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Spring cleaning responsibly: How to ethically declutter

Spring cleaning responsibly: How to ethically declutter

Quaran-cleaning

Text: Redzhanna Jazmin


Image: Illustration by Youheum Son
Image: Illustration by Natalie Knelson

Done some spring cleaning during this MCO and looking for a better solution than the landfill? Look no further.

With the pandemic ongoing and the MCO having been extended, everyone is cooped up at home with seemingly endless amounts of time on their hands. No doubt, it’s the perfect opportunity to get some spring cleaning in the works. Whether you’ve pulled a Marie Kondo or the perils of isolation have finally driven you to deal with your hoarder’s shame, you’ve probably got a large pile of stuff just waiting to be disposed of.

Now, it does make sense convenience-wise to simply chuck it all in a bin bag, put it out on the pavement and be done with it. However, we urge you to hold off on that thought and spend a little more of your extra time sorting through it properly, and disposing of it ethically. Of course, by ethically we mean to discard your waste in a way that doesn’t mean more landfill.

Oh, and before you protest saying that you’re too busy and you’ve got stuff to do, don’t kid yourself—we’re all stuck and home with nothing to do. Plus, you only cleaned because you’re procrastinating anyway, so you may as well do some actual good while you’re avoiding all your other responsibilities.

Without further ado, here is how and where you can ethically discard and repurpose your electronics, furniture, clothes and beauty products.

Electronics

‘E-waste’ refers to broken, damaged or old electronic products that are being discarded with no intent for reuse, including items like old computers, microwaves, calculators, light bulbs, cables, batteries, phones; anything you can think of.

An estimated 20 to 50 million tonnes of e-waste is disposed of every year, with very little being recycled—and it’s killing our planet. These items are possibly the worst things to end up in landfill as they are non-degradable, so over time they leach toxic components like mercury, lead and cadmium into our soil and water.

If it’s still in working condition:

Sell it

Buy Sell Trade will buy old electrical equipment, household appliances, watches, gadgets and more off of you for the purpose of resale. It’s a great way to get a little money back while preventing e-waste from reaching our landfills.

Donate or give it away

One of your mates may need a new phone or laptop, so ask around before you chuck yours in the bin. If you don’t personally know anyone who’s in the market for your old electronics, rest assured that there are loads of underprivileged communities who would greatly appreciate your donation.

  • Hati is a non-profit that serves the underprivileged by redistributing donations that they receive to various charities, and electronics are just some of the things they accept!

Trade up

Old Apple products? If they’re in working order, give them to a pal, donate them or trade it in for a new model or for a little cash back at Machines—this doesn’t just apply for just Apple products either! Maxis, Senheng and Celcom let you trade in a large array of devices for either a cheaper upgrade or a little cash back.

Just make sure you wipe your devices before you sell them on, donate them or trade them in!

If it’s not in working condition:

Recycle it at these outlets

  • SOLS Tech takes your old electronics (both functioning and nonfunctioning), refurbishes them and then redistributes them to various projects and deserving communities. Since launching in 2012, they’ve donated 3500 full computer sets to underprivileged communities nationwide—a much more worthy cause than the landfill.
  • The Hive Bulk Foods facilitates the collection of e-waste at their outlets in Bangsar and Intermark, on behalf of Vincent Chung of UrbanR Recycle who then salvages parts for recycling.
  • PASS has set up over 300 e-recycle bins around the Klang Valley, and they do house calls for bulkier items! Plus, check out their Facebook page for their mobile locations.
  • T-POT purchases old IT and electrical equipment like monitors, laptops and washing machines in addition to electronic industrial scrap like RAMs and processors.
  • Thanam Industry Sdn Bhd is a family-run business dedicated to recycling scrap metals and e-waste; send in your old electronics for recycling and get a little cash back while you’re at it.

Furniture

It’s a tale as old as time—broken chairs, shelf-less cupboards and sofas with no spring. They’re burdensome, bleak and, worst of all, bulky. So what do you do?

If it isn’t broken...

Consider reupholstering

Sofa looking a little worse for wear? Maybe all it needs is new upholstery! In fact, giving your old sofas and chairs a makeover can completely transform them, and even make you reconsider giving them away in the first place. If you’re in the market for an upcycle, check out Janine.

Donate it or give it away

Maybe your pal has just moved house and the decor is looking a little bare. Handing them an old sofa or table would save them the trouble of a trip to IKEA, so why not? Alternatively, Hati also accepts household and office furniture in good condition, which they will collect directly from you and redistribute it to vulnerable communities.

If it is broken…

Unfortunately there aren’t very many options available here; you could try recycling a few parts such as those made of wood, metal or fabric, but other than that you’re probably best off disposing of them normally. At least you got a few years’ worth of use out of them, though (hopefully)!

Beauty desk

If you’re neck-deep in old beauty products (both used and unused) or any beauty empties, you’ve come to the right place. The good news is that a lot of beauty brands have made a conscious effort to make their products more sustainable, recyclable packaging, which makes your life a lot easier.

To recycle your empty bottles:

  • L’Occitane has recently introduced a recycling programme called “BIG LITTLE THINGS” in partnership with I-Cycle Malaysia. You can take your empties (from any brand!) and recycle them at any of their participating stores. Just make sure they are clean and dried before you do. Oh, and in return, you’ll be the proud owner of some complimentary gifts—dreamy!
  • The Body Shop has something similar in the works; if you bring back any Body Shop bottle, you’ll get RM1 off your next purchase and have the packaging recycled for you.

To deal with your unused products:

Check if any of your pals are interested in getting a new lipstick or eyeshadow; no one really says no to free cosmetics, do they? Alternatively, you could donate them to organisations that support underprivileged women like WAO or Tenaganita because everyone deserves to feel beautiful, and cosmetics and self-care products are a necessary luxury. Just make sure the products aren’t expired—nobody needs that.

Wardrobe

There is nothing quite more cathartic than sorting through your wardrobe. Clothes that don’t fit, out-of season impulse buys and stuff you just don’t wear anymore. A lot of clothes, however, especially those born from the fast fashion industry, are made with non-degradable fabrics that, like most things, remain in landfill for years to come. The only way to ensure that they don’t is to discard them responsibly.

Upcycle your garms

Other than donating them, you can either mend your clothes to give them a new lease of life, or use the scraps as rags, repurpose and upcycle them into new items.

  • Here’s a nifty guide to get you in the mending mood—with a few stitches and a little patch your worn garments will be good as new!
  • Here’s an example of an upcycle done right—the benefit to this is you can really get creative.

Recycle the scraps

Luckily, we’ve already got a useful guide to show you where you can recycle old clothes and fabric scraps. Further, you can take your clothes (in clean and good condition) to your nearest H&M outlet for a 15% discount on your new clothes—just pack it all in a bag and hand it over—easy!

So you’re done with your decluttering journey and your house feels nice and roomy again (who would’ve thunk it!?)—now make sure you keep it that way! That means reduce what you buy in the future, keeping it to things you’ll actually use. The next time something catches your eye, walk away for an evening and sleep on it. If you still can’t stop thinking about it, then go for it! If not, it was clutter-to-be anyway—no worries.

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