Eco-Decluttering – What to do with it ? A to F

Guest post by Rachel Papworth – decluttering coach and blogger. Second post in a series on eco-decluttering – Read Part One here.

I’m Rachel Papworth, from Green and Tidy. I help people with WAY too much stuff, declutter and create homes they love, homes that support them to live the lives they want to live. In this second post of a series of three, I look at a number of ways to move on specific types of ‘ex-clutter’.


Reduce being higher up the waste hierarchy than recycling, reduce your battery use by using rechargeable batteries wherever possible, recharging your batteries with a solar powered recharger, running electrical equipment from the mains whenever possible, and buying appliances that use renewable energy, such as wind-up or solar powered devices.

Shops selling more than 32kg of batteries a year (approx 345 x four-packs of AA batteries) are legally obliged to provide battery recycling collection facilities in-store.

Check Recycle Now‘s searchable database to find out how to recycle batteries in your area.


Recycle Now provides information on how to dispose of unwanted bicycles.


Charity shops do a brisk trade in books and some, such as Oxfam and the British Heart Foundation, have specialist shops to sell them.

Contemporary fiction sells well at car boot/tabletop sales.

There are a variety of websites for giving away and trading books. They include BookCrossing, Read It Swap It, BookMooch and BookHopper. While they’re not the quickest way to move books on, they can be fun. And, as this article explains, I found that becoming a Bookcrosser cured my tendency to hoard books.

Brita water filters

Click here for Brita’s searchable database of shops with recycling bins for its filters.

Candle wax

Offer candle wax on your local Freecycle networks. People take it to make into new candles.


Wash and squash food and drink cans and put them in a can bank or your Council’s collecting boxes. I remove paper labels before I open food cans and put the labels in the paper recycling.

CDs, DVDs, audio cassette tapes, VHS video cassette tapes, computer games, hard drives

MusicMagpie buys secondhand CDs, DVDs and games, to sell on.

The Recycling People take CDS, DVDs, audio cassette tapes, VHS video tapes, computer games and hard drives, for recycling. There is a charge for recycling audio cassettes tapes and VHS video tapes. As they charge a standard rate up to certain number of items, if you haven’t got the full number of items you’d be paying for, it would be worth banding together with others and splitting the cost.

You can send CDs and DVDs (at your own expense) to RecyclingCDs to be recycled or refashioned into clocks.

Gardeners use CDs and DVDs as bird-scarers so they’re worth offering on Freecycle, even if they’re not playable. Make sure they don’t contain personal data though.

Charity bags

All those charity bags that plop through your letterbox can easily become clutter. Of course, one way to avoid this is to fill them up and put them out for collection. Watch out for scams though.

If you haven’t got stuff to go in them though, or you don’t want to dispose of your stuff this way, you’re stuck with them as empty bags are rarely collected in my experience.

You can also recycle them in the same way as carrier bags.

If they’re from a charity that has a shop near to me, I usually drop them back in when I’m passing in the hope that they’ll be reused (as reuse is higher up the waste hierarchy than recycling).

Clothes, shoes and textiles

Charity shops and on street Clothes Banks and Shoe Banks are an obvious place to take unwanted clothes and textiles.

Do your clothes need repairing? Maybe you’d wear them if you had the time or skills to mend or alter them. If so, how about joining a Local Enterprise Trading Scheme or Time Bank. You build up credits by offering another skill and could spend them on having your clothes altered or repaired.

Most charity shops will also accept unwearable/unusable clothes, which they sell on as rags for recycling. Just label the bag ‘rags’.

In some local authority areas, bras can go into a Bra Bank from where Against Breast Cancer will collect them, sending wearable ones to traders in developing countries, and recycling unwearable ones.

Similarly, you can post unwanted bras to BreastTalk, which sends wearable ones to homeless and under-privileged women in the UK and overseas, and recycles damaged one into quilts for homeless charities and the emergency services.

Don’t forget that textiles made entirely from organic fibres (wool, silk, cotton, hemp, linen/flax) can go in your compost bin or wormery, and can even be made into wormery moisture mats.


Are they the type you get from the dry cleaners? Some dry cleaners will take them back for reuse.

Otherwise charity shops are often glad of them for displaying clothes for sale.


Recycle Now provides advice on what to do with unwanted computers.

Corks from wine bottles

Even if you don’t fancy making a cork board (a noticeboard made out of used wine corks) yourself, someone in your area probably does so collect up your corks and offer them on Freecycle.

Some bowling greens put used corks in the ditch around their greens so it might be worth contacting your local club to see if they want them.

Electrical items

Electrical items can be problematic for charity shops because they have to pay to make sure they will pass a PAT (Portable Appliance Test) before they can sell them. And, if they can’t, they’ve lost money. Nonetheless, some charity shops do take them (and even collect them), including the British Heart Foundation and Emmaus.

Broken/not-working electrical items might be useful to Freecyclers for parts.

Otherwise, contact your Council, or check Recycle Now‘s searchable database to find out which municipal recycling sites have a section for electrical items.

Electrical items go through an impressive range of processes to sort out the various types of material they contain.


Food can be offered on Freecycle, even if it’s opened or out of date.

Alternatively, raw vegetable matter can be composted in a compost heap/bin and all types of food (including meat and cooked food) can be composted in a worm composter.


The Emmaus movement enables people to move on from homelessness. Residents work full-time collecting, renovating and reselling donated furniture. This work supports the community financially and enables residents to develop skills and rebuild their self-respect. This page gives information on what goods your nearest centre takes and whether they collect.

The Furniture Reuse Network is a national body which supports, assists and develops charity reuse organisations across the UK. Its website has a searchable database of reuse organisations with social and/or environmental aims.

Photo by Timtak via Flickr

RELATED ARTICLES – Eco Friendly DeclutteringEco Friendly Decluttering: What to Do With It? G to Z