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6 Ways to Make the Most of Your Town’s Curbside Cleanup Day

Many towns designate certain days for curbside cleanup (aka bulk trash pickup), when residents can rid themselves of heavy, awkward, or unwieldy items. Here’s what to know before you participate.

Take It or Leave It

Let’s face it: Disposable items have spoiled us. From cleaning wipes to plastic straws, folks are accustomed to using items once and then tossing them, no matter the environmental cost. Plenty of us pay cold hard cash in exchange for convenience, even when that convenience borders on the ridiculous—the Whole Foods Pre-Peeled Orange Wars of 2016 come to mind.

Fortunately, it looks like future generations may eschew today’s throw-away culture. As much as we may aspire to repurpose our way to eco-nirvana, though, many people lack the time or energy to lead an entirely zero-waste, buy-nothing existence. Enter local curbside cleanup days, which offer us the opportunity to both unload unwanted refuse and collect potential riches.

Whether you’re discarding the fruits of a spring decluttering session, looking for hidden gems to restore and resell, or simply doing some curbside browsing for your own home, there are many ways to take advantage of your town’s cleanup day.

Don’t Miss It!

The first order of business is finding out when your town’s bulk trash day takes place. In some municipalities, there’s one every month. Others host an annual or biannual event, usually in the spring and/or fall. If your locality falls into the latter camp, you’ll especially want to mark the dates on your calendar. Also note that in larger cities, curbside cleanup days may be scheduled by neighborhood. Just because a friend across town is jettisoning her Jacuzzi doesn’t necessarily mean you should haul your snow tires to the street on that same day.

Know What You Can (and Can’t) Put Out

If “when” is the most important info to know about bulk trash day, the “what” comes in a close second. Regulations regarding the items your town will take vary widely. There are some things that are generally acceptable (furniture, lamps, carpet, swing sets, bicycles), some that are generally prohibited (hazardous chemicals, electronics, propane tanks, concrete), and quite a few that occupy a middle ground—allowed in some areas but verboten in others (batteries, small appliances, tires, yard waste). Don’t just assume someone else will come along and take care of it; it’s your responsibility as a resident to do the right thing with your refuse.

Declutter and Sort Beforehand

Make the most of your area’s cleanup day by preparing for it well in advance. Tackle the attic and basement, get into that chaotic garage, and take stock of what you’ve got. Organize everything into separate bins, bags, or—for really bulky belongings—piles: Keep, Donate, and Discard. Set aside any items in that last category that require a separate trip to a recycling center or hazardous waste disposal site, and then kick what’s left to the curb.

Host a Neighborhood Swap Meet…

In many parts of the country, the first few warm spring days see stir-crazy, cabin-feverish folks walking around the neighborhood, working in their yards, or just sitting on their porches or stoops to soak up some unfamiliar sunshine. What better time to get everyone together for a good old-fashioned neighborhood swap meet? Pick a weekend and a gathering place where people can “shop” others’ cast-off items. It’s a good idea to set some ground rules too. And just for fun, why not make it a potluck while you’re at it?

…or a Neighborhood Yard Sale

Similarly, consider holding a community yard sale a week or two before your town’s curbside cleanup day. Multi-household sales tend to get a lot of traffic, so everyone will benefit by combining forces. If your neighbors are civic-minded, you could pool the money to benefit everyone—perhaps to fund a block party or to furnish a neighborhood pocket park with perennials and a picnic table? A little planning will go a long way toward making your sale a success, as will a few simple guidelines for sellers.

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