Three out of four garages in the U.S. are too full to hold cars, according to a UCLA-affiliated study. That means many of us have an overabundance of stuff cluttering our garages, and we would probably be better off if we got rid of some of it. Not only does this free up space, but it may also help lower anxiety — as a cluttered home can lead to increased stressful activity. Before you start trashing all the extras, though, see if you can reuse or recycle some of them.
Here are 10 things that can be reused or recycled in the garage:
1. Pesticides & Herbicides
Two items we always kept on a high shelf in our garage were pesticides and herbicides. These materials are considered household hazardous waste (HHW), and as such, they must be disposed of properly. If you have a bottle of pesticides that has expired (yes, they actually do have an expiration date), you should check your city or county HHW facility to see if they accept them. If you don’t have an HHW facility, check your city or county waste department. Many cities and counties will have at least one HHW disposal event each year.
While you may be tempted to dump any unused amount down the drain, this is not recommended. Many city wastewater treatment plants have a hard time removing these contaminants from the water. If you use up all the liquid in the container, you’ll still need to drop off the container at your HHW facility. Since these plastic containers held hazardous chemicals, they cannot be sent to a normal plastic recycling facility but must instead be treated before recycling.
2. Power Tools
While it may seem rather obvious, it still needs to be said: If your power tools are still working, sell them or donate them so others can continue to use them. If the tool is no longer working, you could look into getting it repaired. In some cases, you may just need to replace a single piece to keep it running strong. Not sure where to get the part? Check out Fix.com. They will help you find any little piece you need for any of your tools or appliances
If, however, the tool has reached the end of its life, try to recycle it. The first thing to do is reach out to the manufacturer. In some cases, they may take back the tool for recycling. If that doesn’t work, recycle the battery, since this is the part that’s most harmful to the environment. This is generally an easy task, as many locations accept lithium-ion batteries, which is what many power tools use.
3. Motor Oil & Automotive Fluids
As a teenager, I drove a 1973 Ford Pinto. Doing a fair amount of work on the car myself, I was often looking for a way to recycle automotive fluids I pulled from the car. Fortunately, motor oil is generally an easy item to recycle. Nearly every auto shop across the U.S. will accept it for recycling. If you’re not sure, always call ahead to check. Recycling other fluids, like transmission fluid or antifreeze, can be a little more difficult. Use the Earth911 Recycling Search to find a location in your area that will accept these fluids for recycling.
4. Other Automotive Parts
Some other common items we’re asked about recycling here at Earth911 are car tires and batteries. Fortunately, both of these items have become much easier to recycle. Like motor oil, nearly every automotive parts store will take car batteries for recycling. Batteries Plus Bulbs is one company I’ve used a number of times for battery recycling.
When it comes to reusing tires, I’ve seen many projects turning old tires into planters. While this may be a fun way to use old tires in the short term, I don’t recommend it. The rubber will slowly break down and release various chemicals into the environment. I recommend recycling instead of reuse. The first place to turn is your local tire shop. Most of these will accept your tires for recycling. If that doesn’t work, you can always use the Earth911 Recycling Search to find a local option.
Fortunately, bicycles have a tendency to last a very long time. If parts break, it’s relatively easy to get them repaired. If you’re done with your bike or your kids outgrow theirs, sell it or donate it so someone else can get more life out of it. If the bike is 100 percent unusable and must be disposed of, take off the tires and tubes and drop off the frame at your local scrap yard. They will take care of recycling the metal. If you like DIY projects, you can find a few projects using bike tubes or tires on Pinterest. If that’s not your thing, call your local bike shop or car tire recycling locations, or enter your ZIP code in Earth911 Recycling Search for local recycling options. If you still have no luck, you can check with Green Guru or Alchemy Goods for upcycling opportunities
Like pesticides, paint is generally considered household hazardous waste. To dispose of paint, first consider donating paint that is still good. Otherwise, call your local HHW facility or search the Earth911 recycling database. If there are no options in your area and you have latex paint, you can dispose of it in a landfill. First, however, you need to leave the lid off for a few days and let the paint dry out before you put it in your trash. Many cities accept empty paint cans for recycling, but check with your local service before you chuck a paint can in your recycling bin.
7. Outdoor Gear
As one of five kids, we had a lot of outdoor gear. There were boogie boards, skateboards, soccer balls, croquet sets, surfboards, tents, sleeping bags, and so much more. As with everything else, if the item has more life in it, sell it or donate it for someone else to use. If not, there are many great reuse projects out there for outdoor gear. AMC Outdoors has some great suggestions for upcycling general outdoor gear. Here are a few specific resources for upcycling or recycling these items: :
8. Outdoor Tools
When gardening tools reach the end of their lives, you have some easy disposal options. If the tool is broken, look at repairing it first. I’ve repaired many shovels, rakes, axes, and other outdoor tools. Your local home improvement store will generally have any parts you need. If repairing it isn’t an option, there are tons of DIY projects, ranging from the most basic to complex jobs that require significant metal work. Here are a few great examples of projects you can try. If you’re not interested in any DIY projects, you can dismantle the tool, taking the metal to scrap yards. Unfortunately, most wood handles on outdoor tools are chemically treated so they’ll last longer, so you won’t be able to toss them in a compost bin or yard waste bin.
When you first look at most coolers, you may assume they’re easy to recycle since they’re almost entirely plastic. Unfortunately, coolers are made from various types of plastic in multiple layers. This makes the recycling process extremely difficult and costly. As such, if your cooler is still in decent shape, consider donating it to a local nonprofit or a Boy or Girl Scout troop to use.
Sadly, there isn’t an available option for recycling these coolers. If they’re completely unusable, they’ll have to go in the trash. (If you are aware of a way to recycle these, please let us know.) If you have a Styrofoam cooler, you can generally drop it off at any Styrofoam recycling location.
10. Propane Tanks
Many, many people have written in to Earth911 asking for help recycling old propane tanks. In most instances, people were searching for a way to recycle the small tanks used when hiking and camping. Coleman used to send a tool with each tank it sold that made it possible to release all of the pressure. This made it safe for scrap metal recyclers to shred them. Unfortunately, this program has been ended due to low acceptance by scrap metal recyclers.
If you have a propane tank of any size that you need to recycle, the best thing to do is call all of your local scrap metal recyclers. Some of them will accept these tanks because they have the tools necessary to make recycling possible. If you have a barbecue-sized propane tank, call the retailer where you purchased the tank and ask if they have a take-back program. If they don’t, check with your city or county HHW facility to see if they will accept them.
Feature image courtesy of Adobe
Editor’s note: Originally published on October 18, 2017, this article was updated in October 2018.