Solid Waste in New England
Reuse in New England: Purpose of the Guide
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's 1989 Agenda for Action promotes a solid waste hierarchy, as follows:
- recycle (including composting)
- incinerate with energy recovery
The purpose of Reuse in New England is to promote and encourage reuse over traditional solid waste disposal.
This Guide can be used by businesses, institutions, and governments who deal with off-spec production or asset management, and others, including citizens, who are seeking or need to dispose of items that may still have "use”. It contains listings for where to donate goods or unwanted materials, and serves those in Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont. This guide features not-for-profit entities unless stated otherwise.
What is the Difference between Recycling and Reuse?
In the case of a computer, here is the difference:
Recycling: The computer would be separated into its component parts, broken down into raw materials such as metals and plastics that can be marketed as recyclables.
Remanufacturing: The computer would be rebuilt or refurbished into a new product for sale.
Reuse: The computer would be used again in its original form for the same purpose. Or, it would be used again for another purpose after changes in the location/user or minor changes to the software/hardware. An example of reuse would be donation to a non-profit organization.
Refer to Definitions for the Purpose of the This Guide for further clarification.
A business or homeowner has many opportunities and reasons to choose reuse for their unwanted or surplus materials. The places that accept products for reuse may be traditional non-profit charitable organizations or for-profit businesses. Increasingly, it is recognized that it makes good sense to reuse, refurbish, or remanufacture an already existing product rather than make a new one. Why?
Conservation of Natural Resources: Reuse gives a product with value a second life, saving the raw materials that would be used in manufacturing it new. Remanufacturing, refurbishing, and repairing all use fewer raw materials and conserve both energy and natural resources. By finding a use for that old file cabinet or remanufacturing your toner cartridges, you help conserve landfill space and the natural resources that would go into making these products new.
Cost Savings: The disposal costs that a business or homeowner can save through recycling can also be saved through reuse. In addition, it generally costs less to buy used.
Social Benefits: As a general philosophy, reuse fulfills a dual goal in communities – it diverts waste from disposal and it gets materials to those in need.
Tax Deductions: A donation to a non-profit reuse operation with 501(c)(3) status can result in a tax deduction through the IRS, based on the Full Fair Market Value of the donation.
Repair is another avenue to reuse. Local bookstores and libraries should have books that focus on product repair. Most manufacturers can be contacted to obtain parts or repair instructions or locate authorized repair facilities. Classified listings, often available online, can also be searched for repair resources.
Why Buy Used?
Buying used items and items that are reusable supports a priority method of waste management — Reuse.
An item that is perfectly good, but no longer wanted or needed by one person may find a useful home with someone else. Less energy and resources are used when an item can be reused instead of disassembled, ground, shredded, melted, molded or otherwise processed for recycling. And often times an item can be reused several times before it’s sent for recycling. The list of items that can be reused is virtually unlimited. Reuse opportunities can be found in nearly every community. For example, you can donate or find items for reuse at:
- thrift stores and charitable drop-off centers
- organizations that provide charities, low-income populations, food banks, and schools with reusable equipment and materials
- drop & swap stations at landfills or transfer stations
- used equipment stores and salvage yards
- local and regional material exchanges
Buyer and Donor Beware
Not all charitable-sounding organizations that are requesting donations are eligible to receive gifts. When a tax writeoff is planned, ask for a copy of the organization's Internal Revenue Service Determination Letter. The Letter, generally 2 pages, verifies that the soliciting group is tax exempt as a charity under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. Prior to donating, check into donation details and processes that are specific to each organization. One place to look is The Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance.
Consider also that there may be environmental, health, or safety concerns associated with reuse, a few of which are mentioned here:
- Some items, such as older vehicles and appliances, may contain toxic components and be significantly less energy efficient than newer ones.
- Some items, such as those used in infant and child care, may have design or safety issues depending on age and wear.
- Materials deemed for reuse in food preparation/storage may have previously contained toxic materials, or harbor bacteria in cracks on surfaces that are not easily sanitized. Older kitchenware, such as ceramic, crystal, or painted materials, may contain lead.
- Electrical items should be inspected to ensure proper operation.
Resources Worth Mentioning
EPA New England Solid Waste
More information about solid waste management, including links to national, state and regional resources and contacts.
Reuse Development Organization,
A reuse development organization with a mission to promote reuse as an environmentally sound, socially beneficial, and economical