Recycling or Trash? We'll help you sort it out!

What Is Waste Prevention?


  • Waste Prevention is the design, purchase, manufacture, or use of products and materials to reduce the amount of solid waste generated.
  • Waste Prevention is not recycling. Recycling is an effective way to manage waste materials once they have been generated
  • Waste Prevention aims to actually reduce the amount of material used and therefore the amount of material that is ultimately thrown out. 

Top Ways to Prevent & Reduce Waste in Your Home

  • Supply your household with reusable water bottles
  • Avoid/limit purchasing products that come in single serving packaging
  • Take steps to stop junk mail
  • Ditch plastic bags for reusable ones
  • Take a reusable travel mug to your favorite coffee shop or try making your coffee at home with reusable filters
  • Use old textiles (clothing, towels, etc.) for cleaning around the house. This will save money and reduce paper towel waste
  • Try rechargeable batteries
  • Fix what you own! Instead of throwing away broken items and purchasing new, try fixing what the item, or taking it to a local repair shop
  • Have those costly printer ink cartridges refilled instead of buying new
  • In need of storage or moving boxes? Ask your local grocer to set aside some cardboard boxes for you.  If you need some with handles, make sure to ask for the egg boxes! 
  • Donate unwanted items to your local Salvation Army or Goodwill. Even some animal shelters are happy to take unwanted textiles and other useful items (See below for more information on textile recycling)
  • Host a tag sale and profit from your unwanted items!
  • Repurpose or refinish furniture & other items! There are endless YouTube tutorials and websites with detailed instructions on this latest decorating craze

Textile Reuse & Recovery

We all have them; those questionable towels, stained shirts, old sheets and holey socks. No matter what may be wrong with your pre-loved textiles, they are still too good for the trash!

Audits done in 2011 at several Massachusetts disposal facilities revealed that on average, a Massachusetts resident throws away about 70 pounds of unwanted clothing, footwear and textiles per year.

This may be due, in part, to the popular, yet untrue, notion that charities and textile recyclers will only accept gently used items that can easily be resold. Everyone has looked at an old t-shirt and said to themselves “no one will want this”, and then tossed it into the trash.

But wait! Someone DOES want it! 

You may not realize it, but even the most tattered sheet, or most outgrown stuffed animal in your home can be recycled. They just have to be dry, and reasonably clean (Stains are fine!)

“We want the public to know all clothing and household textiles, such as tablecloths, sheets, shoes, belts and stuffed animals, can be recycled,” Larry Groipen, past president of the Secondary Materials and Recycled Textiles Association (SMART) and chief of ERC Wiping Products in Lynn, said. “As long as the items are clean, even if they are stained or damaged, there is a recycling use for the material.”

So, what happens to your unwanted items after you drop them in a donation box?

Regardless of who the box belongs  to; the Goodwill, Salvation Army, Red Cross, Planet Aid or any of the other organizations with donation boxes, the items are first hand sorted by workers.

The ‘gently used’ items are usually sold in the local thrift stores that raise money for charities and provide us with opportunity for bargain priced items!

The items that don’t make it to the thrift store shelves are sent to ‘rag graders’, who sort the items based on material type, condition, quality and color. Some of this material is baled and exported to developing countries where they rely on low-cost items for clothing, and for material to make new items.

Absorbent rags are cut up and sold to commercial companies as wiping cloths. The Springfield DPW even purchases them!

Anything left that cannot be used as rags are shredded and repurposed into fibers for all kinds of things like insulation, carpet padding, and furniture stuffing.

Paul Curry of Bay State Textiles stresses that “when municipalities are informing the public, keep the message simple! Everything should be dry, but we accept the good – gently used clothing, the bad – those ripped jeans with the broken zipper, and the ugly – that sweater Aunt Edna gave you in 1978.”

 So as you can see, donating your unwanted textiles employs hundreds of Massachusetts workers and recognizes the value of materials that would otherwise be wasted!

Check out our map of local areas to donate your unwanted textiles and other points of interest! 


The EPA has some good tips, including how to reduce waste around the holidays:
EPA Tips

Check out Earth911’s iRecycle app for helpful on the go waste reduction and recycle information 

Earth911 App

This Beyond the Bin Directory is meant to help you recycle unique and hard-to-handle items that don't go in your recycling bin or recycling cart.  Search by type of material and your location to find out where in Massachusetts to recycle, reuse, or repurpose these items.

Mass DEP Site

Page last updated:  Friday, February 8, 2019 11:08 am