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Don't Throw it Out - Reuse, Recycle Alternatives
Last updated 2018.07.11
With a little effort, ingenuity and information, it is amazing what doesn't have to go into the trash and off to a landfill site. The specific re-use and recycling alternatives listed below may only be applicable in my local community (Ottawa, Ontario, Canada), but may be instructive as to how you can dispose of items you no longer want without contributing to the landfill explosion.
If you think the item is still marketable, then there are established means of trying to sell it: classified advertisements in local newspapers or specialty publications (e.g. Pennysaver, AutoTrader); garage & yard sales; notices on bulletin boards at work and some stores; consignment stores; flea markets; auctions and so on. Of course, you may also be able to give the item away to a friend, relative, co-worker or someone else you know could make use of it. If so, that's great. This page is primarily about things that have little or no apparent commercial value, or you are not prepared to make the effort to sell and for which you have no obvious recipient in mind. The objective here is to keep those things out of landfills.
If you have an item that requires repair, but it is not obvious where to get it serviced or acquire parts, try the Internet. For example, The Repairs Depot is a site with hundreds of repair and parts ideas and contacts.
If you have an item not listed below, consider placing an advertisement your local community newspaper. Several have a free service for readers who want to give things away instead of throwing them away. Look in local papers under the "Looking For" and "Articles Wanted" headings to see if there is someone who wants what you do not. Check the Yellow Pages for the product - there may be someone who will accept them. Also look under the recycling heading.
There are several organizations that are known for accepting materials still in usable condition for resale or use in less-fortunate countries, such as the Salvation Army, Goodwill stores, Hope Services (745-2930), St. Vincent de Paul, Cerebral Palsy, Canadian Diabetes Association (746-4633), etc. Call any of these to see if they are interested in what you are discarding. Most will arrange to pick them up at your home.
Canadian Diabetes Association
The slip provided by the CDA in the Ottawa area regarding their
This article has been removed. A revised version may be put in its place when time permits.
The City of Ottawa recycling (Blue Box, Black Box) program focuses on common household waste materials. Simply place these materials in the Blue or Black Box container on garbage collection day and your work regarding the recycling of these materials is done. Additional Blue and Black Box containers can be obtained at Home Hardware stores in Ottawa at a very reasonable cost. Contact the municipal government regarding replacement boxes if yours is damaged beyond use or you have moved to a new location in the region that and your new residence does not have a blue box and a black box. As the city's recycling program continues to change over time, the following list of what can be recycled via your boxes may not be correct.
Starting in 2010 (after many years of promises), the City of Ottawa is starting a Green Box program for organic waste.
There are several businesses in Ottawa-Carleton that make a point of taking back the used-up products that they sold to you. Check with the businesses you patronize to see if they participate in this program.
If you are also composting, this should cover a great deal of the waste produced in your household, or even your business.
Many assembled items cannot be recycled in their assembled form, but can be if they are disassembled into component parts.
If you have significant amounts of a material that you discard on a regular basis, contact the Recycling Council of Ontario at 1-800-263-2849.
You may also wish to consult the Peace and Environment Resource Centre's Waste-Line for other suggestions.
If you are interested in receiving materials discarded by others or have an idea of how to re-use or recycle an item not noted here, send us an e-mail , and we will add your item to the list below.
Alphabetical Index of Re-use and Recycling Ideas
Aluminum Pull Tabs
It is not an "urban legend", and it is no miracle either. They cannot be exchanged directly for wheelchairs or hours of dialysis treatments - those are "urban legends". The pull tabs, if collected in sufficient quantity, can be sold as scrap aluminum for a few dollars a pound. If you have been collecting them, and don't know what to do with them, check with some local charitable or service organizations - they may know of someone who is collecting scrap aluminum for fundraising purposes if they do not themselves. If you are in the Ottawa area and want to unload a bunch of pull tabs, Bells Corners United Church will accept them for fundraising, or send me an e-mail. I am told Girl Guides Canada also takes donations of aluminum pull tabs. However, you can always toss them in the blue box as well, in the past few years the can makers have changed the composition of the tabs and cans to make it easier to recycle them together.
Appliances - Large
The region charges CDN$30 to remove large appliances set out as household trash. Instead, call a business that sells and services used appliances (e.g., Billy's Appliances at 725-9932 or the Appliance Recycling Plant at 226-3843). They may be prepared to pick up your unwanted appliance for free (depending on age and condition).
In some cases, the appliance may be easily fixable. General Electric, Whirlpool, Frigidaire, Electrolux, and Jenn-Air parts (to name a few) are readily available at many hardware or plumbing stores. If the appliance is not reparable, it can be taken to a scrap metal merchant who will buy it for the shredded steel value. N.B.: refrigerators and freezers must have their refrigerant removed by a qualified technician first. Most scrapyards will not accept a refrigerator or freezer without documentation to that effect.
Appliances - Small
While it may not seem worth fixing to you, there are some small appliance repair shops that might be prepared to take an item for free to fix it up for re-sale or use it for parts for other units.
Batteries - Automotive
Most places that will sell you an automotive battery will also accept them for recycling. Several will pay a core fee (usually about CDN$3.00 per battery) for unwanted automotive batteries. Scrap merchants will also usually pay a small amount for automotive batteries.
Batteries - Dry Cell
Home Depot stores will take dead dry cell batteries back. Dry cell batteries include the conventional 'AAA', 'AA', 'C', 'D' and 9-volt batteries (zinc-alkaline) that we tend to use in flashlights, portable radios and other noisemakers, etc. The bins are usually by the entrance doors.
Batteries - Nickel-Cadmium (NiCad)
Take them to your local Radio Shack. They will accept all NiCad batteries for recycling, as well as some other rechargable types (e.g., NiMH).
There are people who refurbish and sell used bicycles. If you do not know of someone like this, check the Pennysaver during bicycling season and there are usually a few ads indicating the vendor has a variety of bicycles for sale and performs servicing. These operations will usually accept used bicycles. Some schools and community organizations have annual bicycle "exchanges" where you may be able to get a small amount for your bicycle. Check the Take It Back program as well.
Re-cycles in downtown Ottawa accepts unwanted bicycles to refurbish them and put them back into service.
Dave's Percy St. Bike Path, 407 Catherine, Ottawa, Ontario -
A big favourite with retailers, blister packs are those display packages with a cardboard backing and the item sealed to it with a clear plastic covering. They aren't so great for recycling. Still, you can peel all the plastic off and still recycle the remaining boxboard. You can cut out the portion of the plastic with no cardboard or glue attached, and generally recycle the uncontaminated portion of the plastic (prior to May 2004 in Ottawa). The remaining bit of plastic that is forever bonded to a layer of boxboard fibre is not recyclable.
After you have finished lending a book out to your friends and relatives, and have decided you don't want it anymore, take it to a used bookstore. Not all used bookstores are interested in all types of used books - they often specialize in certain types of books, so you may have to call or visit more than one to distribute all the books you have.
Some hospitals (especially long-term care facilities) maintain small libraries of books for their patients. If all else fails, books can be recycled as a paper product.
The Habitat ReStore will accept donations of new and used building materials. They are located at 1335 Leeds Avenue. Telephone (613) 744-7769. Check the Take It Back program as well.
Campbell's Soup Labels
Bells Corners United Church accepts Campbell's soup labels for fundraising purposes.
In the National Capital Region, try http://www.cedresrecycles.com/"> Re-Source Intégration (Cèdres Recyclés)or call them at 819-205-3232. Pick-up within 24 hours. There is a $5 charge for pickup.
You can also include the clippings in your yard waste materials which are picked up for free in your weekly curbside collection in Ottawa.
In the Ottawa area, please contact me.
As an alternative, you can call Hope Services at (613) 745-2930.
The region picks up Christmas trees for a couple of weeks in early January each year as part of its recycling program.
If the clothes are still of significant value, consider trying to sell them at a consignment shop. Otherwise, consider donating them to one of the organizations that accepts donations of clothing.
Contact you local dry cleaner. Most will happily take all the clothes hangers (in usable condition) that you can supply. Otherwise, they are scrap metal or plastic (see those entries).
Computers and Related Equipment
Some computer stores will buy or accept old computer equipment for resale as used. I am aware of the Komputer Korner stores in Kanata and Ottawa that do this. We like Twenty-Twelve Electronics Recycling because they don't automatically scrap everything that comes in. They have an outlet to re-sell items that they believe have remaining useful life. Computer Recyclers and Bits and Pieces Computer Recycling also accept e-waste for scrapping. In some areas, the Telephone Pioneers accept old computers and refurbish for use by schools and non-profit organizations. If the equipment is non-functional or too old to be of any commercial value, some scrap merchants will accept old computer equipment for the scrap metal they contain.
Construction Materials - see Building Materials
Decks - see Pressure Treated Lumber or Building Materials
Lots of things these can be used for. If you know someone that has laying hens and distributes/sells the eggs, these are almost always a needed item. I have also heard that many food banks receive eggs in industrial size crates, and can use the retail size cartons for distribution of the eggs in more reasonable size containers.
All egg cartons can be used to sort and store small items, like buttons, screws, nuts, bolts, washers, seeds. However, caution is required in handling to ensure that the contents don't get spilled into adjacent compartments.
Foam egg cartons can be used as palettes for small quantities of water paints, great for our budding junior artists. Some paints (acetone based in particular), may react with some types of foam or plastic cartons. Paper cartons don't stand up well to liquids.
The clear plastic egg cartons make good little greenhouses for starting seeds. Use a small peat pot, crushed paper cup or seed buttons (the things that come compressed and dry, then swell up when watered), and potting soil as required, plant the seed and presto, easily transplantable seed starter compartments in sets of 12.
To keep down slugs in the garden.
Shops that service electronic equipment, and especially those that sell second-hand units, will often accept surplus equipment, working or not. Depending on age and condition, they may even pay for such items.
Contact stores that carry used sporting equipment - they may also handle used exercise equipment.
Take them to Lenscrafters or other optical stores. They have a program that re-uses prescription eyeglasses in developing countries. Check the Take It Back program as well.
Contact the Ottawa Food Bank, Shepherds of Good Hope or other such organization to see if they can use what you are discarding. Given the Food Bank's City Harvest program and the operation of "soup kitchen" opeations, you may surprised by the types of food products they will find useful.
There are stores that buy second-hand furniture for re-sale. Some stores will take such items on consignment. There are also organizations that collect used furniture for re-sale (e.g. Salvation Army, St. Vincent de Paul).
Garden Waste - see Yard Waste
Grass can be mulched and spread back onto the lawn. Otherwise, grass clippings are compostible material. If you cannot compost them, collect them in paper bags and put them out for the region's semi-annual (spring and autumn) composting pickup program.
In the Ottawa area, please contact me.
You've repaired your garden hose to the point the remaining pieces are too short to be useful, and then it develops another leak. It still isn't time to throw it out. If it is a pinhole leak, consider putting more holes into the hose and making your own soaker hose for watering the garden. If you already have enough soaker hoses, remove the repair ends as most are reusable, and keep the short length of hose for other purposes. When tying a tree for support, insert the wire through a length of the hose so the wire won't cut into the tree. Cut a piece to length, slit it lengthwise, and place it around the wire handle of buckets or paint cans so the wire won't cut into your hand.
Ink Jet Cartridges
There are several refill kits available for ink jet cartridges - black and colour. Check your local computer store for availability.
Jars are handy for storing small items in the kitchen, workshop, craft area and more. Durable, easy to open and close, easy to see what is inside. Be careful about using them in an environment where the jars are likely to get broken. One cute idea I have seen is to attach the lids of small jars to all 4 sides of a length of 2-inch x 2-inch lumber, then screw the jars into the lids. Use 2 screws per lid so the lid will not rotate around a single screw. Leave some space between lids, so that the jars can be easily accessed. This works best with a number of matching bottles, and a few spare lids. The tall baby-food jars are ideal for this purpose, as are the tall, thin jars often used for olives and some types of pickles. A support base is built the same length as the wood supporting the jars, with arms at each end going up. The arms are slightly longer than the jars. Small holes are drilled into each arm near the top, and screws are driven into each end of the length of wood, through the holes in the arms (the holes in the arms being slightly larger than the diameter of the screws). Now the assembly of jars can rotate within the base, allowing easy access to any of the jars. Place small items like nails, screws, nuts, bolts, washers, rivets, sorted by size, into the jars. If you need to take a jar away for a project, top it with one of the spare lids. Label the jars with tape if this is helpful. You can even write on the inside of the lids to indicate which jar is currently away from its place.
Instead of disposing of grease and fat drippings produced by cooking, save it to make suet for feeding birds. Place the drippings into a re-usable plastic container with a lid (plastic 1 litre ice cream / sherbet containers are ideal) until nearly full. Store in freezer until needed. Place the frozen grease into a mesh bag (such as that used for cooking onions, opened only enough to insert the frozen grease), then hang the bag outside in a location accessible for the birds, but preferably in an area that is in shade most of the day. Don't hang these outside during warm weather. Best when temperatures are near or below freezing.
Camp and children's activity crafts often call for small pieces of leather, so before throwing out that handbag or wallet, consider giving it to someone or an organization that could use it in a craft activity.
What to do with burned out light bulbs? Use them in a craft activity. If you are in the west Ottawa area, and can't find anyone else crafty to give them to, then give them to us. Any shape or size (except fluorescent tubes). We will take compact fluorescents.
Some used bookstores will also take your magazines, usually paying a token amount for them if they are in good condition. The Queensway - Carleton Hospital accepts donations of used magazines for use in their waiting areas.
Check out this link at permies.com for some ideas on re-purposing Mason jars from a contributor in Kingston, ON.
Buy milk in those 3 x 1.3 litre bags? Instead of throwing them out when empty, slit them along the top edge, rinse them out and let them dry. Being clear, reasonably tough and a convenient size, they are very handy for storing all sorts of small items for hobbies, sewing, small car parts and other projects. Roll over the top, staple them closed and you have visible, dust-free storage for small items. I store model train cars and engines in them - perfect for HO gauge and sometimes have to use 2 bags to cover long O gauge cars and engines. When you are finished with them, they can still be put out for recycling.
In the habit of tossing the odd rusty nail, bolt or other bit of metal in the trash bin? Establish another large container for scrap metal and throw those bits in there instead. Take the contents to a scrap merchant occasionally. You might even get a couple of bucks for it. It is more valuable if you can sort out the different types of metals (e.g. aluminum, copper, brass, iron, steel) - saves the recycler the effort.
Mixed Material Containers
Several types of food containers have a cardboard exterior lined with plastic or foil, and often metal ends. In this form, these containers cannot be recycled. Consider re-using them to store things around the house. You can, with effort, disassemble them to their component materials and then recycle those.
Take it to your local Canadian Tire store or where you bought the motor oil. I understand that anyone that sells motor oil in Ontario is required to take back the used motor oil.
Sometimes referred to as bubble wrap, styrofoam peanuts or popcorn. Check with your local Mailboxes, Etc or similar operations. Most are prepared to take clean packing materials for re-use. It saves them buying new packing materials.
Take it to the Toxic Household Waste facility at the regional dump (Trail Road).
Pallets - see Wood Pallets
Plastic is pervasive in our society, and there are so many kinds. The blue box recycling programs accepts pretty much all plastics. However, you may also consider some re-use alternatives.
Plastic bags are quite handy on occasion. We use the grocery bags as packing material around fragile items. We rinse out the milk bags and use them to hold small items to be stored. See-through and dust-tight when tied, clamped or stapled shut. Some use the cleaned milk bags for storing frozen food, especially handy for camping or when reduced bulk and weight are considerations, or there simply are not enough conventional containers available. Handy as "boil-in-the-bag" containers for individual servings of pre-made meals or sauces. I am told that some other groups have a need for plastic (grocery) bags, including libraries, food banks, used book stores, thrift stores, bring-your-own-bags grocery stores (e.g. Price Chopper) and dog owners (for poop-and-scoop).
[Site no longer exists: http://frugalliving.about.com/cs/tips/a/blplasticbag.htm] Frugal Living's Plastic Bag pages
Plastic food containers (e.g. margarine tubs) can be reused to hold leftovers. The smaller tubs make good one-serving containers, which can be frozen and even handed out to family and friends. Note that some plastic food containers are not appropriate for use in microwaves, as they can leach material from the container into the food (look for a symbol or wording indicating the container is microwave-safe).
Plastic bottles can be re-used for several craft items. I have used 2-litre plastic bottles (full of air) as flotation for floating docks. I understand at least one boat-builder also uses them as secondary flotation within flotation pontoons. I keep some (almost full of water) in my freezer to help preserve the temperature in the freezer when the power goes out. I use them (filled with water) as thermal mass in our house to help dampen temperature swings in the house. We have also used them (empty) as bowling pins to entertain children. Smaller bottles can be re-used to hold home-made beer.
Don't burn it! It gives off toxic gases when burned. Instead, find someone with an upcoming project that will use pressure treated lumber and give them your scrap pieces. Or find someone who builds decks and similar things with pressure treated lumber and see if they can use your excess material. When doing such projects I often find the need for a small scrap to use as a shim or to reinforce a corner, and hate to have to cut up a new piece to get the small bit I need.
Re-sealable Plastic Bags
Normally used for food storage, after they have been used, rinse them out and dry them. If they are not suitable for reuse for food storage, they may still be usable for the storage of other items like small car parts or craft items. Ideal for items where labeling could be useful (e.g. for dating the contents), where the see-through material makes it easy to view items without opening the bag, and where the bag may be opened and closed often.
Hate scraping the ice off the windshield of your car? Take an old shower curtain, and cut it to size - slightly wider than your windshield so that the ends can be tucked between the door and the windshield pillar to hold it in place. If you are fortunate enough to have a shower curtain with the magnets in it, use the edge with the magnets. They will cling to the car roof above the windshield and also help hold the plastic in place. May also be feasible for the rear window if the rear roof pillars are not too wide. You can also attach suction cups (available at craft stores) to the ends of the cover to help attach to the rear roof support pillars.
Skates - Ice - Children's
Some schools accept donations of children's ice skates for use by their students in physical education classes if they have an ice rink adjacent to the school. Some schools and community organizations have skate and ski exchanges.
Snow Suits and Cold Weather Gear
Contact the Snowsuit Fund or drop off the articles at one of several locations that accept donations on their behalf (e.g. some Canadian Tire stores).
Some sporting goods stores will accept used sporting goods, either on consignment or purchasing it (e.g. Play It Again Sports, Kunstadt Sports). For certain items, e.g. ice skates and skis, some schools and community organizations hold skate and ski exchanges where you might be able to sell your equipment for a small sum.
Call AM at (613) 727-3985. They buy televisions, working or not.
Try Tiretek at 613) 692-1658 or Ripp Tires at (613) 225-3344.
Tools - Battery Electric
Working or not. Send me an e-mail describing the tool, only if you are disposing of it for free.
Tools - Corded Electric
Including lawnmowers, snowblowers, etc - working or not. Send me an e-mail describing the tool, only if you are disposing of it for free.
Ask your local computer store if they sell refilled toner cartridges. If they do, they will probably accept your old one. Canon Canada has a program where you can return their empty cartridges. In the U.S. and Puerto Rico, Canon provide the ability to have the cartridges couriered back to Canon at their expense.
Toys - Battery Operated
Send me an e-mail describing the toy (including ride-on types), only if you are disposing of it for free.
Toys - General
Some consignment stores have a specific section for toys and childrens books. A local day-care provider might also be pleased to receive toys with useful life remaining. Also keep an eye out for local charities that take gently used toys for re-issue at Christmas time.
Look for a shop that specializes in parts and service for several brands of vacuum cleaners. They may take your old machine for the parts.
Call AM at (613) 727-3985. They buy VCRs, working or not.
Vegetable Oil (used or surplus - any type)
In the Ottawa area, e-mail us. We will make arrangements to pick it up. Until we can do so, please store it in plastic containers with lids or caps, such as the containers the oil was originally delivered in.
Contact Ranger Enterprises (128 Walgreen Rd Carp ON)at (613) 836-7263.
Vines, stalks, roots, small branches, etc. are generally compostible. Either compost them yourself (preferable), or put them out for the City of Ottawa's regular (spring through autumn) composting pickup program (in reusable containers or paper bags).
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