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5 Alternatives to Throwing Things in the Trash

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Sometimes it seems almost impossible to avoid throwing things in the trash. However, even if you don't change your lifestyle to avoid buying things like disposable diapers and pre-packaged raw meat, educating yourself about disposal options and then thinking two or three times about each item you dispose of can really decrease the amount of trash you send to the landfill. Consider these five alternatives to throwing redeemable materials in the trash.

1. Re-use

This doesn't work for everything, of course. But there are a surprising number of things you use in everyday life that are just as usable after their first use as they were before. Try using some of these items multiple times:

  • Disposable water bottles. If you refill each water bottle once after it's empty, you've just halved your water-bottle-disposal impact on the environment for the day. Or use the same bottle over and over for a week at a time, eliminating your water bottle disposal for days on end.
  • Resealable plastic bags. Those sandwich baggies can actually be washed out each night and left open to dry. They're not dishwasher safe, but if they were holding something non-messy like a sandwich, usually all it takes is a little swish of soap and water and a good rinsing.
  • Re-closable food packaging. Does your lunch meat come in a plastic container with a re-sealable top? When it's empty, wash it out and use it to carry your sandwich to work the next day. 

2. Re-purpose

This term is almost synonymous with the catchy new term "upcycle." If you can hack your shopping bags into strips and create a throw rug from the remains, have at it. Or if you're not the crafty type, save up re-purpose-able items for that one crafty friend who's always doing clever projects. In addition to old clothes and grocery bags, you can repurpose items such as these:

  • Window blinds
  • Worn-out linens
  • Junk mail
  • Picture frames
  • Doors, mirrors, windows
  • Cosmetics bottles

The list could go on almost forever. If you're about to throw something away and it doesn't seem totally nasty, try to think of some way it could be used for something else.

3. Donate

If you can't think of a good use for it and your crafty friend doesn't have time or can't find any potential in it, maybe your rejected items can be used by someone else. Why not donate them to a charity-run thrift store? You'll feel good about giving stuff to charity, but you won't be inconvenienced because it was stuff you didn't want anyway. Everybody wins.

4. Compost

Composting is a great way to do something productive with whatever food scraps your dog refuses to eat. Aside from bread products and meat products (which tend to attract vermin), you can dump almost any food-related items into your compost bin. If you do it right, you can even store a compost bin in your kitchen. Or, to make the mixture even more attractive to your houseplants, you may opt for a worm bin

5. Recycle

Recycling can be so easy, especially if your city offers pickup at the curb. You'll have to follow the municipal regulations about what you can recycle, but usually it includes plastic food packaging (other than styrofoam), all or most types of paper, cardboard, glass bottles, and more. It's a great way to dispose of seemingly useless stuff that's made of perfectly good materials.

As you can see, thinking about each item before tossing it in the trash has a good chance of helping it escape that fate. Click here for more info about what you can reuse and recycle.