You Should Never, Ever, Ever Throw These 9 Things in the Garbage


Spring cleaning typically means throwing away everything ‘cept the kitchen sink—all of which we covered in April’s Bathroom Minutes magazine. But it doesn’t have to. Some of your junk, like the nine items below, doesn’t belong in a landfill. For a few reasons…

1) They can be put to good use.

Boxes. TVs, printers, computer monitors and small appliances are easier and safer to move in their original packaging. You might have to sacrifice precious closet space for now, but that’s better than opening a loose box of home-theater components after your movers get through with them.

Printer Cartridges. Conventional wisdom suggests that when your printer cartridges run dry, you toss them and then head over to your local office supply store. But if you don’t want to trade your first born for a little ink—print cartridges are famous for being super pricey—hold onto your empties and refill ‘em at stores like Costco, Walgreens or CVS. It’s easier on your wallet and the environment.

Squeeze Bottles. Don’t go tossing the bottle once the ketchup runs dry. Instead, send it through the dishwasher, and fill it with any number of sauces for convenient squirting. Or, if you really want to hack your kitchen, fill the bottle with pancake batter for the ultimate no-mess, no-drip, silver-dollar-pancakes-like-you’ve-never-seen-before pancake pourer.

2) They’re bad for the environment.

Batteries. Though it might be tempting to play trash basketball with your old batteries, treating your batteries like, well, trash is a no-no because they’re toxic. Instead, recycle them: Standard batteries can be sent to an HHW facility, rechargeable batteries can be recycled at stores like Ikea, Walmart and Staples and your old watch batteries can be dropped off at your local jewelry or watch store.

Paint. Throwing out your old paint is almost like engaging in chemical warfare if it ends up in a landfill—or worse—in a street drain. Paints contain solvents and volatile organic compounds that are extremely toxic to sanitation workers, contaminate septic tanks and can even leak into groundwater. Consider donating those paint cans to your local school, theater or nonprofit. If they won’t take ‘em, your local HHW center will.

Your Broken Phone. Smashed and cracked cell phones often end up in landfills despite containing toxic heavy metals like lead and cadmium. But you don’t even have to be an environmentalist to see the value in pulling your old tech out of the garbage. It’s just good dollars and cents, considering companies like You Renew or Gazelle will pay to recycle them for you.

3) They can be made into something cool.

Corks. Whether you’re the occasional celebratory champagne drinker or a full-on wino, you’re bound to find yourself up to your neck in corks eventually. Fortunately, corks can be put to good use. Get “DIY” with them and make a bath mat, a bulletin board or a floatable keychain.

Tin Cans. Big fan of canned beans? Canned chili? Campbell’s chicken noodle soup? Instead of tossing the leftover cans, bring out your inner Pintrest-er by giving them a fresh coat of paint. Voila! You’ve created crafty pencil jars for your desk at work, or planters to green-ify your house.

Binder Clips. You or your spacey office manager buy the industrial-sized box of binder clips instead of the regular-size box? Don’t bind up what you need, and toss the rest. Take them home and use them as cable corrals, make them into a makeshift minimalist wallet or use them to keep the toothpaste tube rolled up.

Turns out, one man’s trash really is another man’s treasure.