ABC's of Recycling,

D – the Do’s & Don’ts of Donations

Mar 24 2022

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ABC’s of Smart Recycling

Free-cycling. Re-use Stores. Thrifting. The idea of passing on the things we don’t need has spurred huge growth in what’s known as “the secondhand market.” According to Axios news, Gen Z is driving the increase in sustainable shopping. But all of us can appreciate the good donating does to keep useful things in circulation and out of landfill. These days, clothing, housewares, furniture, even durable medical goods have found a place in the second-hand shopping market–and for accepting your donations.

Donating seems like a win-win. You help a non-profit and Marie Kondo that closet/basement/garage. All good, right?

Hang on a minute! If you really want to be smart about donating, you need to know a few facts.

The Dos & Don’ts

Share Good Stuff

  • Family and friends first. Before you drive that stuff to a donation center, check to see if family, friends or neighbors could use the things you’re done using. Here’s a good check: Would you be embarrassed to offer that thing to family or friends? That’s a pretty good sign it’s not worth donating.
  • In other words, don’t donate junk. Donations that are moldy or broken should be thrown out. And they will be. By the donation center. Those broken or dirty items end-up costing the charity you meant to help. No nonprofit wants to discourage donations–which means donors need to take responsibility and be more careful. Trust us, “Goodwill doesn’t want your broken toaster.”
Donations safely packed in boxes! Nice job!

Got your donations all ready? Here’s a few suggestions to keep in mind.

Think Safe, Sanitary, Secure

  • Safe – If you have anything sharp like scissors, forks, knives or push pins make sure they are packed carefully so that no one gets hurt when they sort the items. If you’re donating fragile items, be sure to cushion them with newspaper or maybe some soft clothing.
  • Sanitary – Nobody wants to buy something dirty, damp or musty. If your donation items have been sitting in your shed or garage, they need a quick once over before you drop them off.
  • Secure – Pack your things in cardboard boxes instead of plastic bags. Boxes are better for the environment and they better protect your donations. For items with multiple parts, like a tea pot and lid, it’s a good idea to use masking-tape to secure them together. Taping the box also helps when you donate items with multiple pieces–like puzzles or board games. Or try sealing them in a zip lock bag. You don’t want to lose pieces! Shoes should be rubber banded together or shoelace-tied together.

Once everything is clean and ready to go, make a couple of calls or check online to determine the best place for your donation. Contact a local charity or business that might get use out of your items. Think florists for vases or local animal shelters for pet carriers or high quality, gently used pet supplies — but call ahead to make sure your items are in current demand. You might even check to see if your neighbors have items to be dropped off at the same location. One trip saves time and fossil fuel! 

Finally, remember to check the hours that donations are accepted. Businesses can be fined for having thing piled up outside the door after hours.

Where to Donate

Here’s a few places in our area to consider for donations.

Let us know of others and we’ll add them to this list!

Another way to clear your clutter is to use an online resource. Nextdoor, Facebook marketplace, and ebay run groups or sections that operate like online garage sales. Price it cheap and for “local pick-up” and watch it fly out the door! Freecycle and the Buy Nothing Project are places to offer things to your neighbors at no cost–and see what others are offering, as well. Finally, ThredUp is a clothing-recycler that will send you a bag and allow you to ship your items to them. If the clothes are valuable to them, they will even pay you for them!

Last but Not Least

There are a few things you should NEVER donate (But people DO, so we thought we should say it):

  • Recalled items (Toss these or return to manufacturer)
  • Anything infested with bugs (If it can’t be disinfected, that goes in the garbage)
  • Hazardous waste or HHW. (Read more here)
  • Paint (Special recycling locations and handling instructions)
  • Old medicines or syringes also have special collection locations. (Read more here.)
  • Undergarments or dirty clothing (Textile recycling is the place for these.)
  • Water damaged items (Mold=no sale)
  • Used (germy) face masks (yuck)
  • Used makeup (more germs. Nope)
  • Expired food (Nobody wants that. Toss it)

Donating isn’t as simple as piling your junk in the trunk and dropping it off.

Want to avoid the hassle of organizing donations? The best thing you can do is avoid over consuming. Modern life seems to mean buying too much of just about everything everything. According to Adam Minter, the author of two books on eco-consumer topics, the average thrift store in the United States “only sells about one-third of the stuff that ends up on its shelves.” Unfortunately, much of the rest ends up as trash.

So, buy smart and donate smart — this is the best way to support people and the planet!

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