences more satisfying than throwing away junk you don’t need.” Did you just throw up in your mouth a little bit like I did? There is no away! Putting something in the garbage actually makes me feel awful!

So, here are my suggestions, inspired by this article. I’m using the same list of items but explaining how to better and/or properly reuse or recycle them, or refuse them to begin with!

19 Things You Should NOT Immediately (or Ever) Throw in Your Trash!

Wire Hangers

Do NOT throw these in the garbage! Okay, that’s the only time I’m going to write that in this list, it’s redundant. There are several things you can do with wire hangers.

Use them. There, I said it. The article says they are bad for your clothes as they will misshapen them and add rust stains. They suggest buying new hangers, including firm plastic ones (please don’t, we don’t need to encourage more plastic production. If you’re using plastic now, continue using them, don’t throw them away). We used wire hangers for all of our clothes when I was growing up (we actually preferred them) and I never had problems with any of my clothing hanging on them.

If you don’t like the look of them, there are tons of tutorials on how to crochet over metal hangers, giving them padding and protecting your clothing from the aforementioned rust (which, by they way, you’ll avoid if you don’t hang wet items on the hanger or store in damp locations). I remember these crocheted hangers and they’re super cute! You could even have a different color for everyone in the family! Here are just a few tutorials on the web:

https://gladysstrickland.com/how-to-crocheted-wire-hanger-tutorial/

https://www.instructables.com/id/Yarn-Covered-Hangers/

https://www.thriftyfun.com/tf30370785.tip.html

Return them to your dry cleaner. That’s what we do! Alan still has some of his clothing dry cleaned. They don’t cover his clothes with that plastic bag (our dry cleaner happily complied when we inquired) and he returns the hangers when he drops off his next batch of dry cleaning and they reuse them. They really appreciate not having to buy more.

Donate them to a thrift shop. Thrift shops often need hangers, so give them a hand and donate hangers you don’t want so they can hang more clothes to sell. It’s Deductible lists that 10 hangers are worth $2.50 when you donate them, in case you want to itemize them on your taxes!

Recycle them. If you don’t want to reuse them or return them to the dry cleaner, please don’t throw them in the garbage. Metal is one of the most readily recyclable materials, so put them in your municipal recycling bin or take them to a metal recycler.

Worn Out Shoes

The article said to just throw away worn out shoes. Old athletic shoes can be recycled into many other things, including running tracks, sports courts, playgrounds, and more! Nike has a program called Reuse-A-Shoe and turns old athletic shoe materials into Nike Grind for reuse. One World Running donates usable shoes, including soccer cleats and specialized sports shoes, to overseas charities to encourage athletics for those who cannot afford equipment. And the article did mention the organization Soles4Soles who also donates shoes internationally from donation sites such as DSW and Zappos. In my local area, there are freestanding drop-off locations for old shoes, you may have them in your area as well.

Empty Alcohol Bottles

<hyperventilating>

The article suggested finding a recycling center for these, thank goodness. But there are some alternatives here.

Opt for Refill. Look for refilling stations! Really, they’re getting to be more common. Some wineries will take back their bottles and give you a discount on another purchase. In Seattle, there are refill stations for both wine (Footprint Wine is one) and hard alcohol (Heritage Distilling, for example), as well as beer and kombucha. Maybe even make your own liquors and use the bottles.

If you’re not interested in more wine or liquor, you can also refill your bottles with other things from bulk shopping, such as maple syrup, oil, vinegar, soy sauce, tamari, molasses, castile soap, etc. One of my best friends checks and laughs every time she sees a bottle of Vermouth, because growing up in upstate New York, her family reused Vermouth bottles to store the maple syrup they made every winter!

Donate to a local artist! We have two outlets for our alcohol bottles. A neighbor of ours makes art from our bottles and sells them at craft shows and on Etsy as Whimsical Wine Decor. My cousin (StaciAdman.art) turns wine and liquor bottles into gorgeous lampwork beads that she then creates amazing jewelry pieces with. You can learn more about her and her work on her website. Check your local art or farmers market and look for artists marking art from recycled materials—I’m certain you’ll find an artist who’d be thrilled to receive your bottles!

Recycle them. While glass is recyclable, making glass from existing glass takes 97% of the energy needed to produce from virgin sources. It does produce 10% less carbon emissions, however, so it still is a great thing to do.

Clothing You’ve Never Worn

Seriously?!? Throw perfectly good clothing in the garbage?!? 

The fine print said to donate it, thank goodness. There are all kinds of resources for donating your clothing. And if you’ve never worn it, you can probably take it to a consignment shop and get some money back for it. There are so many great consignment shops, both brick and mortar and online. Do a little internet search and find something that works for you.

Maybe start a clothing round robin with your friends. Put clothes you don’t want into a crate and give it to another friend to go through and take what they want. They then put in some things they don’t want and pass it on to the next person. When I was growing up, my mom used to get a paper bag full of clothes from her friends with daughters older than me; I really loved going through the bags and getting clothes from these older girls I thought were so cool (they also had designer clothes like ESPRIT and Gunne Sax, which my mom didn’t buy for me, so this was super awesome)! Buy Nothing groups usually have great clothing round robins based on specific sizes and genders that you can sign up for. Consider hosting a clothing swap party where everyone brings usable clothing they don’t want anymore, sips a little wine, and looks for new things for their closet.

Madewell Jeans takes donations of old jeans and turns them into insulation to be used in Habitat for Humanity homes. They don’t even have to be their brand.

And then think about WHY you have clothes you’ve never worn. We are in the age of fast fashion, that is, instead of having four seasons of clothing (Fall, Winter, Spring, and Summer), we have 52 seasons, a new trend every week. To keep up with this demand, clothes are being made cheaply and unethically, creating mountains of rarely worn, non-durable items with nowhere to go. If this is new information for you, please check out this article from Forbes all about the problem with Fast Fashion. Buy what you need, buy durable and classic, and consider buying used.

There are other great resources if you know you need something you’ll only wear once or twice. If you are losing weight, consider getting secondhand items as you are transitioning between sizes and then donate or sell them when you’re out of that size. If you’re pregnant, ask friends if they have a stash of maternity clothes, many do, or look for a clothing rental service. Armoire, based in Seattle, has a Style My Baby-Bump program where you can rent and exchange clothing as your pregnancy progresses. And if you are in need of special occasion clothes you know you’ll only wear once, consider Rent the RunwayStyle Lend, or Bag Borrow or Steal if you need a designer handbag to go with your outfit.

Old Toys

Just like clothing, you can donate unbroken toys. Buy Nothing is great for this. You can also find other creative outlets for old toys, such as the pediatrician’s office, a day care center, etc. My farmers market and even a local farm has an area for kids to play in so parents can shop uninterrupted and they’re always looking for toys.

Lonesome Socks

Mismatched socks are a gift! Keep them.

Dust Cloths. I’ve never bought dust cloths because lone socks are the best dusters! Simply pull that sock onto your hand and you’ve got a form-fitting dust rag that can get into all those nooks and crannies. They’re also great for applying wax to furniture.

Crafts. If you have kids or grandkids, turn those lonely socks into sock puppets. What a great way for kids to learn how to use a needle and thread by giving them a box of random buttons, fabric scraps, or other notions and have them make their own sock creature. Or, stuff a sock with fill (more lone socks!) and make a stuffed animal or doll.

Hot or Cold Pack. Alan recently needed a warm compress for his eyes. Instead of buying a plastic face mask full of mysterious blue goo, I made one for him by filling a missing sock with buckwheat and lavender, and tied up the end. Now, when he needs a hot compress, he simply pops the filled sock into the microwave for 90 seconds and he has a wonderful, soothing, form-fitting hot pack. You can store these in the freezer too and use for a cold pack.

Silly Sock Day. Why not? Wear them to bed. Put ’em on the kids for the silly sock/dress/hair day at school. If I’m working in the yard, who cares if the socks in my rubber boots match anyway? So what if I get hurt and have to go to the hospital—I was in emergency medical services for over 25 years and I can promise you that your mother’s veiled threat about firefighters laughing at your holey underwear or mismatched socks is simply not true, we don’t care and probably won’t even notice!

Expired Makeup

I’ve looked at my makeup and none of mine have expiration dates on them. But I did a little research and there are some recommendations out there for life expectancy of makeup, but really, most makeup has a pretty long shelf life. The exception is mascara and eyeliner, which can harbor bacteria and lead to eye infections. This list, from Makeup.com, seemed to be pretty common sense.

Combine compact powders into new compacts. Don’t you hate it when you use all of the makeup from a compact except the last bits in the corners and around the edges? Don’t toss them, keep them, because you can combine them with other near-empty compacts to make a new full one. This works for face powder, blush, and eye shadow. And what’s cool, you can combine them into new shades. Here’s what you do (and I’ve done this several times, so I can vouch for it):

  1. Scrape your makeup powder out of the compact trays into a shallow dish.
  2. Smash all the makeup with a fork so that it’s all powder.
  3. Add a few drops of rubbing alcohol and stir into a paste.
  4. Fill one of the compact trays with this paste and smooth off the top.
  5. Let it dry, usually overnight.
  6. Use!

That’s really it! I’ve done this countless times.

Refillable compacts. Several makeup companies now have refillable compacts. I use one from Aveda, the Professional Environmental Compact, which has a magnet to hold individual face powder, blush, and eye shadows, which you can buy separately. I also use Gabriel Cosmetics Eco Palette Refill Pans part of their ZuZu Luxe line, which are the same principle.

Donate unused makeup or samples. Homeless shelters, especially women’s shelters, will take donations of unused personal care products, especially sample sizes, and they really, really need them. Many shelters have programs to help women prepare for job interviews and jobs, and make up is something that can really help women feel empowered to go out for that job.

Mascara wands for wildlife rehab. The Appalachian Wildlife Refuge accepts donations of old mascara wands to use in wildlife rehabilitation. Simply clean your old wands with soap and water, send them in (info in the link above), and they use them to brush out contaminants, clean equipment, and more. It’s a really cool program!

Recycling empties. L’Occitane has teamed up with Terracycle in their makeup recycling program. They will take:

  • Lip balm/lipstick tubes
  • Makeup remover bottles and pumps
  • Fragrances bottles and pumps
  • Deodorant sticks
  • Face mask packaging
  • Dispensers and tubes for soap, facial cleansers, body lotions, and hair care
  • Pumps and caps from shampoo and conditioner bottles
  • Hair product trigger heads
  • Refill pouches

and they don’t have to be their brand! Just bring them into their store.

Expired Medication

Do NOT, I repeat DO NOT throw your expired medications in the garbage or flush down the toilet!

I used to keep all of my expired medications, because, what if I might need it again? But then Alan, my resident Clinical Pharmacist, came into my life and explained to me why I should never keep, nor take, expired meds, both prescription and over-the-counter Here’s why:

  1. The strength of the drug can no longer be guaranteed. Liquid medications often increase in potency, as can some solid form meds, while others may decrease dramatically.
  2. Taking inadequate or weakened antibiotics can lead to antibiotic resistance.
  3. They can all too easily get into the hands of children or other people who shouldn’t take them.
  4. It might interact with a medication you are taking now or be contraindicated with a condition or illness you didn’t have when the medication was prescribed.
  5. Some medications actually convert to another, sometimes dangerous, substance in the presence of heat or moisture.
  6. You may have a different condition than you think or may need a different medication than you had before.

All very compelling reasons NOT to hold on to those old and expired medications. But what do you do with them?

  • The DEA has a search program to find medication disposal sites near you.
  • If you live in the King County, Washington area, you can search for drop off sites here.
  • Many law enforcement offices have disposal programs, check with yours.
  • Check with your local health department for options.
  • According to the AARP, CVS, Rite-Aid, and Walgreen’s pharmacies have disposal bins where you can drop-off old meds. Check with your local pharmacy for disposal options in your area.

Why not put medications in the trash or flush down the toilet? Meds that go in the dump or down the drain end up in our groundwater, eventually contaminating wildlife and our own drinking water. Water treatment plants aren’t designed to filter out medications. The US Geological Survey recently studied drinking water contamination and found immunosuppressants, cancer medications, antibiotics, painkillers, and hormones in municipal water supplies. A recent study of salmon in the Puget Sound, near Seattle, found medications, illicit drugs, and chemicals from plastics in juvenile fish.

Your Toothbrush

Yes, it’s important to change out your toothbrush! The American Dental Association recommends using a new toothbrush every three to four months. Old toothbrushes just aren’t as efficient and can harbor bacteria, both from your mouth and that which is aerosoled when flushing your nearby toilet (ewww, probably the best reason NOT to keep your toothbrush on the counter or sink!).

But most toothbrushes are plastic and never break down in landfills. So here are some options.

Keep to clean with. Toothbrushes are great scrubbers for getting into tight spots. We always keep old toothbrushes in our cleaning supplies. We just make sure to mark them so they don’t accidentally wind their way back into the bathroom and into our mouths!

Get a non-plastic toothbrush. We have switched to bamboo toothbrushes. These are great because you can toss those handles in your compost to break down. The bristles are still nylon (plastic), so you have to pull those out with pliers before composting; put those bristles in a baggie and when it’s full, put in your garbage. There are lots and lots of bamboo toothbrushes on the market now. If you’re vegan, make sure the bamboo brushes are not coated with beeswax, and try to find options packaged in cardboard rather than plastic. Here’s a good option from Bamboozled.

Recycle your plastic toothbrush. Terracycle has a FREE dental care recycling program, including toothbrushes, empty toothpaste tubes, toothbrush and toothpaste packaging, and empty floss containers. We used this program to recycle our old plastic toothbrushes that we’d worn out from cleaning the house with! The plastic is used to make other things, including playground equipment for kids.

Stuff in Your Fridge

There’s a lot of confusion about food expiration dates on food, and rightly so. There’s no national standard on food expiration date labels, except for infant formula (see below) so manufacturers come up with their own dates. These dates can be confusing, so let’s decipher the common ones:

  • “Best by” or “Best if used by”: Date for best flavor, not a purchase or safety date.
  • “Use by”: Recommended for use while product is at peak quality. Not a safety date EXCEPT when used on infant formula. The FDA requires Use By date on infant formula to ensure that it still contains the amount of nutrients listed on the nutrition label and maintains a consistency to pass through a baby bottle nipple. The manufacturer still determines the date. Do not buy or use infant formula past the Use-By date.
  • “Sell by” or “Pull by”: Tells stores how long they can sell or display the product. It’s not a safety date and may still be safe to eat after this date. In Washington state, stores can sell or donate products that have reached this date but are not yet spoiled.
  • “Packed on” or “Closed on” or coded: This is when an item was packaged, sealed or canned. Simply packing numbers used by manufacturers, not an expiration date. Usually used to identify items in case of a recall.

Here are the guidelines from the USDA on canned food storage:

Low-acid foods (canned meat, poultry, fish, stew, soups, green vegetables beans, carrots, corn, peas, potatoes, etc.) can be stored 2-5 years.

High-acid foods (canned juices, fruit, pickles, sauerkraut, tomatoes, tomato soup), for 1-1.5 years.

Don’t use canned foods that are:

  • Heavily rusted, i.e. more than just surface rust that wipes off, or rusted inside the can
  • Swollen
  • Dented deep enough to lay your finger in or has sharp points

Check out the FoodKeeper App developed by the USDA and Cornell University. You can use it on your computer or download the app on your phone to search food storage recommendation guidelines.

Tossing old food. If you do have food that is beyond eating, don’t throw it in the garbage, compost it! Food in garbage never breaks down because it gets smothered and deprived of oxygen. This anaerobic process creates methane, a potent greenhouse gas that traps atmospheric radiation 25 time more readily than carbon dioxide, thus a huge contributor to global warming and climate change.

Old Grocery Bags

I think I just fainted. The article instructs readers to throw away all of your single-use plastic grocery bags! There are much better options for disposal of these bags than putting more plastic grocery bags into our environment. Plastic bags rarely stay in the dump, they are easily picked up by the wind and blown into waterways, winding up in the ocean. In water, plastic bags look like jellyfish, the favorite food of sea turtles. Turtles eat the plastic bags, which trap air, making the turtle too buoyant to leave the ocean surface—these turtles are frequently struck by boat traffic and injured or killed. Plastic bags also strangle or suffocate countless other marine animals. Please don’t put these in the garbage if you still have these in your home.

Plastic Film Recycling. The American Chemical Council has a recycling program called WRAP (Wrap Recycling Action Program) for single-use plastic bags. They have a search program on their website to help you find a drop off location in your area. Besides the plastic grocery bags, WRAP accepts:

  • Retail, carryout, produce, newspaper, bread, and dry cleaning bags (clean, dry and free of receipts and clothes hangers)
  • Zip-top food storage bags (clean and dry)
  • Plastic shipping envelopes (remove labels), bubble wrap and air pillows (deflate)
  • Product wrap on cases of water/soda bottles, paper towels, napkins, disposable cups, bathroom tissue, diapers, and female sanitary products
  • Furniture and electronic wrap
  • Plastic cereal box liners (but if it tears like paper, do not include)
  • Any film packaging or bag that has the How2Recycle Label (this includes those awful white and blue plastic Amazon shipping bags.

Don’t put these items into your curbside recycling bin, however. Municipal services do not recycle these and when they go through the recycling sorting process at the Materials Recovery Facility (MRF), they clog up the sorting machines, making them inefficient. The entire system has to be shut down five or six times a day so workers can climb into the sorting system with knives and reciprocating saws and cut away plastic bags wrapped around the equipment. It’s both dangerous and time consuming.

Switch to reusable shopping and produce bags. The best thing is to just not use single-use bags. You can pick up reusable shopping bags at nearly every grocery store and they last decades. Or, you can make your own, using fabric scraps you already have (here’s over 55 different patterns!), or even old T-shirts. Same goes for reusable produce bags. I have been using Earthwise reusable mesh produce bags for the last decade and absolutely love them! They are extremely durable. I keep a shopping kit in both of our cars that consists of a reusable shopping bag filled with several other shopping bags, a stash of mesh produce bags, a sharpie, china marker, and several glass jars with the tare weight written on them. This way I always have supplies I need for zero waste shopping. And it’s not only for grocery stores, we bring our shopping bags in with us to the hardware store, thrift store, and even clothing shopping.

CDs, DVDs, and VHS tapes

I realize most of these are pretty obsolete in the downloadable, streaming digital age. But don’t just chuck’em in the trash, many of them are sought after and some are even valuable. Search online for places near you to bring in your discs or tapes to sell. Donate them to your local charity. Some resorts like to have video libraries for their guests, see if they’d like them, or even the local library, hospital, or senior center. And like clothing, my area Buy Nothing group has very active round robins for CDs, DVDs, and VHS tapes!

Dish Cleaning Sponges

Sponges are gross, bacteria-breeding environments, usually made from plastic. I would agree, these are garbage. But don’t replace them with more gross, bacteria-breeding, plastic sponges! Here are healthier, more zero-waste alternatives to dish cleaning sponges:

  • Cellulose sponges. Sometimes you can find these loose, not packaged in plastic wrapping, often at hardware stores. They will still harbor bacteria, but instead of tossing them in the trash when you’re done with them, simply cut into small pieces with scissors and put in your compost bin.
  • Cotton fabric dishcloths. You can buy these at most kitchen and variety stores, but you can also simply make them from old towels. These are much more sanitary because you toss them in with your laundry before they turn into a petri dish. When they wear out, use them for rags before cutting them up with scissors and composting them.
  • Crochet dishcloths. When I was first married, decades ago, I got several gifts of handmade crocheted cotton dishcloths. These are great! Like fabric dishcloths, you just toss in the laundry and reuse. There are tons and tons of patterns online and they are excellent beginner projects if you are wanting to become more proficient in needlework. There are also a lot of crochet/knitting clubs around, at yarn/craft shops, senior centers, libraries, churches, and more. I’m certain you’d find someone to help you learn and meet new like-minded friends!
  • Coconut husk or loofah scrubbies. You can find these at some kitchen and variety stores, zero waste shops, and even online at Amazon. Just make sure to read the fine print and even research them online before purchasing, as many of these contain plastic-derivatives and aren’t really compostable after all, green-washing at its finest (it’s happened to me!).
  • Metal scrubbies. I used to be able to find these loose at the grocery or hardware store, but anymore, they’re wrapped in plastic. These stainless steel or copper scrubbies are just the best for cleaning cast iron, metal, other durable pots and pans, and terrific for scrubbing adhesive residue from glass jars after you remove the label—but don’t use them on non-stick surfaces. Grab them up if you find them loose. I recently found some at Ohne, a zero waste shop in Munich, Germany, and bought a bunch to bring home!
  • Loofahs. These natural scrubbers are the internal structure of a gourd and while most people think they are only for bathing, you can use these for washing dishes too! When they’re done, chop them up and put in your compost.
  • Natural bristle scrubbers. There are many, many options for natural bristle scrubbers out there. You can find them at kitchen, variety, and even Asian stores. They are made from bamboo, coconut husk, and other plant fibers, although some are made from animal hair, however, such as horse or badger hair, so really investigate if you’re looking for vegan options. The fibers  are often held together in with a metal twist, so when it’s worn out, simply pull the fibers out of the metal, put those in your compost, and put the metal piece in your recycling bin.

Water Filters

These can be a problem, as its hard to find outlets to recycle them. It depends upon what type of system its for and who manufactured it as to if and how you can recycle them. The problem with these filtering units is that they are constructed of multiple types of materials and have to be deconstructed into their individual parts to be recycled. But don’t just keep using the filters, they can harbor contaminants and may damage your refrigerator if used beyond their life expectancy.

Pitcher filters. Terracycle has a FREE recycling program for PUR and Brita water filters. You just need to sign up and they walk you through the recycling process. You can even recycle the pitcher and faucet filters with the Terracycle program. ZeroWater has their own recycling program. RecycleWaterFilters.com has a program that takes all types of filters, including all pitcher filters, but you pay the postage.

Refrigerator filters. These are tricky. Whirlpool used to have a recycling program, but they’ve since discontinued it. I’m trying out RecycleWaterFilters.com since the Whirlpool program stopped. I’m just keeping the used filters in a box until I have several of them and will mail them all at once. Contact the manufacturer of your specific filter and see what they recommend for recycling their specific filters.

Countertop gravity water filters. Just like refrigerator filters, most of these are not recyclable. Contact the manufacturer to see if its possible recycle their filters.

Old Business Cards

The article said to take your new business cards to Japan. I’m not sure what that even means…

Scan them. But don’t throw those old cards in the trash, shred them and put in your compost. There are apps and scanners that even use OCR (optical character recognition) to segment out the information on the card. Alan had boxes and boxes of old business cards and I spent a few days scanning them with WorldCard Pro. Now he has a whole database of contacts that he can search and easily find what he’s looking for, rather than digging in bankers boxes for hours to find that elusive card. It was interesting, he had dozens of cards from the same business contacts, which he didn’t even realize until I went through them!

I’ve now gotten into the habit of asking people to just text me their contact info rather than giving me a card. The “My Card” function in your smart phone contact list allows you to make your own contact card that you can text to people rather than passing out paper cards. I love this because it goes instantly into my contact list. I have the same for my own contact info. Now, I do have business cards for people who just have to have a paper card from me, but I really prefer to text my card. Some day I will completely buck convention and forgo cards when I run out, but I fell into the trap of thinking I needed them when I first started my business.

Old Phone Chargers

There are places to recycle electronics cords—there’s no need at all to put these in the garbage.

Best Buy has a super easy program for recycling electronics cords, if you have one nearby. In every entryway into Best Buy there is a recycling kiosk for cords, cables, wires, rechargeable batteries, and even plastic bags!

Cellphone companies often take back their old phones and charging cables. Check with yours.

Old Magazines

Paper is no longer a recycling commodity in the US and China is not taking paper anymore. Most paper in your recycling bin is going to the dump, so its best to find other ways to deal with old magazines.

Donate. Libraries, schools, daycare centers, doctors offices, crafting clubs, churches, senior centers all often take magazines. A lot of programs use them for crafting and vision boards. Put them in your local Little Free Library for someone to enjoy. Share with friends or post on Buy Nothing.

Do something creative. Make your own vision board or do something crafty. Here is a great list of ideas and links for crafty things you can do with magazines!

Find a zero waste alternative for enjoying your favorite magazine. Most magazines are now available online, as pdf subscriptions you can read on your computer, smartphone, or tablet. Change your subscription to one of these zero waste options. Or, simply check out your magazine issue from the library!

Old Socks and Underwear

Remember Bill and Hillary Clinton’s tax debacle of the 1990s when they itemized their used underwear donation to charity?

As noted above, socks make great dusters, rags, and crafts. Underwear too! If they are beyond use, and are a natural fiber, such as cotton, bamboo, etc., cut them up into small pieces and add to your compost bin. If they are synthetic, look for a textile recycle in your area.

Soma stores used to take used bra donations, and it’s unclear if they will start that program back up. However, here is a list of organizations you can donate your gently used bras and some other undergarments to, most of which donate to women in need.

Old Bills and Receipts

This can be a little more problematic, depending upon the material the bill or receipt is printed upon.

You know those thermal receipts, the ones you get from self-serve gas pumps and most grocery stores? Most of that special paper is actually coated with bisphenol A (BPA) or S (BPS), yes, that estrogen-disrupting chemical we’re all trying to avoid in canned foods (there are some that use a Vitamin C derivative, like the ones used by PCC Community Markets in the Seattle area)! Touching these receipts actually transfers BPA/S to your skin where it is absorbed and enters your bloodstream. Recycling these with your regular paper contaminates the whole batch, so don’t toss these into your recycling bin. Composting these receipts puts BPA/S into your compost, garden, groundwater, and again, right into your body.  Burning them is not a viable answer either. So these, you’ll have to put into the trash, there’s no real solution to dealing with BPA/S-coated paper.

Carbonless paper and regular paper receipts can be shredded and composted.

Should you have boxes and boxes of old records and receipts, check your local area for free shredding events. Most areas have these and allow you to bring a set number of bankers boxes full to be securely shredded.

Putting a Lid on It

Oh, and of course, I no sooner got started on my rebuttal of this article that I saw another similar one on Facebook from Good Housekeeping, 55 (Big and Little) Things It’s Finally Time to Get Rid Of.

Just shoot me.

I hope this post gave you ideas on how to repurpose, reuse, recycle, or refuse some things. I’m always learning and I learned a few things while researching my responses. There were some things I knew and some things that were surprisingly new to me. Certainly, as much as possible, throwing things in the trash shouldn’t be our first choice. Don’t worry, I’m not going to do another post rebutting the 55 things article, but it just goes to show how we, as a society, really live in a disposable mindset. A little research online or in zero waste Facebook groups and you can find some great ideas and options, for these 19 things, the 55 things from Good Housekeeping, or any number of things! We have an uphill, but well worth it, battle ahead of us and we’re running out of time to do it.

In the words of Jerry Reed…

We’ve got a long way to go and a short time to get there…

Did this article help you find any alternative ways for dealing with any of these items? Let me know in the comments!

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2 Comments

  1. Diana Noasconi Rhodes on May 14, 2019 at 10:32 am

    Loved this article! I do much of this already, but didn’t know about magazines and thermal sales receipts. I’ve been tossing both into the recycling. I’m just going to say no to receipts where I can and switch to digital magazine subscriptions. Easy enough. Huge thanks for the WRAP info and link. I save any bag that comes my way and use some for dog poop bags (no way around that one) and bring the rest to Fred Meyer’s bag recycling bin. I even order far less online because all the packaging makes me hyperventilate. Just consume less! has been my motto lately. Thanks for all the research that you’ve done and shared with us.

    • Cindy Thompson, Trimazing! Vegan Lifestyle & Health Coaching on May 14, 2019 at 11:04 am

      You’re so welcome! I learned about the BPA and BPS in those thermal receipts a year ago and I was just horrified! It’s really terrible for all those cashiers who handle them all day long. I try to get emailed receipts as much as possible. I’m glad the article was helpful. Keep up the great work in reducing your consumption!

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