What'cha Gonna do with all that Junk? (Spring Cleaning edition)

Spring is right around the corner (although it may be hard to tell with the wacky weather we're having)!
 
Spring Cleaning is a great opportunity to throw open the windows, let some fresh air in, and make our homes clean, happy and efficient spaces.
 
But what do you do with the pile of stuff you've decided you no longer need? Here are seven things to do with all that junk instead of sending it to the landfill:
 
 
1. Recycle Electronics
 
Does your pile of stuff include an old DVD player, a defunct router, or a broken laptop? It's actually illegal in California to throw electronics into the garbage! 
 
If your electronics are still usable or just need a little TLC before someone else can use it, places like Green Citizen will take the items for free (and even pay you for certain items!) and repair it if possible before selling or donating to non-profits! 
 
To properly recycle your e-waste, check with stores like Staples and Best Buy, both of whom have free extensive e-waste recycling programs, and will even accept items not purchased from those stores. 
 
There are also many free e-waste recycling events in Contra Costa County. For example, DVC hosts a free e-waste collection event a few times a year at their Pleasant Hill campus. Keep an eye out for these types of public events!
 
Most importantly, make sure the e-waste recycler is e-Stewards certified, which ensures that no hazardous e-waste will be exported to developing countries, deposited in landfills or incinerators, or sent to prison labor operations. The recyclers must also erase all data from storage components.
 
 

2. Take your Household Hazardous Waste to a proper facility!
 
Common items such as paint, motor oil, old batteries, pool chemicals, fluorescent lamps, etc. must be properly disposed of at your local HHW facility.
 
Contra Costa County has three HHW facilities: West County, Central County, and East County - as long as you are a resident of the county, it is free to drop off these materials
 
Here is an example of other acceptable HHW materials.

3. Drop off old medication at pharmaceutical drop-off bins
 
Don't flush your old pharmaceuticals down the toilet! This include prescription and over-the-counter medication. Waste water treatment plants are not equipped to remove all traces of pharmaceutical chemicals - if you flush your drugs, some of the contaminants will reach local waters. 
 
Properly dispose of them at your local pharmaceutical drop-off bin, located in most cities' police stations. 
 
A few resources on where to drop-off medicine here, here and here
 
 
4. Post on Freecycle, Yerdle, or Craigslist
 
There's a new buzzword going around, called the "Sharing Economy." This is the idea that significant resources (raw materials, energy, water, transportation, money) can be saved when people share or give away still-usable things to keep them in the loop, because that is one less item that needs to be manufactured, packaged, transported, purchased and disposed of again. 
 
You could easily do a quick shout-out or announcement on your Facebook page to see if any friends could use something you are trying to get rid of, or you can check out these three sites:
 
The Craigslist "Free" section allows users to post items they want to give away for free, which also usually helps items find homes faster.
 
Freecycle is a free version of Craigslist. You join a local group (based on geographic proximity) and are instantly connected with others in your community to easily give (or take!) items for free.
 
Yerdle's motto is "Why buy when you can share?". Members post items they are willing to give away, and Yerdle connects them to a grateful receiver. You can find free kitchenware, electronics, camping gear, and more.
 
 
5. Repurpose
 
There are so many ways to "up-cycle" your unwanted materials into something new and usable! You can find ideas on how to repurpose just about anything, on sites such as Pinterest, Etsy, or a quick Google search.
 
Not only will you be getting a second life out of your items, but it's a fun exercise in creativity and resourcefulness. 
 
 
6. Donate It
 
There are plenty of local non-profit organizations that will happily accept your donations. Some will even come and pick it up! Look for places like the Salvation Army, Goodwill, St. Vincent de Paul, or other thrift stores. Plus, some donations are tax deductible!
 
 
7. Use It
 
Spring Cleaning tends to be associated with throwing things away, but oftentimes we come across items that we forgot about but can still use! Or perhaps we think of a new use for an old item. 
 
 
And don't forget - BUY LESS STUFF
 
One way to reduce the amount of stuff we have to deal with when we're Spring Cleaning (or cleaning any time of year) is to buy less stuff.
 
Take an extra minute when you're shopping, to think about whether the item is actually useful and durable (better to buy good quality over buying a large quantity of replacements), or whether you can make do with what you already have or what your neighbors and friends have that they can share with you.
 
Have fun, and good luck with your Spring Cleaning! 
 
 
(Article adapted from this one)

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