Eco-friendly ways to move stuff on
What’s your priority?
When deciding how to move stuff on, the first thing you need to be clear about is what’s important to you.
You may be committed to disposing of your stuff in the most eco-friendly way you can.
You may want as much of your stuff as possible to go to loving homes.
You may want to maximise the amount of money you make by selling your unwanted goods.
You may simply want to stuff on as fast and as easily as you can.
It’s likely to take longer for you to clear your clutter if you’re committed to finding the most eco-friendly way to dispose of things, finding good homes for your stuff and/or making money.
After all, the quickest and easiest way to get rid of things is to put them out for your refuse collection service, or take them to your nearest municipal waste site.
My personal priority would be to find the most eco-friendly way to move things on.
However, when you’re clearing a clutter backlog, you may want to compromise.
While there’s no right answer, I hope the information on this page will help you.
In the reduce, reuse, recycle waste hierarchy, reuse comes before recycle.
If you’re committed to being as eco-friendly as possible, you’ll only recycle goods that no-one is able/willing to reuse.
So the first thing to consider when moving something on is whether it can be used by someone else. Ways to get stuff to people who might use it include:
- Giving to family/friends. This could be as birthday gifts or gifts for other special occasions (regifting), or just passing them on for no particular reason (check they actually want the items though. They may feel cluttered too!)
- Donating goods to charity shops. You can find out where there are charity shops near you and get information on the sort of goods they accept here. Don’t leave goods outside charity shops while they’re closed as your bags may get torn open and the goods end up all over the street and/or stolen. If you’re in the US, you can deduct the value of goods you donate to charity from your tax. Click here for details.
- Selling through, for example, ebay, Gumtree, Amazon, local classified ads or a car boot/tabletop sale.
- Using a specialist agency such as StuffUSell to sort your stuff, sell what they can on ebay and dispose of the rest in as environmentally friendly way as possible. This can be a good option if you have a large amount of stuff to get rid of.
- Using a house clearance agency. Again a good option if you have a large amount of stuff to clear.
- Having a swaps/sharing party.
- Websites for giving stuff away, including Freecycle, Freegle, AnyGoodToYou, EcoBees, JunkSniper. Givemo enables you to offer your stuff to anyone, anywhere (the taker pays for the postage). You can give away a wider range of goods on these sites than charity shops can sell. For example, through my local networks, I’ve either given away or accepted:
- Broken jewellery
- Corks from wine bottles
- Empty jam jars
- Opened cosmetics/toiletries
- Broken electrical items
- Empty plastic yoghurt pots
- Empty cardboard shuttlecock tubes
- Empty plastic thread reels
- Candle wax.
You can find more advice on Freecycling here.
Some people leave their unwanted goods outside their home, perhaps with a ‘please take’ notice on them. Bear in mind that, though this can be a quick and easy way to move stuff on, technically it’s fly-tipping. Plus, if it rains or the goods stay outside for several days, they can deteriorate beyond use. Not to mention be unsightly for your neighbours.
- Websites for trading goods, such as Swapshop.
Different Councils collect different materials for recycling. Find out what your Council collects, and what you can take to local recycling sites by visiting Recycle Now and entering your postcode.
Recycle Now also tell you how your goods are recycled so, if (like me) you’re a recycling geek, have a nose around it.
Recycle This has been running since 2006 with the aim of finding and sharing ways to recycle things.
Additional ways to move stuff on
Here are some additional suggestions for specific types of ex-clutter.
Brita water filters
CDs, DVDs, computer games, VHS video cassette tapes, audio cassette tapes
Clothes and textiles
Corks from wine bottles
Organic kitchen or garden waste
Opened cosmetics and toiletries
Printer and toner cartridges
Reduce being higher up the waste hierarchy than recycling, reduce your battery use by using rechargeable batteries wherever possible, recharging your batteries with a solar powered recharger, running electrical equipment from the mains whenever possible, and buying appliances that use renewable energy, such as wind-up or solar powered devices.
Shops selling more than 32kg of batteries a year (approx 345 x four-packs of AA batteries) are legally obliged to provide battery recycling collection facilities in-store.
Check Recycle Now‘s searchable database to find out how to recycle batteries in your area.
Recycle Now provides information on how to dispose of unwanted bicycles.
Charity shops do a brisk trade in books and some, such as Oxfam and the British Heart Foundation, have specialist shops to sell them.
Contemporary fiction sells well at car boot/tabletop sales.
There are a variety of websites for giving away and trading books. They include BookCrossing, Read It Swap It, BookMooch and BookHopper. While they’re not the quickest way to move books on, they can be fun. And, as this article explains, I found that becoming a Bookcrosser cured my tendency to hoard books.
Click here for Brita’s searchable database of shops with recycling bins for its filters.
Offer candle wax on your local Freecycle networks. People take it to make into new candles.
Wash and squash food and drink cans and put them in a can bank or your Council’s collecting boxes. I remove paper labels before I open food cans and put the labels in the paper recycling.
Most local authorities also collect cardboard and it’s best to contact your local authority to find out whether you need to remove staples and sticky tape.
It’s worth offering cardboard boxes on your local Freecycle as they are popular with people moving home.
MusicMagpie (http://www.musicmagpie.co.uk) buys secondhand CDs, DVDs and games, to sell on. While you’ll get more for them on ebay, it’s quick and convenient so, if you’re happy to make a small amount of money in return for moving on your music, films and games quickly, it’s worth investigating. There’s an app you can download to your phone, which enables you to scan the barcode on your CDs, DVDs or games to see how much MusicMagpie will give you for them.
You can buy a collection box for VHS video cassettes and/or audio cassette tapes from Terracycle. Maybe band together with friends and neighbours to fill a box. Or encourage a local business to host one.
Gardeners use CDs and DVDs as bird-scarers so they’re worth offering on Freecycle, even if they’re not playable. Make sure they don’t contain personal data though (not that the birds would be interested!)
All those charity bags that plop through your letterbox can easily become clutter. Of course, one way to avoid this is to fill them up and put them out for collection. Watch out for scams though.
If you haven’t got stuff to go in them though, or you don’t want to dispose of your stuff this way, you’re stuck with them as empty bags are rarely collected in my experience.
You can recycle them in the same way as carrier bags.
If they’re from a charity that has a shop near to me, I usually drop them back in when I’m passing in the hope that they’ll be reused (as reuse is higher up the waste hierarchy than recycling).
Do your clothes need repairing? Maybe you’d wear them if you had the time or skills to mend or alter them. If so, how about joining a Local Enterprise Trading Scheme or Time Bank. You build up credits by offering another skill and could spend them on having your clothes altered or repaired.
Most charity shops will also accept unwearable/unusable clothes, which they sell on as rags for recycling. Just label the bag ‘rags’.
In some local authority areas, bras can go into a Bra Bank from where Against Breast Cancer will collect them, sending wearable ones to traders in developing countries, and recycling unwearable ones.
Similarly, you can post unwanted bras to BreastTalk, which sends wearable ones to homeless and under-privileged women in the UK and overseas, and recycles damaged one into quilts for homeless charities and the emergency services.
Don’t forget that textiles made entirely from organic fibres (wool, silk, cotton, hemp, linen/flax) can go in your compost bin or wormery, and can even be made into wormery moisture mats.
Are they the type you get from the dry cleaners? Some dry cleaners will take them back for reuse.
Otherwise charity shops are often glad of them for displaying clothes for sale.
Recycle Now provides advice on what to do with unwanted computers.
Even if you don’t fancy making a cork board (a noticeboard made out of used wine corks) yourself, someone in your area probably does so collect up your corks and offer them on Freecycle.
Some bowling greens put used corks in the ditch around their greens so it might be worth contacting your local club to see if they want them.
Electrical items can be problematic for charity shops because they have to pay to make sure they will pass a PAT (Portable Appliance Test) before they can sell them. And, if they can’t, they’ve lost money. Nonetheless, some charity shops do take them (and even collect them), including the British Heart Foundation and Emmaus.
Broken/not-working electrical items might be useful to Freecyclers for parts.
Otherwise, contact your Council, or check Recycle Now‘s searchable database to find out which municipal recycling sites have a section for electrical items.
Food can be offered on Freecycle, even if it’s opened or out of date.
Alternatively, raw vegetable matter can be composted in a compost heap/bin and all types of food (including meat and cooked food) can be composted in a worm composter.
The Emmaus movement enables people to move on from homelessness. Residents work full-time collecting, renovating and reselling donated furniture. This work supports the community financially and enables residents to develop skills and rebuild their self-respect. This page gives information on what goods your nearest centre takes and whether they collect.
The Furniture Reuse Network is a national body which supports, assists and develops charity reuse organisations across the UK. Its website has a searchable database of reuse organisations with social and/or environmental aims.
Glass is collected by all local authorities both from kerbsides and glass banks.
However, if a bottle is returnable, return it rather than recycle it. So return milk bottles for example. Remember, reuse is higher up the hierarchy than is recycling.
Wash bottles and jars and remove lids. Metal lids can go into can banks. Click here for advice on disposing of corks.
When using bottle banks, put the glass in the correct banks by colour. Blue glass goes in with green glass.
Only use bottle banks during the day, to avoid disturbing people who live nearby.
Reuse or recycle the bags and boxes you brought the glass in. And of course, avoid littering the area around the glass bank with them.
Only bottles and jars can be recycled through glass banks. Don’t put in glassware (drinking glasses), pyrex, windowpanes, ceramics or mirrors. They can damage the equipment in recycling plants and prevent the recycled glass from being suitable for making into new containers.
Vision Aid Overseas collected unwanted glasses (though not cases). Every optical practice in the UK and Ireland can get glasses to Vision Aid Overseas free of charge. You can phone Vision Aid Overseas on 01293 535016 to find out which optical practices in your area collect for them.
The highest quality glasses (about ten per cent of those collected) are used in its international development programme, while the remainder are recycled.
Single earrings, broken chains, jewellery with bits missing, stopped watches…Bags of broken jewellery go fast on my local Freecycle, taken by people and charities that remake the pieces into new jewellery.
Or you can post it to Marie Curie Cancer Care, Freepost, Central Recycling, where donations are hand sorted by a professional recycling company, which sells valuable pieces and breaks-up/melts down damaged items for sale to a specialist scrap merchant.
Another option is to request a freepost bag from Jewellery Recycling. Pop your broken jewellery in the bag and send it back to them. They’ll sort it and turn it into cash for charity and you can specify the charity (or type of charity) you’d like the money to go to.
While glass jars can be recycled in the same way as other glass, and metal lids can be recycled with cans, jam jars can also be reused. And remember that reuse is higher up the hierarchy than recycling.
Jam jars with lids can be used to hold homemade jam while jars without lids can be used as candle holders. If you don’t want to use them yourself, you could offer them on your local Freecycle.
Put incandescent light bulbs into landfill, not glass banks.
Low energy light bulbs on the other hand must not go into landfill as they contain mercury. Contact your local Council to ask where to dispose of them.
If you break a low energy light bulb:
- Open a window or ventilate the room.
- Put the broken bulb in a sturdy (though not necessarily airtight) plastic bag.
- Wipe the area with a damp cloth and place the cloth in the plastic bag with the broken bulb.
- Use sticky tape to pick up small residual pieces of powder from soft furnishings, and add the tape to the plastic bag.
- Seal the bag.
- Place the bag in another, similar bag and seal that one too (this minimises cuts from broken glass).
- Dispose of the sealed bag as advised by your local Council.
Take any medicines that have gone past their expiry date, or which you know you won’t use, to a pharmacist. Any pharmacist will take them, free of charge. Return them in their original packaging where possible as some medicines need special handling.
Never put medicines down the toilet or sink. They may pollute the water supply.
There are loads of organisations that will buy your mobile phone and either sell it on to developing countries or, if it’s beyond use, recycle it. And there are a variety of websites that enable you to find the best deal for the make and model you’re looking to sell. Just type ‘sell mobile phone’ into a search engine.
Contact your local Council to find out whether they collect organic waste for composting (and encourage them to do so if not!), and/or where to take garden waste.
Packing materials like bubble wrap and packing peanuts/wotsits tend to go well on Freecycle.
Community RePaint is an award-winning UK network of over 50 community-based paint reuse schemes, managed by an employee-owned, non-profit distributing environmental consultancy called Resource Futures. Unwanted paint is redistributed to local charities, community and voluntary groups and individuals in social need.
It’s easy to get most paper recycled. Most, if not all, Councils collect it, plus there are paper recycling banks all over the place.
There’s no need to remove staples, glue, paper clips (though you could remove them for re-use) or plastic windows from envelopes, unless you are specifically told to by your Council.
Not all local authorities recycle envelopes as some paper mills can’t process the types of glue used in envelope production. Check directly with your Council or Recycle Now.
Plastic windows aren’t normally a problem for paper mills as the window can usually be screened out during the manufacturing process. Check your Council’s recycling guidelines to see if you need to remove these.
Padded ‘jiffy’ envelopes can’t usually be recycled. You can reuse them though. Just stick a piece of paper over the old address. And, if you’ve got a lot of them, I find it easy to get rid of them through Freecycle.
You might like to remove stamps though.
Shred any paper with personal information on it, to protect your identity from theft. There is conflicting advice around as to what counts as personal information. Some people go so far as to shred anything that has so much as their name, or their email address on it. Some also feel that you should shred credit card receipts that show only the last four digits of your card number.
There’s also conflicting advice about how to shred. Some people feel that a strip-cut shredder is adequate, others than you should use a cross-cut shredder (which cuts in two directions, reducing paper to diamonds rather than strips).
Bear in mind though that shredded paper is less valuable for recycling than non-shredded paper and that this is even more true of cross-cut shredded paper. The reduction in the length of the fibres reduces the quality of the recycled paper that can be produced.
Not all Councils collect shredded paper. If yours doesn’t, you might be able to avoid sending it to landfill by using it as animal bedding (mixed with straw) or composting it. Or you could offer it on Freecycle for such uses.
If you are shredding credit card receipts, remember that thermal paper can’t be recycled, so you shouldn’t put the pieces in with other shredded paper going for recycling. (Thermal paper, paper impregnated with a chemical that changes colour when exposed to heat, is that shiny paper that receipts are often printed on and that old fax machines used).
Opened cosmetics and toiletries
It’s worth offering these on Freecycle.
Plastics present several recycling challenges, including the fact that different types of plastic can’t be recycled together. The different types of plastic are identified by Plastic Identification Codes (PICs), as shown in this table taken from Wikipedia.
Nonetheless, more and more local authorities are now accepting plastic bottles via recycling banks or kerbside collections. When recycling plastic bottles, you will usually need to remove lids and wash & squash the bottles. If they have a loosely-attached paper label, I remove this before washing, and put it in the paper recycling.
Take all types of plastic lids into any UK branch of Lush, for recycling into the black tubs they use for their products. The only type they can’t recycle are pump action sprays.
Reduce the number of plastic bottle you use by avoiding buying bottled water. Buy a good quality water bottle instead and fill it with tap water. UK mains tap water supply is totally safe to drink and of extremely high quality: one of the best in the world. In taste tests across the UK, people can rarely tell the difference between bottled water and tap water if they are served the same way (fresh from the mains and cool).
Also reduce your use of carrier bags. Take durable shopping bags with you when you go shopping and turn down offers of carrier bags. Remember reuse is higher up the waste hierarchy than reuse or recycling. Some local authorities accept carrier bags for recycling. And there are carrier bag collection points in most Sainsburys, Tescos and Somerfields.
Contact your local Council or check Recycle Now‘s searchable database to find out what plastics are recycled in your area.
Printer and toner cartridges are collected by a wide range of local and national charities, to raise funds. Some such organisations are listed here.
Some dry cleaners will accept safety pins as they use them to attach labels to garments.
Most UK Councils collect food and drink cartons, otherwise known as tetrapaks. Check Recycle Now‘s searchable database for the situation in your area.
In some local authority areas, there are Toy Banks on the street for complete, reusable toys, including teddies, dolls, games and battery-operated toys. The toys are distributed within the UK or taken to Pakistan, where they are cleaned, repaired if necessary, and sold on at affordable prices, to raise money for charity.
Many local and national charities collect used stamps to raise money. Just put “used stamps” into an internet search engine.
Some charities, such as Oxfam and the British Hearth Foundation, run specialist charity shops for music, including vinyl records.
I’m committed to helping people reduce their environmental impact. If you know of other ways to move on unwanted goods, please tell me about it via my contact form so I can spread the word.
And, if there’s something you’re struggling to find a way to dispose of, let me know and I’ll see if I can find an eco-friendly solution. You’re probably not the only one.
Overwhelmed by clutter? I can help. Email me now.
Brighton (01273) 699993 or 07952 791821
Non-UK + 44 1273 699993 or + 44 7952 791821