10 Programs for Hard-to-Recycle Household Items, A Fight Song for Debris

Audible has become a good friend over the past few months, accompanying me while I work on chores, during the daily commute, and really whenever I have a moment alone. Last month my brain was feeling especially chaotic so I decided to absorb the Marie Kondo approach to uncluttering. I rationalized that if I decluttered my home, hopefully my brain would follow suit. Marie’s book, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, took just a few days to absorb during my daily drives. You are likely familiar with her coined phrase for evaluating every object in your home, “Does it bring you joy?”. While parting with items is not something I struggle with altogether, I certainly have more clutter than I need. What’s my hang-up? Marie’s methodical approach is very clear. Items either have a specific place in your home, or they go into the trash. The trash? To the landfill? I get it, but eek, really there isn’t someone who might find joy in these items? 

It got me thinking…donation centers typically like new and gently used items, but what about the items those donation centers don’t want that still have life left? I’m thinking in particular of some jeans that are threadbare, but not the cool distressed way, more in the, I’ve worn flats one too many times and worn out the back kind. Or the single stunning fuchsia stiletto that will sadly not be worn, when its mate surreptitiously became our puppy’s chew toy? (I love him, I love him, I love him…sometimes I must repeat this mantra.) Do I really have to send these items to the landfill? 

Convinced that their future could be changed, I set out to find a list of resources. From time to time, I have heard about unique ways to recycle items. I naively thought that pulling together a list would be both quick and helpful. Ah, but like so many things these days, this search was far more challenging than anticipated.


I kept it simple with just three criteria:

  1. Not brand specific
  2. Shippable
  3. Free

Want the rationale? Here you go:

Not Brand Specific: The purpose of this list is to make recycling easy, so lowering the barriers to entry is important. I am less likely to collect BIC pens and PaperMate pens separately, but if I can toss them all in a single bag, participation is easier. Something in 2020 needs to be easy right?!

Shippable: for those of us in smaller towns, it’s not always easy to find drop off locations. Shipping removes that barrier.        

Free: I understand that there are costs associated with recycling, and that some companies charge to offset these costs. I truly get it, but in the spirit of keeping barriers low, only free options are included in this list.

10 Easy and Free Programs for Hard-to-Recycle Household Items


Have you ever found yourself with a bra that is in great shape but it just didn’t get the wear that it deserved? Could have been the cut, color, material, whatever the reason, it feels like the kid in school that is always chosen last. Here’s the bummer, if it doesn’t have tags, donation centers can’t accept it. I understand, secondhand undergarments could be…undesirable. But what can be done with these necessities? Well, Harper Wilde has a program: Recycle, Bra. Use the prepaid shipping label here, pack up your old bras and send them off. As of the date of this post, they have recycled over 20,000 bras and have a goal of 30,000 for the year. 


With places like Poshmark, Mecari, and eBay, many options are out there to sell your clothing for a profit. If you’d rather not hassle with the selling and shipping components, you might be a frequent donor to the Salvation Army, you have a system in place– fantastic! 

If you are looking for an easy option, look no further, ThredUp is an online second-hand clothing retailer. They have two options for free clothing donations. You can download a shipping label for their Clean Out Bag here (https://www.thredup.com/cleanout/sell). Upon receipt, your clothing will be evaluated and those items meeting their stringent criteria (on average only 40% of items are eligible for resale) are photographed and listed for sale. A small commission will be deposited into your ThredUp account once your listed items sell. Alternatively, you can download a shipping label here and affix it to any box of clothing. In lieu of a commission, a $5 donation will be sent to one of six non-profits (your choice).  


This might be my favorite because the ingenuity absolutely makes my heart smile. Have you heard of the program: Cotton Jeans Go Green? I hadn’t but am sure glad that I know about it now. Through this program, denim is repurposed. Zappos will pay for the shipping of denim (that is at least 90% cotton). Click here to get started. They use this material to create UltraTouch Denim Insulation for home construction; AND, a portion of their finished products go to Habitat for Humanity affiliates. Double the goodness! I’m seriously boxing up some old jeans tonight!

E-Waste (phones, tablets, etc.)

Remember the Apple Shuffle? Those cute almost chicklet sized music players from oh 10 years ago? I found my cute little green one last year. While it was a supremely nostalgic moment and brought a smile to my face, I had no intention of using it again. No need to toss it into the trash, even electronic relics have a home. BuyBackWorld is a great option for these items. Check them out here. Their process is simple, and an instant quote is provided (believe it or not, your waste might even be worth something to them)! If it is, they will send you a check. Even if it is not of monetary value, they will take if off your hands for free for recycling. 


New glasses are a luxury that I enjoy about every five to seven years. I would wager to say that many of my friends do not know that I have such poor vision, as contacts are my lens correction of choice. When I opt for new frames, my existing ones are typically in good shape given their limited use. VSP recognizes that proper glasses are not always accessible to those who need them and has created Eyes of Hope. I am in love with this clever name! You can find the prepaid shipping label here.

Household Items

Our laundry room hosts a large cardboard donation box that is filled with items periodically that just don’t get loved enough in our home. When the box is full, I drop it off to my favorite local thrift shop. Sometimes, and by sometimes, I mean usually, my timeline to drop off these boxes is longer than I’d care to admit. During my research for this post, the GiveBackBox program was discovered. Their requests are super reasonable: pack your box as full as possible and don’t include liquids. Download your shipping label here.


I am convinced that our daughter is hard on her shoes because she likes to get new ones. Not an entirely poor strategy, but she does have to put up with less than pristine shoes for a bit. With worn soles or tattered laces, they seem destined for the landfill. If you have dog who leaves his mark on just one lovely shoe (not that I am pointing any fingers, ahem, Charlie), check out Soles-4-Souls here. They love shoes in any condition and will even accept single shoes.

Pens (and other office/art supplies)

So this was a fun surprise to learn about! BIC and Terracycle have joined forces and will accept all brands of empty writing instruments, glue sticks, watercolor dispensers and paint sets. Maybe it is because I wrote this post in our home office which has, let’s just say a lot of these items, but the versatility of this program is appealing. I can speak only for myself, but I have thrown away countless items on their list and am super excited to have a place to recycle them now. I have a spot picked out in the office for the recycling kit once it arrives. I plan to ship it off once full…or quarterly…or let’s be real, when I get around to it. Regardless of the return date, there is a plan. Order your kit here.

Rigid Plastics

A walk on the beach conjures up the feeling of the sun’s rays toasting my skin, sand massaging the feet and waves crashing against the shore like a melody. The one thing I don’t envision in this dreamy state is a broken toy bucket, solo cup, or water bottles with tattered labels. Sadly, trash on the beach is all too often a reality. Good news though, there is a Beach CleanUp Project. You can learn about it here. Even better, all beaches qualify. Whether you choose to clean up an ocean, lake, or stream, this beach cleanup program covers it all.  

Wine Corks

“Wine makes every meal an occasion, every table more elegant, every day more civilized.”

By Andre Simon, French wine merchant, gourmet and wine writer (1877–1970)

Enter wine corks in the Pinterest search field and you will be flooded with ideas for those spare wine corks you may have lying around the house. If you are not so crafty or have given up on the idea of being crafty, you can send in your collection to Cork Club. Click here for the shipping label, send it off, and Cork Club will take care of the rest. They do ask for quite a few corks (500 per box), but here’s the deal, you can collect them in a pretty vase and they can serve as décor until you are ready to ship them off. Or, ask your friends and neighbors if they want you to take any off their hands. 

If by chance you are thinking that it is time to restock your home cellar or want to send some happiness in a bottle, you should visit Wayfarer Vineyard. Their Chardonnay is my favorite, but I have yet to be disappointed by anything they have produced. Full disclosure, this is a shameless plug for an exceptional winemaker, who also happens to be my brother. Bet here’s the deal, check out his scores – a 98 isn’t handed out to just any wine. 


So many small changes that can result in so much good. I can finally put Marie Kondo’s tactics to use with a clear conscience and am looking forward to a less cluttered home – just in time for Christmas. Ugh, I should probably work on my timing. 

With so many ingenious efforts out there, did I miss one that you love? Surely I have. Please let me know by DMing me on Instagram @semi_crunchy_life!  

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