The next best option to reducing solid waste altogether is to reuse as many items as possible. Reuse can mean purchasing non-disposable items or it can mean passing an item along to another person for continued use. So, rather than using paper towels to clean the house, you use a washable rag; and, instead of throwing out the clothes or toys your children have outgrown, you pass them along to a neighbor, charity or church.
One organization that is built on the concept of reuse is Freecycle. Waste Management is a partner with Freecycle, an online network where members give away and get items for free in their own communities - rather than filling up our landfills with gently used items, find someone else in your community who could put it to good use!
Many products are available with recycled content, so look out for this option.
Other ways we can all be better reusers:
- As technology rapidly evolves, we face the challenge of outdated electronics such as home appliances, computers, televisions, video game consoles and cell phones becoming household waste. Before you dispose of your old electronics, consider donating them to a local school, community center, library or charity. What may be out of date to you could be a useful tool for another. If you must dispose of these types of items because they are broken or unusable, be sure to take these items to the locations listed on the household hazardous waste (HHW) disposal page. For other resources on reusing and recycling electronic products, visit http://www.ciwmb.ca.gov/electronics/collection.
- Inexpensive pet toys can be found around the house and make use of "old" items. While your dead tennis balls are no fun for you to play with, your dog will sure enjoy them; old or torn socks or a ball made of mismatched yarn or string can be enjoyed by a number of pets, as can worn out stuffed animals.
- Put old bedding to good use for kids' activities - camping, building indoor forts or making costumes - or for pet bedding.
- Save grocery and other shopping bags to reuse at a later time, whether for packing lunches, doing additional shopping or giving items to friends or family.
- Look into charities or local businesses that will accept items such as used eyeglasses, sports equipment, used cell phones or blankets in support of their work. Some organizations have very specific needs you may be able to fulfill.
- If you are doing remodeling or construction work on your home, consider using excess or demolition materials for other projects, such as building your kids a tree house or jungle gym, creating a tool shed or work bench in the garage or creating heirloom items for your home, such as a head or footboard for your bed, a coffee or side table or picture frames.
- Reusable items from construction projects can also be donated to Habitat for Humanity ReStores, retail outlets that sell quality used and surplus building materials at discounted prices, with proceeds going toward Habitat's home builds. Find a local outlet near you.
- Consider initiating a composting program at your home. Rather than throwing out vegetable or fruit trimmings or peels and weeds or other refuse from your garden, turn it in to a nutritious supplement for your soil. For tips on composting, visit the California Integrated Waste Management Board's Web site.
- View the tips in the "Reduce" section of our Web site, as many of these suggestions reduce waste by reusing items.