Whether you’re staring down a pile of old junk or clearing out the drawer of doom where old, dead mobiles gather dust: getting rid of stuff can be a daunting task, especially if you want to stop things being dumped in landfill. But, it doesn’t have to be. From donating old clothes, furniture to home collection and even making a few quid online, here’s our guide to recylcing and disposing of household waste in London.

General Tips for Recycling and Donating Unwanted Items

If you want to declutter but avoid things ending up in landfill, there are a few ways to approach it. To maximise the chances of your stuff beng properly recycled or donated:

  • Sort it first and tackle specific items in batches ie. appliances and garden waste (see the categories below for how to do that)
  • Check your council recycling policy for household collection (to avoid contamination)
  • Make sure anything you’re selling or donating is in good condition
  • Visit Recycle Now and London Recycles to find specific recycle points and centres

And while we are on the topic of recycling, don’t forget you can help reduce waste in the first place by shopping second hand.

Sustainable New Year's Resolutions Donation
If you’ve accrued a large amount of tat, Charity shops might not be so keen on bulk donations | Photo by iStock.com/rustycanuck

Clothes and textile recycling

You can donate or recycle clothing as long as it’s in good condition. If you’ve got too much to carry to a charity shop or recycling point, some charities offer free collection. For example, see TRAID and Collect My Clothes for free collection — just book on their websites.

Getting rid of clothes that are too damaged or threadbare to be reworn is a little trickier. But you can still keep them out of the landfill. You can donate old clothes to be repurposed into useful household items like carpet underlay. Search for your nearest textiles bank or book a collection with a specialist company like The First Mile.

Repairing and Recycling Small Electrical Items

Electric waste (e-waste) is a big problem in the UK. An estimated two million tonnes of electronics are discarded every year, and less than 20% of items are collected and recycled. A lot of that is because people aren’t clear on how to dispose of their old electrical items, so they pile up at home instead.

Luckily, there are plenty of schemes to help you fix, donate or recycle e-waste and reduce your environmental impact.

It might be worth finding out if you can salvage your electrical item before getting rid of it. Obviously you need to do this safely, but you get help with initiatives such as Repair Cafes and the Restart Project.

Smaller items that are beyond repair (e.g. toasters, hairdryers, cables etc) can usually go in local electrical recycle bins. These kinds of items have the amusing acronym WEEE (waste electrical and electronic equipment) and any item with a crossed-out wheelie bin symbol on it can be recycled.

Batteries can build up pretty quickly, and can’t go in with your regular recycling. But you can usually find battery recycle points at larger supermarkets like Sainbury’s, Waitrose and Tecso. To find your nearest recycling point, visit London Recycles for advice on where to take e-waste.

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Unfortunately, not all items can be recycled. So if you have stuff like VHS tapes lying around, then your options are pretty much give them away, sell them or bin them.

Broken smartphone in need of repair or recycling
Doh! | Photo by istock.com/dzika_mrowka

Computer and Mobile Device Recycling

E-waste is a big category, and also includes computers and mobile devices that you can’t dispose of in smaller electronic recycling sites. Security as well as environmental impact is another reason why people have old tech at home. Make sure your device has been wiped/factory reset – assuming it still powers up.

To get rid of old computers, mobiles, tablets, monitors etc, check whether your local recycling centre will take those items. If you can’t find one nearby, you can get it taken away responsibly by WEE Charity which is based in Warrington, but offers UK-wide collections. If you have a smart phone that isn’t too ancient, then you might be able to get some decent cash for it. There’s some commerical recycling programs, for example GiffGaff Recycle.

Donating Old (Working) Tech

If your item is still in some working order then consider donating it instead. There are various recycling and community reuse schemes where donated devices can be refurbished and given to schools and communities. Social enterprise The Restart Project has a good search tool for finding places to donate your tech.

Bulky items including fridges and freezers

The easiest way to get rid of old appliances is to get your new supplier to disconnect and remove the old one. Most retailers like Appliances Direct, Currys and Argos will do this for a small fee.

Otherwise, the easiest option is try your local council. Most councils have a bulky waste collection service where you can get rid of four large items for around £20.00. Rates and exact items will vary by borough, but the website should publish a list of what you can and can’t have collected, for example Haringey collects fridges, freezers, mattresses, ovens, sofas and TVs.

For furniture your local YMCA might collect donations for free, and the British Heart Foundation also accepts furniture donations

Garden waste removal

If you’re lucky enough to have a garden in London, you’re going to have to clear waste from it from time to time. The council is your best bet again, some might accept garden waste as part of one-off bulky items collection.

Otherwise, you can request a garden waste bin which range from green sacks (around £50 – annual fee) or pay for a small or large garden waste bin for around £75

Commercial waste removal and collection

Getting rid of mixed waste or a large volume of unwanted stuff can be a pain if you don’t want to make endless trips to the recycling centre. The other option is to pay for commercial waste collection that can dispose of your rubbish as responsibly as possible. You’ll need to check companies out to decide if they’re eco-friendly or greenwashing, but there’s plenty of sites that will charge by either weight (i.e. 50kgs), number of bin bags or cubic metres. Sites like Recycling Squad and Eco Rubbish Clearance will take your unwanted stuff away from around £45.00.

Sell or Give Away Items Online

One person’s trash is another person’s treasure and all that. So you might even be able to make a few quid from your stuff. For general online selling, eBay, Gumtree, and Facebook Marketplace are the easiest first port of all. Each one has its own guidelines for listing.

If you have a specific collection or type of item to sell on, then you might have better luck (and a faster result) on more niche sites such as Depop if you have vintage clothes to sell, Discog for vinyl records or Ziffit to make money from second hand books.

But, if you just want to give stuff away – you can list it on sites including Gumtree, Freecycle, Freegle and Trash Nothing.

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