Local charities and donation centers appreciate your donations, but there are some items they just can’t take. What should you do with household hazardous waste, heavily worn items, mattresses, and other donation dilemmas?
Leftover paints, solvents, automotive fluids and cleaners can leak into the soil and ultimately into groundwater. Fluorescent lights contain small amounts of mercury, and computers and cell phones contain metals that can leach into the soil. It’s not safe to throw this household hazardous waste in the trash, so what can you do with these items?
Larger cities usually have a recycling center that will take household hazardous waste. If not, there may be certain days when communities accept these items for safe disposal. If your locale doesn’t offer either of these options, local businesses may take some items for recycling, such as a commercial garage that accepts motor oil to be recycled. Some big box electronic retailers also offer to recycle unwanted items.
Donate to charity?
You can also donate used electronics to organizations like The Salvation Army and Goodwill Industries, which have programs for refurbishing and reselling them to the public through their stores. In some circumstances, these groups will give cell phones to the needy. Your donation not only keeps devices with potentially polluting metals out of landfills, they help those who cannot afford new ones.
If your electronics are damaged beyond repair, take them to a municipal disposal site, since charities will not be able to resell them.
Other donation dilemmas
Household hazardous waste is not the only puzzler when it comes to donating used goods. What about mattresses and heavily worn furniture and clothing? Can charitable organizations use them?
Many charities will not accept used mattresses and box springs because laws across the country require these items to be sanitized before being offered for resale. Tight budgets make it impossible for some charitable organizations to accept these items. Other organizations, however, such as the Salvation Army, National Furniture Bank Association, Catholic Charities and local homeless shelters, will accept mattresses and box springs under certain conditions. The same is true of worn sofas, chairs and other furniture.
Charities that sell goods through resale shops are inundated with donated clothing. After sorting, these groups keep only the best items for resale. Clothes that are too worn or otherwise undesirable end up being passed to other resale shops or sold to organizations that ship them to developing countries. Although this sounds compassionate, these items compete with the products of local textile workers, hurting business and employment in those countries. If a garment is really worn or stained, it’s preferable to repurpose it in your own household by cutting it into rags for household cleaning.