Category: recycling

TV Disposal and donations

As the holidays get closer and most of us will be getting some cool new gadgets, there are some great options to donate any old electronics, including televisions. In most US cities, various charities will pickup older working televisions to be provided or sold cheaply to those who cannot typically afford a brand new flatscreen (although prices have been historically dropping, even as they get skinnier/lighter). In upstate New York, my parents had the Red Cross pick up their old and very heavy 40″ CRT television.

Be sure to look around your specific area, as there are numerous charities that will provide pickups typically – Red Cross, Goodwill Industries, Salvation Army, and Habitat for Humanity, to name a few. For non-functional televisions, some companies around the Boston area that will charge a small fee are Electronix Redux, Surplus Technology Solutions, and CRT Recycling Inc.

For those looking into free pickups, MassDEP works with Recyclesearch to assist Massachusetts residents in finding a dropoff location or a pickup provider. Just navigate to the website and enter your address to find the best option. Also, Best Buy and Staples have previously been helpful in getting rid of old electronics for free (please check with them first before dropping off – do your due diligence!).

….if you are an electronics recycler, don’t end up like some of the companies listed in this article!

Soles4Souls – Donate used shoes!

The site Soles4Souls takes donated used shoes and provides them to families and individuals around the world. At this point, they have already donated 26 million pairs of shoes over their 10-year history. They even take half pairs, in hopes that they will match them up one day in the future.

This charitable organization helps to provide shoes (and clothing) during global disasters. Mainly formed after the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004 and Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Soles4Souls looks to help the immediate needs of people in disaster zones. Surprisingly, they are also taking excess shoes and clothing and working to help micro-enterprises. These businesses receive a steady supply of high-quality/low cost product, and help to bring people and their families out of poverty.

So if you’re doing some fall cleanouts, look to donate to Soles4Souls. While their main drop-off locations are a bit further away from Boston, you can ship 5 pairs (or more) to their distribution centers. They will also provide a tax receipt for charitable donations.

Clothing donations – undergarments

I’ve long wondered what happens to clothing donations, especially now that I know that I can donate clean undergarments (underwear, bras, lingerie, etc). Yes, if you did not know already, there are a ton of donation bins that accept clean/non-soiled undergarments, and even some local Goodwill locations will accept them.

There is also a service through The Bra Recyclers that will accept gently used bras and will get them to the less fortunate that cannot afford bras. Some readers have mentioned using the bra pads as shoe liners to absorb sweat and cushion your feet. Even for undergarments that are a little more worn but clean, donation bin providers tend to take these and shred them for the fibers. They can then re-sell these massive amounts of fiber to the fiber industry, and help fund their operations.

So for the next time you clean out your old undies or bras, make sure to give them a quick wash & dry, and donate them to a good cause.

Single use society – video

We have quickly become a single use society over the past few decades, largely due to consumerism. There’s a brief Wikipedia article about throw-away society that goes into how much we have grown into this type of culture that just discards everything, without a simple thought. Jeff Bridges also narrated a recent video for the Plastic Pollution Coalition that goes into this topic:

What the heck can I recycle in Boston??

Obviously every city/town and state is different with what gets trashed vs what gets recycled. Lots of friends tend to ask me “can I recycle paper plates or paper towels?”, “can I recycle plastic bags?”, and “can I recycle styrofoam?”, to which the answer (for now) is no. Paper plates and paper towels should be tossed into your trash. Plastic bags cannot be recycled through the city of Boston, but can be brought to plastic bag drop-off points (Plastic Bag Recycling post) where they will eventually be turned into composite lumber. Styrofoam is being more and more widely recycled in cities and towns, but unfortunately it is not accepted in Boston just yet. I have used ReFoamIt in the past, but they are closing their doors unfortunately. Towns like Reading, Carlisle, Newburyport, and Newton have some drop-off areas for foam (more locations can be found with this map).  So to help some folks out, take a look at the following…

Items that can be put in city recycling bins (should be mostly clean, not filled with food/liquids):

  • plastic bottles and containers
  • tin/aluminum cans
  • aluminum foil
  • aluminum pie pans
  • glass bottles and jars
  • newspaper, magazines, paperback books, envelopes with windows, brown paper bags, sheets of paper, telephone books
  • pizza boxes, cardboard shipping boxes, and cereal boxes (flattened, cut up if bigger than 3′ x 3′)
  • milk and juice cartons
  • rigid plastics – plastics without the recycling symbol on them like laundry baskets, toys, and buckets

Items that can be recycled in other ways:

  • styrofoam – check with your local town, or simply reuse for insulation/packing material (hint, we will take clean styrofoam)
  • plastic bags and plastic film/wrap – drop off at a local plastic bag drop and ensure they are clean and dry
  • electronics – go through us (we do free pickups) or any of our competitors
  • large appliances and furniture – Goodwill and some other charitable donation companies offer free pickups (National Grid even picks up old refrigerators and freezers for free and will sometimes pay you for them)
  • composting – Cambridge is on top of their compost game and have pushed residents to start composting old food and yard scraps (along with coffee grinds and newspaper, and multiple other compostable materials). Check with your local municipality to see if they accept compost, or if you have a house with a garden, setup a compost bin!

If you get down to it, there’s really not too much items that would make it to landfills if everybody just thought a little bit about where their items could possibly go.

Further info on plastic bag recycling – video

Related to my previous blog post, I found this YouTube video that goes a little more into how Trex utilizes plastic bags that you get from grocery stores. I was actually surprise myself to see that some other polyethylene material that can be collected for re-purposing are bread loaf bags, fruit/vegetable bags, dry-cleaning bags, and newspaper bags. Other thin plastic material that is collected are originally used to wrap cartons of water bottles and wrap shipping pallets. Just take a look at the video further below (don’t mind the echo of the narrator).

To find out which stores in your area accept all of these clean plastic bags, just take a look at

Plastic Bag Recycling

Nowadays, a lot of Boston region towns and cities are looking to curb the impact of plastic bags on the environment. Instead of these bags ending up in landfills or littering the ground, another way to get rid of clean plastic shopping bags (and some other clean plastic film or bags) is to bring them to your grocery store. A lot of grocery stores have the plastic bag drop-box where you can bring back clean plastic bags and leave them in there. A question that frequently comes up is, where does the grocery store send these large amounts of plastic bags?

Typically the plastic bags get recycled into composite lumber. Two major companies produce this lumber – Trex Company, Inc. and Advanced Environmental Recycling Technologies. There are also bag collection drop-off bins that might reuse these bags by melting them down to create more plastic bags, giving them another life. According to PBS, scientists at the University of Adelaide can recycle the plastic bags into nanotechnology, which can later be used for multiple applications. After being converted into carbon nanotube membranes, they can be used for energy storage and future biomedical innovations.

One important note is that the city of Boston, and multiple other municipalities around the US, do not currently recycle plastic bags. So even if you put your single-stream recycling into a plastic bag and put it in the recycling bin, these plastic bags typically jam up the process further down the line. Always check with your local municipality to ensure that plastic bags are recyclable or not.