How To Dispose of the “Hard Stuff”

When you’re ready to get rid of stuff, some of it is easy to dispose of. Old junk mail with no identifying information? Recycle it. Borrowed book? Back to your friend. Single, unmatched sock? In the trash.

Then there are the things that are harder to deal with, either because you suspect they might be of use to someone, somewhere; or because it’d be pretty darned bad for the world if you just secretly threw them out.

In a recent piece in ReadyMade Magazine , authors Jennifer Boulden and Heather Stephenson culled useful resources for the disposal of many of these difficult items. I’ve just presented the links here (along with some of my own), but do check out ReadyMade for great ideas on recycling, building things, and being creative on a budget.

Clothing and Housewares

Don’t forget to record the value of your donations for tax purposes!

Salvation Army, including to find a local Salvation Army store 
Find a local Goodwill store
St. Vincent de Paul
Find a local St. Vincent de Paul store
Dress For Success
Find your local Dress For Success affiliate


Lions Club
New Eyes For The Needy These folks also take any hearing aids you may have to donate: they sell them and use the money to provide glasses (not actually eyes, despite their name) to people who could not otherwise afford them.

Motor Oil

Many auto shops, like Jiffy Lube, will take used oil and dispose of it properly.


Retailers like Goodyear will often take these for a few dollars apiece. You can also call your local waste management company to see when they have free collection days.


I know we were taught to flush expired or unused medications down the toilet for safety, but this causes all of these chemicals to show up in sampled river water. Check with your local pharmacy to see if they’ll accept expired prescriptions for incineration. ¬†Earth 911 also lists local drop-off locations for disposal.

Packing Material

Technically, they’re EPS — Expanded Polystyrene — but we know them as styrofoam peanuts. They do their job, then live on eternally. Give them a new lease on life by bringing them to a store near you (find one on the Plastic Loose Fill Council‘s site) for reuse.


Earth 911 lists local drop-off locations for recycling cans and reuse of paint. They are also a good resource for recycling building materials like roofing and drywall.


Some stores, like IKEA will take alkaline batteries for proper disposal. Rechargeable batteries can be recycled, but make sure you bring them to an appropriate drop spot.

Cell Phones

Bring them back to where you bought them. Most cell phone stores will recycle all brands of cell phones. Also, many of these stores have bins where you can donate phones for refurbishing and use by clients of battered women’s shelters.


The Cristina Foundation will take old-but-working machines to redistribute to people who can use them. Visit E-Cycling Central for a local place to bring your dead computer. You can also check out TechSoup for a good article on factors to consider when donating computer equipment and a good international database of places to donate working computer equipment.

General Hazardous Waste

Garden and pool chemicals, paint remover, batteries… where do they go when you’re finished with them? The US Environmental Protection Agency provides a handy map with links to HazMat disposal resources across the country.

Ink Cartridges

The Funding Factory and the Recycle Fund will give you a bit of cash for your cartridges before they recycle them. Many national office supply stores will also take these and recycle them for you.


Recycle that rug! Keep it out of the landfill: contact Carpet America Recovery Effort for a recycling partner near you.


I tend to donate these to local thrift stores, but you can also donate them to your local library, or even do something fun like setting them loose on a journey through Book Crossings.

Everything Else

Freecycle it, or throw it out.