I recently moved, and although there is little that needs changing in our new home, we have made a few improvements to reflect our own tastes and personalities. But, as with any renovation or refurb, you have to find somewhere to put all of the old unwanted fixtures and fittings.

As I’m on a crusade to save the world (or at least limit my own environmental impact as much as possible) sending these things to the tip wasn’t an option. So, I’ve been doing a bit of research into how we can reduce, reuse and recycle what we don’t want or need.

Furniture and Fittings

Sending furniture and the like to charity shops is an obvious solution, but I have found it frustrating that there are many items they won’t/can’t take. For example, we replaced some light fittings and even charity shops who do accept electricals were not happy to have them because I had snipped the wires to disconnect them.

Fortunately, on my way to work I drive past an organisation which collects re-usable furniture to give to people who really need it. I emailed them about my lights and they gratefully received them — not put off by the need for re-wiring.

Be mindful of the fact many charity shops have to have rules in place meaning they can’t take anything and everything (damaged goods, furniture which has not been treated with flame retardant, electrical items…) because of safety laws. Instead, search for smaller independent groups who are autonomous and will see what they can do to spruce and fix donations.

All that Packaging

We are frequently being told that packaging is the bane of eco-living and I can understand why — the replacement light fittings we bought were in bags, in boxes, with all manner of cable ties, dividers and extra packaging inside. Most of this was cardboard and went straight in the recycling bin, but the plastic bags are not recycled by my local authority.

I’m ashamed to say they ended up in landfill, but had I known I would have saved them up along with bread bags, mail bags and compost bags, and posted them off to Polyprint. They accept a long list of things I know our LA won’t touch, and turn them into new packaging. You can find out what they will take here (I’m sure there are similar companies who do the same too).

Wall and Floor Coverings

The brown, floral carpet and avocado tiles may not be to your liking but landfill should not be their first (and last) port of call. When you decorate a room and strip out the old, do so as carefully as you can so that you can salvage things for re-use.

Tiles are a bit tricky to remove without breaking, but any which are intact can have the adhesive and grout removed by sandblasting. My dad – who is an industrial chemist – cleaned some tiles up with ammonia once, but this isn’t advisable as it’s not very safe, and then you have to properly dispose of it. It was very effective though.
He says a safer alternative is dishwasher detergent dissolved in a bucket of warm water. Just make sure you wear rubber gloves as it is an irritant. 

When you have your clean re-usable tiles how about giving them away on Freecyle, or asking a local school if they need them for art (we used to use them as palettes)? Clean carpet can be given to friends or charity, but if it is a little bit worse for wear why not try one of the following:

  • Give it to an animal rehoming centre. They sometimes use it for dog beds or cat scratching posts.
  • Use it to cover your compost bin in winter.
  • Keep a rug-sized piece in your car boot in winter to help dislodge snowed in tyres.
  • Keep it to protect solid floors when you are moving furniture around.

Vinyl tiles and carpet can also be sent for recycling. Recofloor will take vinyl and turn it into new products and have a number of drop-off points throughout the country.

Have you found ways to responsibly dispose of unwanted items in your project? Share your tips in the comments below.

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