About to embark on a clean 'n' purge project around the house? Without fail, you'll most likely encounter numerous purge-worthy items that don't fit neatly into the "paper, plastic, aluminum, yard waste" recycling scheme. Many of these items aren't appropriate candidates for a Goodwill dropoff or garage sales. To prove that you can recycle or reuse almost everything, we've rounded up a few unusual items that you may encounter during a cleaning session and suggested ways of disposing of them. How to recycle:
Your trophies: Rid your home of trophy-related clutter by donating it to a company that specializes in recycling and reusing gold-colored plastic statuettes holding sports equipment. One is Lamb Awards & Engraving (lambawards.com/recycle.html), a Maryland-based company that will donate matching sets to charities or break down old trophies for parts. Total Awards & Promotions (awardsmall.com) out of Madison, Wis., also has a popular recycling program in which old trophies are recycled, reused and donated to nonprofit organizations.
If it's medals, not trophies, taking up valuable real estate in your home, donate to Medals4Mettle (medals4mettle.org). Through a nationwide network of physicians and volunteers, this fantastic organization bestows donated medals from marathons, half-marathons and triathlons to children and adults fighting debilitating illnesses "who might not be able to run a race, but are in a race of their own just to continue to live their life."
Your prosthetic limbs: Here's what the Amputee Coalition of America ( amputee-coalition.org) has to say on the recycling of prosthetic limbs: "Prosthetic components are generally not reused in the United States because of legal considerations. However, used prosthetic limbs may be disassembled and the components shipped to Third World countries for use by landmine victims and/or other individuals in need." The ACA goes on to list numerous organizations such as the Limbs for Life Foundation ( limbsforlife.org) and the International Foundation for the Physically Disabled ( theifpd.org) that are willing to take a spare prosthetic limb off your hands.
Your bras: Although Arizona-based textile recycling organization Bra Recyclers has officially deemed October as "Recycle Your Bra Month," it's never too late to commit an act of undergarment altruism by donating seldom worn, ill-fitting or entirely inappropriate brassieres to a good cause. Check out the Bra Recyclers website ( brarecycling.com) to learn more about the Bosom Buddies Program in which donated bras of all shapes and sizes (post-breast-surgery and maternity bras are needed, too) are given to local shelters or redistributed through exporters and organizations to women in developing nations.
Your crayons: Unless you're the crafty type, have kids, are frequently visited at home by children brandishing coloring books or prefer to take your own set of colors to restaurants with paper tablecloths, there's really no reason to keep an old cookie tin filled with crayons at home. If you do and think it's time high time that you parted with them, consider shipping them off to the Crayon Recycling Program (crazycrayons.com/recycle_program.html), where "unwanted, rejected, broken" crayons are recycled into new ones. So far, the program has prevented 75,000 pounds of crayons from entering landfills.
Your old greeting cards: While there are numerous greeting card craft projects to consider, if you're looking to unload a huge mass of old cards that you've been hoarding in shoe boxes stashed under the bed, check out the St. Jude's Ranch for Children Recycled Card Program (stjudesranch.org/shop/recycled-card-program). As part of the Kids Corp. program at St. Jude's Ranch, children who have been abandoned, neglected or abused are given the chance to learn entrepreneurship skills by making new greeting cards out of fronts of old ones. No old Disney, Hallmark or American Greetings cards, please.
Your pet's fur: Matter of Trust (matterof trust.org), a San Francisco-based nonprofit, has been accepting donations of nonfilthy pet fur and human hair since 1998 to craft oil-absorbing hair mats — described as "flat square dreadlocks" — and hair-stuffed containment booms made from recycled pantyhose. These hairy contraptions are effective at soaking up oil, and they don't require any new resources … just stuff you'd normally trash.
Although it appears that Matter of Trust — a very busy organization during the Deepwater Horizon oil spill — is not accepting donations of the hairy kind at this time, they do suggest that you keep on collecting errant fur and hair to make booms for use in local waterways.