Alternatives to just throwing it in the trash
Table of Contents
If you have ever wondered who would want that old or discarded item that otherwise would go into your trash, check out the list below. Since I live in Portland, Oregon, this list primarily describes resources available in the Portland area, but many of these resources are national chains or have equivalents in any city, or can be reached from anywhere.
Also, some other regions and towns maintain their own recycling directories.
Some of the groups listed below will take even broken or used up items, either to recycle the items or to reuse them. To make such groups easier to spot in this list, a relevant portion of their entries will be this color. As far as soiled or stained items (e.g. furniture or clothes), not all groups want them; you should contact the group in question first before arriving in person to donate.
From time to time, I shall choose a particular Website to draw attention to. Sometimes this will be one of the sites already on this list that I feel deserves more notice; other times it may not be a waste reduction site at all, but instead something related which I feel readers of this Webpage might be interested in.
Many people who find their way to this Webpage do so because they wish to help protect the environment. Such people might be interested in the currently featured site of the moment, the Rainforest Site, which offers opportunities to aid in the conservation of rainforests, just by clicking.
Previously featured sites are listed in the archives.
The group Freshwater Aquarium Enthusiasts NorthWest would be happy to take: working aquarium equipment (filters, heaters, test kits, lighting, etc.); non-working but fixable equipment; tanks of all sizes; stands & hoods for tanks. If you have any fish or aquatic plants that you no longer want, they will take those as well.
Also, despite the name, they will accept saltwater tanks, but no other saltwater equipment or creatures at this time. To contact them, write to group founder Jon Passmore at email@example.com.
Batteries often contain toxic materials, so it is worth it to try to recycle them. For household rechargeable batteries, try your local Radio Shack. For car batteries or other lead-acid batteries, try calling Battery X-change Inc. at (503) 232-6584.
The Community Cycling Center will take donations of anything related to bikes, especially during their annual holiday drive in which they build bikes for needy children.
You could always sell them to Powell's bookstore (or some other bookstore that handles used books). Title Wave Books might very well take any books you have that Powell's is not interested in, and then you would be helping out the Multnomah County library system.
Or, if you are willing to put in a bit more effort, you could "release" your books through BookCrossing.com.
Easy category: Goodwill, the Salvation Army and many other charities that take clothes donations exist in most towns in the U.S. If you are housebound, in many areas the ARC will come by and pick them up. You could donate them to Volunteers of America Oregon. Also, Human Solutions works with low-income families, and will happily take donations of clothes and shoes.
If you specifically have women's business clothes that you wish to part with, Dress for Success will take them.
Should you find yourself in possession of a shoe without a mate, those can be given to Oregon Artificial Limb. Call them first (503-231-4876) because they do not always have room for more donations.
Also, for those that live in or near Eugene, Oregon, clothes (and many things from the 'Computers' and 'Household Items' categories below) can be donated to Womenspace. I imagine that other organizations that aid battered women would take such in-kind donations as well.
Two of the many places that buy used CDs in the Portland area are Everyday Music and Music Millennium.
If they still run, try donating them to your local schools. If they do not still run, give them to Free Geek.
Old crayons (including stubs or pieces) are remade into new forms at Rebecca's Recycled 'Riters.
Lions Clubs International will recycle eyeglasses (including reading glasses, and sunglasses with or without a prescription).
If you work for a business looking to give away, for example, leftover food from a catering event, you can get some help from Metro's Food Donation Guide. If you are a private individual looking to donate food, try a local soup kitchen, or the Oregon Food Bank. If you are looking to donate pet food, see the section on pets at the end of this page.
Many things in these categories can be donated to The ReBuilding Center. Or try the Portland, Oregon branch of Habitat for Humanity's ReStore.
Volunteers of America Oregon will take many items in these categories, but no building materials and only small appliances.
Another option is the Oregon Community Warehouse. They aid families who are struggling financially. They take all kinds of furniture, linens, dishware and other kitchenware, vacuum cleaners and other household appliances. But they do not do repairs, and they will not take certain items themselves if they are too big. However, if someone has a really large item (e.g. a freezer, a washer, a doctor's X-ray machine, a jungle gym or a portable shed) that is not too old, OCW has a list of over 600 case managers and can help hook you up with a taker.
Also, Journeys of the Heart has taken an old futon --- will they take yours?
The Straight Ahead Shelter does not appear to have a Website at this time, so here is their contact information:
Straight Ahead Shelter PO Box 699 Cornelius, OR 97113 Phone: (503) 357-7543
No, I'm not kidding. Have you ever wondered where they get the hair to make wigs? The group Locks of Love will take your hair (at a length of 10" or more at a time, please) and make it into wigs for children undergoing cancer treatments, or who have other medical reasons why they do not have hair of their own.
Lions Clubs International will recycle hearing aids, and they have many hearing aid recycling centers worldwide, including one in Portland.
Extra coat hangers will often be accepted at your local dry cleaners.
If your local recycling won't take "aseptic" cardboard boxes (many juice boxes are of this type), try www.aseptic.org for more information.
For things such as blankets and any personal hygiene items: if the items are unwanted but have not yet been opened (such as white elephant gifts from Great-Aunt Eleanor), the United Way will take them. The United Way aids refugees the world over.
Or, you might try Human Solutions.
Animal shelters will not only take donations of blankets and pet food, but also other things that are perhaps less obvious, such as towels, (clean) rags, crates, bowls and tennis balls. For a list of some animal shelters, see the section on pets at the end of this page.
If you are trying to get rid of something that is physically attached to your house, like a tub or a cabinet, try The ReBuilding Center.
Of course, it is fairly easy to recycle magazines (see Metro if you need help with this). But if you want to donate them (esp. current ones) somewhere where they will actually be read, try your local nursing homes, assisted-living centers, or the Veterans Hospital.
If you have plants that you no longer want, you can get rid of them and help fund pet spaying and neutering at the same time by contacting Pet Over-Population Prevention Advocates.
Kids from financially strapped families can always use these, and teachers do a lot of work filling in the gaps. You can too, by giving those old rulers or pens or what have you to Schoolhouse Supplies.
If what you have is an advanced calculator, you might well be able to sell it to a student at your local college. For example, Portland State University has areas where you can post an ad to sell your calculators and used textbooks.
Telephones of all kinds (especially newer ones) often contain toxic materials, so it is worth it to try to recycle them.
For cellular telephones, try www.recyclewirelessphones.org or Free Geek (see next paragraph).
For all other telephones (and for headsets that plug into telephones), give them to Free Geek. Free Geek will take them even if they do not work; in fact, they'll take them even if they are in pieces.
If they are pet toys, try an animal shelter. (For a list of some animal shelters, see the section on pets at the end of this page.) If the toys are for children, Human Solutions might well take them.
Do you have a vehicle that is still in working order, but that you don't want anymore? Of course you could sell it, but if you wanted to donate it to a good cause, Volunteers of America Oregon will take cars, trucks, motorcycles, even boats.
For information about items not covered in the above list, try the following places:
There are Websites out there on which people post listings of things they wish to give away.
There are also Websites out there on which people engage in barter and trade (which Freecycle, for example, does not allow).
Unfortunately, we do live in a world in which some people dump unwanted animals almost like they are trash. Thus, I thought I should tack an extra section on at the end of this list.
For those who would like to find a good home for a pet, its offspring or other unwanted (or wanted but "un-keepable") animals, a good place to start is the Oregon Humane Society. The Cat Adoption Team is a no-kill shelter in Sherwood, OR, and its Website has an excellent list of other no-kill shelters in or near Oregon. For dogs, there is Border Collie Rescue, and there are similar Rescues for many of the major breeds (e.g. dachshunds) all around the country; these groups can often be found by searching the Web. Also, specifically for rabbits, you might get at least some useful advice from Rabbit Advocates. For fish and aquatic plants, see the Aquaria section above.
Any of the above organizations would be happy to take appropriate donated items, including pet food, blankets, pet toys, etc.
Another possibility: Freecycle Portland (mentioned in the previous section) can be used to try to find new homes for pets.
Many thanks to all the people who have made wonderful suggestions for additions to this list. There are too many of them to thank them all here, but a large percentage of them came from the Freecycle Portland mailing list.
Do you know of another organization that should be on this list? Is any of the above information now erroneous? Do you have any other feedback about the groups above? Send me mail!
(Last updated 9/14/02004)