How to Get Rid of Anything: Your Guide to Trash-Free Cleaning

There are over 10,000 landfill sites in Canada that see approximately 31 million tons of garbage each year. In fact, in 2016, Canadian Geographic reported that Canada leads the world in per capita production of garbage. 

Now, that was over five years ago, but the landscape hasn’t really changed. We’re still throwing out much more than we should be, especially when there are much better ways to get rid of household goods than tossing them in the bin.

If you’re looking to make a smaller impact on the Canadian waste management system and take a few steps toward a more sustainable life, it’s time to figure out how to get rid of junk creatively. Luckily, we’ve got the details for you:

How to get rid of… 

Art supplies

When it comes to green cleaning, one thing that’s often overlooked is old art supplies. Everything from extra pens and pencils floating around your house to blank scrapbooking pages and glue can most likely be recycled or repurposed instead of thrown in the trash.

What you can do with these pieces depends on what you have on hand. Items that are still usable can either be sold if they retain value—like a paper trimmer that’s in good condition. Or you can donate them to a local school, scout troop group, or senior centre where they can be utilized. Try to reuse art supplies if you’re left with any.

Batteries

Everyday batteries, like your regular old alkaline, manganese, and carbon-zinc ones, tend to most often get thrown in the trash, but there are better places for them. Battery recycling options can also often be found at local recycling centers or community bins such as Make the Drop and Call2Recycle

Specialty batteries such as car, watch or rechargeable batteries must be recycled properly because they are hazardous waste. Check with your local municipality to find out the process for disposing of hazardous materials. 

Depending on the type of battery and where you got it in the first place, there might also be an option to bring an expired or used battery into the store. 

Books

It’s easy to accumulate books over time, but they’re a pain to pack and move, and they take up a lot of space. If you’ve got a collection of books you need to get rid of, the trash is not the right place to put them. When it’s time to recycle books, often the pages can be thrown into the blue bins. However, the covers can be tricky and where they go depends on what they’re made of. 

But before you rip them apart and throw them in the trash, take a look around your community for places that accept book donations. Often libraries or “books for” organizations accept donations so they can sell them in book drives, you can call ahead to see if they’re currently accepting donations.

If you have newer or rarer books it’s possible you could make money off their sale. Check out online marketplaces like Amazon or Facebook where you can have your own listings and make money—possibly to buy more books!

Baby gear and clothes

If your kids have grown out of their gear and clothes, and you have no plans to save them for the next baby, it’s time to clear them out. But most of these items shouldn’t end up in the trash.

Before you throw them to the curb, there are a few more creative ways you can rid yourself of baby items. If you don’t have any friends or family, members with babies on the way you might be able to sell or donate them.

Selling baby items can be challenging if they’re older than a few years because trends and safety regulations change. If you have clothes that are in exceptional condition, you have a better chance of selling them. You can do it on your own or use a local consignment store to help out.

If selling is too much effort, donating is a good option. Again, while there are definitely places that take baby items, many of them are looking for newer, good-quality goods. Some manufacturers will take back old items for recycling if you can’t find them anywhere else to go. 

Cell phones, laptops, and tablets

You can absolutely recycle electronics but if it’s still in good condition, it can be sold for a decent price. This is most often done through an online, garage sale-like platform such as Facebook Marketplace or Kijiji. 

Pieces from the last few years also have trade-in values at many places—like the device manufacturer or your mobile provider—if you’re looking to replace a device. The trade-in value will most likely be lower than whatever price you’d get on your own, but is less effort on your part.

If your electronics are broken or too old to sell for a worthwhile price, you can reach out to a local repair shop to see if they could use it for parts. Or you can do a quick online search to see what electronic waste recyclers there are in your city. 

But before you get rid of old electronics, make sure that you’ve restored them to their factory settings—don’t simply erase all of the contents as these can still be recovered. 

Clothes

Clothes can be tricky, especially if they’re non-designer. If you have a collection of good-condition designer clothes (or accessories) that you want to get rid of, you can sell these on your own using an online platform like Poshmark. Or you can sell clothing via a local assignment store.

Non-designer clothing that’s in good condition can be donated to a local charity, like Dress for Success, or a second-hand store—there are often clothing-specific bins at local recycling centres. However, if none of those options are available, check to see if your municipality has a recycling program.

Eyeglasses

You can try to sell designer eyeglasses or donate glasses that are not brand-name, so long as they’re in good condition. However, if you have regular old prescription eyeglasses consider donating them to an organization like the Canadian Lions Eyeglass Recycling Centre that helps bring glasses to those who don’t have access to them. 

Furniture

When it comes to getting rid of furniture, it depends on what you currently have. If the piece is in good condition, chances are you can sell it or even trade it in online trading groups Facebook. Although you may not get your original purchase price for common Ikea pieces, every dollar saved is a dollar earned.

If you have more unique furniture that you believe might be worth some real cash, you can actually get it appraised to confirm the value. These more unique, or even vintage pieces, can be worth a pretty chunk of change that you can sell on your own or through a local consignment store.

Halloween costumes

Kids grow out of clothes fast, so chances are you have a few pieces of clothing hanging out in a Tickle Trunk or a closet somewhere.

If you want to get creative when ridding yourself of old costumes, see if there’s a local organization where you can donate Halloween costumes to children that might otherwise go without. Everyone deserves some candy on Halloween!

Halloween costumes are like other pieces of clothing, though they often contain more plastic-based materials—even still, they can often be recycled if your municipality has a textile recycling program.

Kitchen appliances

If you got yourself a sweet new KitchenAid stand mixer last year so you could make real homemade bread and still have your mom’s old mixer on hand, it’s probably time to get rid of it.

Try to sell or donate small appliances if they’re still working. Plenty of second-hand shops sell small kitchen appliances like bread machines and hand mixers for a steal-of-a-deal. Why throw it in the trash if someone can enjoy it?

In the case of small appliances that don’t work, take a peek around the local community for a repair show that might be open to take it for parts. If all else fails, check with your municipality to find out where these mixed-material devices need to be taken.

Light bulbs

Fluorescent light bulbs should never be thrown in the garbage. They often contain tiny amounts of mercury that can be quite harmful. It’s best to recycle light bulbs that have these chemicals by checking out a local program—contact your local Rona or Lowe’s.

Other types of light bulbs such as incandescent, LED, and halogen, can be tossed in the trash. But if you’re already headed out to a fluorescent light bulb recycling centre, take your others with you. There’s no need to take up garbage space if you can get rid of them in a friendlier way.

Makeup

Cosmetics are another item that often ends up in the regular-old trash bin when they shouldn’t. Most consumers don’t realize that these often contain a small amount of lead or other chemicals that shouldn’t end up at the local dump.

You can recycle makeup containers that are empty, so long as you give them a quick clean first. For those that still contain some product, you can look to the manufacturer—places like Mac and Lush take back their branded containers. Or you can look to someone like TerraCycle that has a program set up.

Nail polish and nail polish remover is an entirely different story because they are flammable. These need to be disposed of as hazardous waste material; check with your local facility on how this is best done.

Mattresses

Canadian landfills see a whopping 6 million mattresses per year. That’s a lot of old beds that could have been discarded in a more eco-friendly way, since much of a mattress can be recycled.

If you are replacing an old mattress with a brand new one, it’s possible the company you’re purchasing it from will pick it up and dispose of it themselves. Companies like Sleep Country offer to do this for a small “green fee.”

If you simply want to get rid of an old mattress that you have lying around at your home, you can try donating it if it’s in a good condition and doesn’t have stains. Otherwise, check to see if there is a local recycling facility or program that will accept your used mattress. 

Medicine

Medicines that are expired or no longer needed should not be thrown in the garbage. Regardless of whether they’re prescription or not, it can be dangerous to toss them in the trash. 

To get rid of medicine, first, check the label for instructions. While many flush old medications down the toilet, they could damage the water supply or harm the fish population, so you want to avoid doing that.

If the toilet is not an option (or it’s unclear), then recycling medicine through a local program is the best method of disposal. Local law enforcement agencies often hold “take-back” days for more harmful medicines. Likewise, many pharmacies participate in medicine return programs.  

Nuts and bolts

Unused nuts and bolts that are in decent shape are not garbage. You might be able to sell or swap them using Kijiji or Facebook Marketplace, or hand them over to someone you know who could put them to good use. Some scrap metal yards will also buy used nuts and bolts for cheap, so you could walk away with a little pocket change.

If your nuts and bolts aren’t usable, you’ll want to check with your local waste management facility on how disposal works. For example, in Calgary, these should be double-bagged before being tossed into a black bin. 

What about getting rid of other household goods?

Let’s be honest, there are plenty of other household items that you might want to get rid of, since our list is definitely not inclusive of everything.

If you come across something that you want to get rid of but can’t quite figure out how to do so, see if you can resell, upcycle, donate or recycle, before you throw it out. If all else fails, then check with your municipality to see what goes where.

If you’re looking to focus on more sustainable living this year, download the GarbageDay App so the best tips and tricks can be delivered right to you. There’s no better time to start than today! 

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This article offers general information only and is not intended as legal, financial or other professional advice. A professional advisor should be consulted regarding your specific situation. While the information presented is believed to be factual and current, its accuracy is not guaranteed and it should not be regarded as a complete analysis of the subjects discussed. All expressions of opinion reflect the judgment of the author(s) as of the date of publication and are subject to change. No endorsement of any third parties or their advice, opinions, information, products or services is expressly given or implied by RBC Ventures Inc. or its affiliates.

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