We all know what to do with clothing, dishes, canned goods or books we no longer need. We pack them up to donate to a local thrift store or food pantry. It’s the perfect end to a satisfying afternoon of decluttering.
But many of the common clutter culprits in our homes are collections of items such as dead batteries, spent lightbulbs, worn-out running shoes, outdated eyeglasses and old bubble wrap. And what should you do with the remnants of your pandemic supply stockpile? You no longer need a surplus of masks or latex gloves, but you don’t want to toss them in the trash. It all ends up in a box or bag, ready to be taken somewhere. But where?
Here’s how to discard these items responsibly, or donate them so they can be used by others.
People seem to understand that batteries are made with toxic materials and shouldn’t be tossed in with household trash. But many are unsure of how to dispose of them.
Old lithium batteries — often rechargeable and found in electronic devices, such as cellphones, hearing aids and watches — should be placed between two pieces of tape to ensure they don’t catch fire. Batteries that are higher than nine volts, such as those in some power tools, should also be taped at the battery’s terminals.
Regular AAA, AA, C and D batteries are not considered hazardous waste and can be thrown away with your other trash, except in California, but it’s still safer to either recycle them or discard them with other toxic materials, because they may still have some charge. Home Depot accepts used batteries in its stores, and Lowe’s accepts rechargeable batteries. The nonprofit Call2Recycle also disposes of batteries. Visit its website (call2recycle.org) to find a drop-off location.
Incandescent and halogen lightbulbs can be thrown away in your household trash. They should not be placed in the recycling bin, though, because the wires inside make them unsuitable for standard glass recycling. Experts suggest wrapping both incandescent and halogen bulbs in padding such as newspaper in case they shatter.
LEDs are not considered hazardous waste and can technically be thrown in your trash. But because they contain valuable metal components, it’s preferable to recycle them. They cannot be recycled curbside, but many municipalities and big-box stores accept LEDs, especially after the holidays, when people are looking to recycle decorative LED lights.
Compact fluorescent lightbulbs, or CFLs, contain mercury and shouldn’t be put in your everyday trash. Some hardware retailers accept CFLs for recycling but not fluorescent tubes. A search on the website of Earth911 (earth911.com) can help you locate alternative disposal sites for fluorescent tubes.
The easiest and most responsible way to get bubble wrap out of your house is to give it to someone else to reuse. If you post on a neighborhood group or social media, someone will probably be happy to retrieve and reuse it. Shipping stores may also accept donations, which they can reuse for packages. Call to confirm that your local store accepts donations.
If you only have smaller pieces that aren’t enough to be helpful to someone, then you can recycle them, along with your plastic bags and other plastic film, at your local grocery store or another drop-off location. Check the Plastic Film Recycling website (plasticfilmrecycling.org) for a place near you. Keep in mind that bubble wrap cannot be thrown into your regular recycling bin with hard plastics.
Prescription eyeglasses may seem too individualized to work for someone else, but eye doctors and other medical professionals who provide free care to underserved populations often fit people with donated eyeglasses.
LensCrafters, Pearle Vision, Sam’s Club and Walmart all accept eyeglass donations, as do Goodwill and the Lions Club, which has drop boxes in national chains, local stores and municipal buildings. Check the business’s or nonprofit’s website to see what types of glasses are accepted, such as used prescription glasses, nonprescription reading glasses or new glasses and frames.
Shoes in relatively good condition can be donated along with clothing to nonprofit organizations or thrift stores. However, if your shoes are too worn, they can be recycled into new shoes, playground surfaces, running tracks and sport courts. Nike’s Move to Zero program and Columbia’s stores accept all brands of athletic shoes, as does Asics, which provides a link on its website (asics.com) where you can print a label to return your old shoes and gear. Also check with your local running store to see if it collects old shoes for recycling.
TerraCycle (terracycle.com) sells a “Zero Waste Box” in three sizes, which can be filled with beat-up shoes and returned for recycling. The cost includes a prepaid shipping label. The boxes are relatively large, making them perfect for getting rid of a lot of shoes at once, whether they’re from your family or your local running group.
If you’re hoping to clear out some of the unopened latex gloves, masks and hand sanitizer you stockpiled during the pandemic, call local clinics, hospitals, doctors’ and dentists’ offices, and organizations that help people who are experiencing homelessness to see whether they are accepting donations. You can also try a school, camp or senior-living community.
Nicole Anzia is the owner of Neatnik.