Help me get rid of damaged/low-value stuff
December 22, 2017 10:34 PM   Subscribe

I have trouble getting rid of damaged or low-value things since I picture them moldering in a landfill for 500 years. Are there resources for getting rid of a household items in a somewhat ethical way? Services that will sort through my stuff and do this for me?

Examples of things that have been sitting around because I don't have the energy to figure out how to get rid of them that don't involve throwing them in the trash:

- Old shoes that are misshapen or have holes or are otherwise not fit for reuse
- A pot that I boiled dry by accident so the surface is burned and discolored and probably not particularly safe to use anymore
- Old chargers and cables for who knows what appliances; ethernet cables
- Novelty sunglasses that probably don't have actual sun protection
- Clothes with stains or holes
- Sad old school binders and half-used notebooks
- Reusable grocery bags
- Mismatched socks
- Old, scuffed glasses case

Stuff like this seems too substantial to throw straight in the trash but too low in value to donate. Some sort of recycling solution would be best but I'd like it to be somewhat efficient, if possible (i.e. not burning fossil fuels to ship one ethernet cable to We Recycle Ethernet Cables, Inc.).

Has some service tackled this niche? Do I need to hire a TaskRabbit to do the sorting? I am in California, if it matters.

posted by delight to Home & Garden (16 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Where in California? Near SF there are a bunch of places, including Urban Ore and their list of similar local sites.

I don’t know about the rest of CA though (but many places have something similar— check your municipal refuse system to find out about city managed ones too, that’s where we found a place in Tempe AZ).
posted by nat at 11:10 PM on December 22, 2017 [1 favorite]

Old ethernet cables can be pressed into service for tying things to other things.
posted by flabdablet at 11:35 PM on December 22, 2017

Mismatched socks with no hope of match and stained holey clothes find their second act as cleaning rags in our house.
posted by infinitewindow at 11:38 PM on December 22, 2017 [4 favorites]

I have trouble getting rid of damaged or low-value things since I picture them moldering in a landfill for 500 years.

The most helpful time to picture that, by the way, is at point of purchase.

A sense of proportion can be helpful as well. As long as you continue to contribute to landfill at a substantially lower rate than average for your neighbourhood, you're doing your bit.
posted by flabdablet at 11:38 PM on December 22, 2017 [16 favorites]

I used to get paid hourly to do this sort of thing as a collaborative effort with someone who was downsizing from five households to one. Basically, you can spend as much time as you have finding homes for these things, or you can throw them all away, or somewhere in-between.

Old shoes can be recycled. I would throw the pot away, but you could use it as a planter. Put holes in the bottom, or rocks for drainage.

Places to take assorted items vary from town to town. In Portland, I'd take some of these sorts of things to Free Geek, SCRAP, etc. Some thrift stores, if they can't use your clothes, will sell them in bulk, e.g., to rag makers.

Are there free piles where you live? These are typical free pile finds in medium foot traffic areas. Sometimes people will go past your pile and want a thing or two. Just remember to deal with whatever's left after it gets picked over.

You can use tote bags to give people gifts in, instead of wrapping paper.

See also: freecycle, craigslist free section, buy nothing project [requires facebook], local groups, and so forth.
posted by aniola at 11:39 PM on December 22, 2017 [2 favorites]

You need one box / drawer / container. One... okay, start with one per room.
In goes the trash you no longer need, but can't "justify" tossing.
When it gets full -- sort through it. Be harsh. If you can't recycle it immediately (not "I'll turn that tea kettle into a planter for my ivy... which I don't have....") then -- Toss. It. Out.
Ease of cleaning ("Where did I put that dustpan... under the pile with the tea kettle?")

And this is why you only get one junk box... because if it doesn't fit in your miscellaneous trash receptacle... you guessed it -- Toss. It. Out.
You are allowed to live in a clean, healthy space. You deserve this.

The moldering landfill? Somebody is getting paid to work there -- you're going to put them out of work? Nah, toss that garbage that you no longer use and reward yourself with a beautifully uncluttered space.

If you can't think of a purpose for that trash, why wish it on someone else?
Keep your weekly garbage collectors employed. If you feel guilty, greet them and give them a thank you card (no, not the tea kettle with an ivy -- they probably have a few already.)
posted by TrishaU at 12:05 AM on December 23, 2017 [8 favorites]

For the old chargers and cables: do you have a local hackerspace? I can't get enough 5v switchmode power supplies, and I expect other voltages would be useful to people.

Also: I second freecycle.
posted by pompomtom at 12:07 AM on December 23, 2017 [2 favorites]

Old shoes that are misshapen or have holes or are otherwise not fit for reuse

Not fit for reuse as shoes. Quite probably fit for reuse as flower or herb pots.
posted by flabdablet at 1:39 AM on December 23, 2017

My local Best Buy recycles chargers and cables.
posted by Borborygmus at 3:17 AM on December 23, 2017

In my area, there are "green bins" everywhere where clothing and shoes can be recycled (it's separate from the thrift shop "reuse" stream).

If the pan has too many different materials in it to go in your regular recycling, throw it away. Unless you have other more substantial metal around, in which case a scrap metal collector will pick it up for you to recycle.

Recycle the notebooks.

The other stuff, if you live somewhere that gets any foot traffic, set it outside for a few days to see if any of it disappears, and then throw it away.
posted by metasarah at 5:27 AM on December 23, 2017

Our local landfill has a free section we call 'the mall'. you can put anything there. last week someone brought in twenty empty coffee cans with lids and they were gone in five minutes. I always take empty styrofoam shipping containers I get from Omaha Steaks. People love that kind of free stuff. You should find out where a local landfill is that has a free section. You can take worn shoes here and someone will take them but athrift store would probably throw them away.

They also have a metal pile where you can throw any kind of metal including a small teapot.

My local Goodwill gladly takes old cords, people come in looking for them all the time.

Some Goodwill's accept stained clothes because they have a processing department that makes rags out of them that they sell by the bagful. Call them.
posted by 17.5002 at 5:45 AM on December 23, 2017 [2 favorites]

In San Francisco, you can put worn-out textiles in a clear bag and in the recycling bin. Goodwill also takes textiles to recycle, as someone else mentioned, even if the clothes/socks/whatever can't be used in their current state. Most Goodwill also accept non-working electronics. This site can help you find out what to do with specific items.

Thanks for caring! I know San Francisco is trying hard to get to zero waste to landfill, so if you happen to be there, the city may have additional resources.
posted by pinochiette at 6:36 AM on December 23, 2017

Colleges often have a 'free box' where you could put scuffed shoes and things like that , things that might get thrown out by a thrift store but a college student might love.
posted by 17.5002 at 6:58 AM on December 23, 2017

Whenever I have Stuff I Need to Get Rid of, I put it in a box, take a picture of the contents, and post a list of the contents and their conditions on Craigslist. The box goes out to the curb, and interested parties get notified of its location with the warning "first come, first served". Almost everything disappears within a day.

New York City holds swap meets every quarter, and someone from my family will often take a bag or box of unnecessary clutter to it, and then "go shopping" to see if there's anything we'd like to take home. The only rule is to never bring back more than you took!
posted by Soliloquy at 7:52 AM on December 23, 2017

If I put stuff like that on the curb with a FREE sign, it's gone before I can return to the house.
posted by humboldt32 at 9:53 AM on December 23, 2017 [2 favorites]

earth911 is another site that can direct you to recycling resources. I entered "shoes" and my zip code and was directed to Puma and Nike stores, and North Face.
posted by hydrophonic at 3:11 PM on December 23, 2017

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