"It can sometimes be tough even to give items away."
Today's SFGate.com has a fantastic resource article for spring cleaning season. Part infobase of organizations you can contact to help remove your "junk" and part exposé on how difficult it is to effectively get rid of your garbage. Some garbage haulers are more green than others as they try to find homes for a lot of the really good stuff that gets thrown away. In a society that is always craving the latest and greatest, even perfectly usable items can be extremely hard to find new owners for. The article tells an amusing tale of finding a home for a brand new toilet.
Not covered in the article is that a lot of electronics are facing a premature death in that they use proprietary batteries. I have an old pocket computer that is basically unusable because I cannot find replacement batteries for it. Coming from the electronics industry, I understand that accessories are a huge profit center for companies where the actual item's margins are painfully getting squeezed. Interestingly, in China of all places, there are calls to standardize the power bricks or AC-DC chargers so that they are more interchangeable. This would mean that you'd be able to plug your mobile phone, MP3 player, digital camera into the same power brick. Imagine how simple your life would be. There'd be a lot less power bricks going to the landfill and do they add up.
But since we aren't there yet and liberally quoting from the article, here are some next best alternatives:
Where to get rid of stuff
Spring cleaning time is here. So what's the most environmentally friendly way to get rid of all that stuff cluttering up your garage? The best thing to do with unwanted items is to reuse them, which saves the raw materials and energy that would be needed to manufacture new versions from scratch. You can sell good-quality items on Web sites like eBay, give them away on sites like Freecycle, or donate them to a thrift store. Craigslist allows you either to sell or give away items. And don't forget the good-ol'-fashioned yard sale. For info, see:
After reuse, the second-best option is recycling (which differs from reuse in that it may involve breaking items down into component materials such as scrap metal). Most Bay Area counties provide online information about recycling bulky waste, from bicycles to building debris. See:
-- www.stopwaste.org/home/index.asp?page=297 (Alameda County)
-- www.co.contra-costa.ca.us/depart/cd/recycle/options/ (Contra Costa)
-- www.marinsanitary.com/mrc.html (Marin)
-- www.sfenvironment.org/index.html (San Francisco)
-- www.recycleworks.org/index.html (San Mateo)
If you don't have time to deal with reuse/recycling yourself, look into the bulky-waste pickup program run by your local garbage company. (Most cities offer at least one free annual pickup for residential customers.) Ask what they do with the materials they collect, and how much of it is recycled or reused.
In some cases, it may be less wasteful or more convenient to hire a hauling company that specializes in recycling/reuse. Some companies mentioned in this article are:
-- Bedbusters www.bedbusters.com
-- Blue Sky Hauling www.blueskyhauling.com
-- EcoHaul www.ecohaul.com
-- IReuse www.ireuse.com
-- Junk General www.junkgeneral.com
-- Norcal Waste Systems (San Francisco) www.recyclemyjunk.com