No One Wants Your Broken Stuff

Day 128 – Many people try to avoid throwing things away. They don’t want to add to the endless piles of trash that end up in the landfill. Unfortunately, the next option (for some) is to donate those items. They get boxed up and dropped off at the nearest donation center. Unfortunately, no one wants your broken stuff and all those “donations” end up exactly where you were hoping they would not, in the landfill.

In a recent NPR article, a Goodwill store spokesperson in New Hampshire was interviewed. She oversees 30 Goodwill stores in New Hampshire, Vermont and Maine. Their trash bill adds up to around $1 million a year with about $13 million pounds of waste. This is just one organization, in only three states. Multiply those numbers by thousands of organizations across the country and you have an astronomical amount of waste. Waste that no one cares about or gives a second thought about, because it’s believed it has all gone to a “good cause.”

“A lampshade, which is stained and disgusting and literally falling apart. There’s a small table missing a leg, cracked purple food-storage containers and a used sponge. They’re just a representative sample of the useless stuff dropped off the day before.” – Heather Steeves (Goodwill spokesperson)

Goodwill and other organizations will try to recycle what they can, but when people are donating, what can only be described as trash, then it becomes very difficult.

On Day 72, I shared a list of over 90 items that Best Buy will take and recycle. The City of Chicago has a Household Chemicals & Computer Recycling Facility that accepts numerous items. Click HERE for the complete list of accepted items. I have shared how to recycle clothes and shoes that are not fit for donation. Sometimes a simple Google search can send you in the right direction when looking for a recycler, because your items are not worth donating.

I saw first hand, when volunteering at Cradles to Crayons, the amount of donated waste. The kids and I were put in the toy section. A majority of the donated toys were not considered acceptable. Games with missing pieces, deflated balls, nonworking electronic toys, dolls and action figures missing limbs, random happy meal toys, were just some of the discarded toys. I ended up coming home with two large boxes of toys that were going to end up in the trash. This was just a two hour shift. I can’t even begin to imagine the amount of toys thrown out on a daily basis. I have purchased a Zero Waste Box from TerraCycle to recycle the unwanted toys. TerraCycle has partnered with Hasbro, V-Tech, Leap Frog, Spin Master and L.O.L. Surprise to recycle their toys. You can always drop any of these toys at the monthly Northcenter Neighborhood Association Recycling Popup.

Heather from Goodwill suggests, “The key question to ask before dropping something off is: If you needed it, would you buy it in this condition?”

Tomorrow, supporting fair trade.

Clothes, Part 2: Donating clothes is easy peasy

Picture from Getty Images / Sadeugra

Day 60 – So, at some point you will be faced with clothes that you can no longer use. However, they still have plenty of life left. When this happens you have many options. There are amazing organizations that will take those clothes and give them to those that need them most or use the profits from reselling them to help others.

Here is a short list of organizations you can feel good about donating to. They all have high ratings on Charity Navigator. There are many more out there. You just need to do a little research to make sure your selected charity is transparent and accountable.

  1. Illinois AMVETSAMVETS Department of Illinois is guided by a group of men and women who are dedicated to carrying out the AMVETS mission of improving the lives of our nation’s veterans and their communities they live in. The Illinois AMVETS Service Foundation is supported by donations collected from discarded household goods, bequests, corporate giving, and personal donations. These fundraising efforts are vital in AMVETS doing their best to support Veterans and their surrounding communities. You can schedule a pick-up of your clothing using Donation Town.
  2. Howard Brown Health CenterThe Brown Elephant stores will take your donation and all proceeds benefit LGBTQ health and fund care for the uninsured and under-insured at Howard Brown Health.
  3. Cradles to Crayons – Cradles to Crayons provides children from birth through age 12, living in homeless or low-income situations, with the essential items they need to thrive – at home, at school and at play. They supply these items free of charge by engaging and connecting communities. You can drop off your donations at various location in the Chicagoland area.
  4. Epilepsy Foundation of Greater Chicago – Serving the nearly 140,000 people living with epilepsy in the Chicagoland area, the Epilepsy Foundation of Greater Chicago works to help individuals, and their families, in our community live their everyday lives. Through case management, education, and advocacy, we help you seize the narrative back from epilepsy and take control of your story. You can schedule for a pick-up.
  5. 2nd Chance Thrift Shop – A resale store that exists to help support the efforts of the Animal Care League. Their store is unique in that they have adoptable cats. Many customers love to visit the store solely to visit these wonderful kitties. Located in Oak Park, you can drop off donations at the store during store hours.

It’s nice to know that your old clothes can go on to help others. All they need is you, making sure they get where they need to go.

If you have other reputable charities that accept clothing donations, I would love to hear about them.

Tomorrow, dealing with the well lived clothes that are not fit for donation.