Monday, 7 September 2015

ReUse for Good - how to help good causes with things you might throw away with ZERO WASTE WEEK

Those of us of a certain age will remember the annual Blue Peter appeals for silver milk bottle tops, raising cash for charities.

Well, nowadays there's tonnes of ingenious ways to donate your unwanted items, help support a good cause and divert those items from going into landfill.  We all know that you can donate items to charity shops, but some items aren't suitable for re-sale through these types of outlets and would ultimately end up in their refuse, actually costing them money.

To celebrate Zero Waste Week, I've rounded up a few suggestions for you, but please feel free to share links or add more ideas in the comments below.


Many of us wouldn't consider donating underwear to a charity shop (even though many do sell gently worn bras - I don't know of any that re-sell worn knickers though).

There are several organisations that accept both new, (we've all got some lurking in the back of the drawer from when we bought the wrong size!) or lightly worn bras.

If you're in the UK, you can donate to Smalls for All who donate gently worn bras, and new donated pants to women and children in Africa who need it most. Lack of underwear is only is it a health and hygiene problem for many poor African communities, as women often only own one pair of tattered pants or have none at all, but underwear is also seen as a status symbol and offers a degree of security. Women who can afford underwear tend to be seen as having someone who cares for them – a husband, brother or father. They are not on their own so they are not seen as vulnerable.

If you're in the US you can donate them to Free The Girls who provide an opportunity for sex trafficking survivors to build their own business selling second-hand clothing while going to school, establishing a house, and caring for their families.

Image credit: Free the Girls


Finished the decorating and have paint leftover?  Perhaps you're clearing out the shed or garage and wondering what to do with your opened pots of paint.  It can be incredibly toxic so shouldn't be thrown out with your household waste. Many local councils will accept it at the tidy tips, but why not donate it to Community Repaint?

Community RePaint collects reusable, leftover paint from both households and those in the trade and re-distribute it to individuals, families, communities and charities in need, improving the wellbeing of people and the appearance of places across the UK.  There are over 80 schemes around the country, and if there's not one near you there's a free letter template for you to suggest one to your local council.


A few crafty folk might turn them into other arty items, but most of us will put these in the recycling bin once we've finished reading them.  Why not contact your local surgery, dentist or hospital to see if they'd like them for their waiting rooms.  You could make a lot of anxious people feel more comfortable with a nice magazine to flick through and you'd extend the use of the mags for a bit longer.


Image Credit: Vision Aid Overseas

Vision Aid Overseas is the main charity collecting old glasses.  Some are re-used - vintage and retro glasses are sold to specialist shops, while others are recycled to raise funds for their eye care programs in developing countries.  Most opticians have donation bins.


If you've splashed out on new boots and waterproofs this year, you can donate your old ones to Gift Your Gear, an independent UK initiative who provide outdoor clothing and equipment to UK community organisations, youth groups and charities working with young people in the outdoors.  They have 57 drop-off points throughout the UK or you can send by post.  They accept clean, reusable (without needing repair) boots, waterproofs, fleeces, kids outdoor clothing, hats and scarves.

They do not accept socks, tents, cooking equipments, pots and pans, rucksacks and sleeping bags.  Of course, those collecting for the refugee crisis are currently in need of these items and you can find your local Calaid collection point online to donate these types of items as well as warm men's clothing, sturdy shoes and waterproofs.  Storage is short, so keep an eye on the current list of what's needed. 

Image credit: Calaid


Some school PTAs host second-hand sales of uniform - check with your school.  I have found that our school welcomed donations of underwear, socks, tights and dresses/trousers for younger aged children.  They keep a small stock of clean clothes for any little accidents that happen in school.


Many towns have organisations who run toy libraries, loaning out toys to families and carers.  They welcome donations of clean, good quality toys, children's books and puzzles.  Check online to find your nearest one.


According to a recent survey by Which, the average household has 39 plastic plant pots languishing in their sheds and greenhouses, yet they can't be recycled with the normal waste.  You could donate to community garden schemes such as Octopus Communities in North London or local schools instead.

Image credit: Which


Animal shelter and rescue charities are always grateful for old blankets and towels.  They may not be good enough for the charity shop, but they can be used as animal bedding.


Many, many charities and fundraising groups now collect used toner and ink cartridges to raise money for their organisations.  From large, international household names, to local schools and playgroups.  Check online to see if your favourite charity recycles them, and often you can apply for freepost envelopes to send them off to.  The cartridges are refilled and reused.

I hope these ideas have inspired you to rethink your 'rubbish'.  See what you can donate to be re-sued and help out a good cause.  Do you have any other suggestions?

Check out what the other Zero Waste Ambassadors have been up to as well.

The Rubbish Diet finds a greener way to join in with GBBO
Westy Writes takes on disposable coffee cups
Can't Swing A Cat takes a long hard look at herself and asks if she's green enough
Make Do and Mend has a fab tutorial on how to make fabric shopping bags


  1. These are great! I always feel better about donating something than just throwing it away or even recycling it. I love the towels for the animal shelter idea!

  2. LOVE the gift your gear initiative and your idea about donating plant pots to school - I wouldn't have thought of that. This is such a great resource; thanks Liz! x

  3. I love having a good clear out and giving to good causes. I didn't know about the tins of paint so thank you x

  4. What some great ideas, I try and recycle as much of the things I can as possible. x

  5. There are some great ideas here. I volunteer at the local charity shop so I see first hand how important donations are to these charities.

  6. Is it Zero Waste Week already? NO WAY! Love this post - will share about :D x x x

  7. Can I share my blog in the hope that others might be inspired to re use? If we can save as much as possible from the landfill by crafting it then we are doing our bit. x

  8. I love the idea of cutting back on rubbish - will be clearing our shed of paint tins and plant pots this weekend I think! x

  9. These are fantastic ideas - especially about the bras.

  10. We collect donated school uniform at school and also have days for all unwanted clothes as we normally make a fair bit of money for the school by doing that

  11. Great tips Liz, I do hate waste and am really trying to cut down on the amount of "stuff" we buy and use.

  12. I love these ideas Liz - you've definitely given me some ideas x x

  13. Some great ideas on how to re-use rather than just throw away. I always donate the children's outgrown uniforms to the school so that they have spare clothing.

  14. Isn't it great, there is so much you can now pass on or reuse. Mich x

  15. What a fab resource, I am going to bookmark this to come back too

  16. I didn't know that about paint! What a great resource! I donated all our flower pots to our school gardens project. They used some of them to build bug hotels.

  17. it is rare it throw anything out i do try to send all my unused items to a charity shop or bank

  18. I hate waste too , I always true and reuse where possible/recycle

  19. What brilliant suggestions, great post. We really need to have a declutter here, so many of POD's old clothes (and mine for that matter). Be nice to get some space back!