Sustainability Guide for Recycling & Donating Furniture and Appliances

Many of today’s consumers enjoy a minimalist lifestyle to make the most of what they have, cut down on waste and help the environment. However, knowing how to discard furniture and appliances properly can be a tricky and sometimes confusing process.

Landfills continue to fill up at a staggering pace, with the EPA reporting approximately 292 million tons of trash thrown away in 2018 alone. Since many appliances and furniture contain harmful chemicals, it is not always possible to recycle these items, and they often end up sitting in landfills.

However, consumers can take steps to help ensure proper disposal of their unwanted furniture and home appliances. From home pickup services to local donation centers, this handy guide will show you how to get rid of furnishings and electronics safely and responsibly.

Choosing What to Recycle and How to Do It

Many people participate in neighborhood recycling programs to dispose of glass, paper and plastic. However, you cannot recycle most furniture, appliances and electronics in the traditional manner. When discarding these items, contact your local recycling center for advice. You can also look up your state’s waste management or environmental protection agency to learn how to discard furnishings.

Home furniture is difficult to recycle because of its construction. Much of the wood used in today’s furniture features paint or varnishes, so you can’t compost it. Meanwhile, leather items are hard to scrap because it’s difficult to separate leather from padding and other materials.

Savvy shoppers can find furniture that’s both comfortable and eco-friendly. When looking for home furnishings that fit your lifestyle, consider lightly treated or raw wood outdoor furniture. Recycling centers can break these items down and repurpose them.

How and Where to Scrap

If you have metal furniture, you may be able to take it to a local scrap dealer. Many places accept items such as wrought iron patio furnishings and steel spring mattresses for recycling. For a list of convenient scrapping options near your location, you can use apps like iScrap to make an informed decision.

Before scrapping metal furniture, you will want to figure out if the metal you have is ferrous, which means it contains iron or steel, or non-ferrous, which means it doesn’t. Test metal furnishings by holding a magnet to them. Magnets won’t stick to non-ferrous metals. While most scrap yards take either type, non-ferrous metal furniture may cost more.

When discarding broken or outdated electronics, many manufacturers have free recycling programs for their products. Check the brand’s website to see what programs they offer and look for guidance on removing personal data from your devices. Some major office supply retailers and electronics chains also provide in-store and online recycling with free shipping.

Repairing and Upcycling Your Furniture and Appliances

Another option you may have is to repair or upcycle your existing items. Instead of sending off furniture and appliances to take up more space in a landfill, you can choose to fix up your own items with some know-how and a little elbow grease.

For example, it’s possible to bring sagging couch cushions back to life by taking the cushion out of the cover and flipping it over. If that doesn’t help, adding new foam inserts can make them comfortable for a few more years, saving you from tossing your sofa or armchair into a landfill.

4 piece outdoor seating set

Upcycling is a popular trend that’s been gaining traction in recent years. With this method, you take something you already own, like an older sofa, and reupholster or refinish it to make it look like new. A few online tutorials, a couple of tools, a trip to a craft or fabric store and a free weekend are really all you need to give your furnishings a complete makeover.

You can also repurpose a used item and turn it into something completely different. For example, if you need to replace or upgrade your refrigerator, you may be able to reuse the old one in another part of your home. Repurpose it as a quirky bookcase in a home office, or if you can get it repaired cheaply, move it out to the garage or shed to hold cold drinks for outdoor parties and barbeques.

Donating Furniture and Appliances

Many organizations in your local area are always in need of donations. In addition to food and clothing, donating furniture and appliances can make a big difference for charities and nonprofits. When choosing where to give your used items, think about how these places can use them.

Local nonprofits are great places to start, and the Furniture Bank Network can help you find charities that provide furnishings to people in need. Many furniture banks will also pick up sofas, tables and chairs from your home. If your city doesn’t have a furniture bank, check out your nearby Habitat for Humanity ReStore, Goodwill or Salvation Army.

You may be able to donate gently used furniture and appliances to local schools or community centers. Since many of these places tend to work on tight budgets, they might take your items. Community theaters will often accept donations to create sets for stage plays, so your furniture might find new life in the spotlight rather than in a landfill.

Donating furniture to animal shelters lets you dispose of your furniture while supporting a good cause. Shelters and rescues often accept sofas and chairs to acclimate stray cats and dogs to indoor settings and give them a comfortable place to hang out until they find their forever homes.

Traditional white wicker rocking chair

Selling, Trading or Consigning Furniture and Appliances

You also have the option to sell or trade unwanted items to people who can still make use of them. Online venues such as Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace allow you to post details about your furniture or appliance along with a picture, and buyers can search for the items they need based on their location.

If you want to sell higher quality furniture and decor, consider taking them to a consignment shop. These third-party sellers offer your items to their customers and take a small commission once they sell your furnishings. Additionally, local trading programs allow you to swap goods with other interested parties.

Junk Removal Services for Furniture and Appliances

In addition to saving you time and energy, an eco-friendly junk removal service offers other benefits to those wanting to take care of the planet. Eco-friendly junk removal companies follow strict guidelines in accordance with green policies, so they will repurpose and recycle your used appliances and furniture whenever possible.

Future Shopping Considerations

After you dispose of your unwanted furniture, cut down on waste with mindful purchases. Shop for pre-owned or refurbished furniture to prevent sofas and chairs from ending up in landfills. You can also select biodegradable pieces or furniture made from fully recyclable materials like plastic tables, swings and chairs that align with your lifestyle.

For patio furniture that lasts, consider well-made pieces that can hold up to the elements. For example, durable outdoor sectionals and benches offer you and your guests comfortable seating throughout the years. By avoiding “fast furniture” consumerism, you’ll also get quality items that aren’t as harmful to the environment.

3 pc outdoor sectional

Resources and Further Reading

While recycling or donating used furniture and appliances can be a confusing process, there are several ways to make smart, eco-conscious decisions. Those interested in learning more can visit EPA.gov, Earth911 and the National Recycling Coalition for more information.