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Over the past few months since I’ve had time on my hands, I have cleaned all my closets and purged them of items I no longer need. All those once-valued items are now just used stuff that makes up a humongous pile in my garage waiting for the next phase of its journey.
Just what is that journey? How do we get rid of used clothes, books and electronics in an environmentally sound manner? They still have value and should not be just tossed in the trash. In fact, in most areas, if they are electronics, including used TVs, it is outright illegal.
There are over 25,000 secondhand, thrift and consignment stores around the country that will be happy to rid you of many items you no longer want or need. Shopping at these stores is no longer a stigma, it is a popular choice. And it is fun, practical and sustainable.
If I had clothing, jewelry or shoes that were stylish or expensive, I would consider a high-end consignment store. Barbara Krasnoff of verge.com explains that the high-end consignees are essentially go-betweens for savvy, and often wealthy, sellers and buyers.
“Most of these, such as, TheRealReal, Rebag and Vestiaire Collective, carefully authenticate all the products sold through them and will take only recent fashions,” she says.
Buyers feel safe knowing they are getting exactly what is advertised.
There are sites like Tradesy and Thred that handle upscale and mid-priced items. Less expensive and more used items can be donated to your local thrift store. The pile I have in my garage will not find its next destination in a high-end consignment store. Some items may appear on Craigslist, but my bags of clothing will be donated to Goodwill. I was curious about what happens to the bags of clothing I drop at Goodwill.
Suzy Strutner, writing for Huffington Post, mapped that journey in clear steps. I was pleased to find that all but about 5% of items donated are resold or reused in some format.
There are some 3,200 Goodwill retail stores in the United States. As Strutner explains, “when you donate a bag of clothing at a store, workers most likely parse through it to determine what can be sold and what can’t: Wet or mildewy clothes are eliminated, but everything else is fair game.”
The first step is to put it on the retail floor, where it will stay for up to four weeks. If it has not sold, its journey continues to a Goodwill outlet. There, it is sold by the pound at very low prices. Whatever the outlet cannot move goes to an auction bin where an entire bin might sell for as little as $35.00. Anything else goes to textile recycling organizations. About half ends up resold in the U.S. used clothing industry or in overseas markets. Of the rest 30% is cut into rags for industry and 20% is processed into soft fiber used in such applications as furniture stuffing, home insulation and car soundproofing.
My humongous pile also contains a lot of books. I have agonized what to do with them. I form attachments to my books and do not want to just toss them in the trash. If they are out of print, they may have value. Textbooks can usually be resold. Popular resellers are Powell’s, ABE books, Go Textbook and Book Scouter.
I will probably give most of my books to the library for resale. Many thrift stores also take donations of books. But some of my books are so quirky I don’t know if anyone would want them. They may have to be recycled. To recycle books, you can put them in the recycle bin, but I prefer to take them right to the recycle center and put them in directly in the proper bin there. They will have another life as insulation or recycled paper.
As for tech products, such as phones, computers and TVs, it can get complicated. You might be able to sell your used phones and computers. Online vendors will also take used CDs and DVDs. But these items should never be placed in the garbage bin. Most states require that e-waste, which can have many toxic components, is recycled.
The problem with having lots of stuff means you have lots of stuff to get rid of. That is why the three Rs are so important: reduce, recycle, reuse. The best way to declutter your life is to avoid buying stuff you really don’t need. Reuse and repurpose what you can and recycle the rest.
Judith Polich, a longtime New Mexico resident, is a retired attorney with a background in environmental studies and is a student of climate change. She can be reached at email@example.com”>href=”http://judith.pol”>firstname.lastname@example.org
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