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Trash or Treasure?
One Man’s Trash is Another Man’s Treasure

A.Fiber reclamation

Don’t throw out those tattered jeans just yet—like many things that we already recycle such as newspaper, plastic and glass, tired clothing has another use besides being worn.

Since April, I have been doing spring cleaning at my house. Mind you, this is a project that hasn’t been undertaken in 20 years. The kids were finally grown and out of the house but their belongings were not. It was daunting.

The hardest part in any overwhelming project is to begin so this is what I did: I pulled everything out of the closets upstairs and took a picture of the mess, which I posted online, advertising a room for rent. The ad said, “This is what it looks like now, but it will be ready by June”. 

I aimed the ad at summer people coming to the area to work for the season, who needed to find accommodations. Within hours, I had three renters. The commitment was made, it had to get done—there was an elephant in the room.

During the process, The Salvation Army came eight times to pick up giant piles of things. I chose The Salvation Army because for one, they pick up, and for two, because I have a passion for homeless people and the Salvation Army has programs to help them, as well as many other programs.

The Salvation Army can find a use for virtually anything. Many of the items they receive end up in thrift stores around the country but first the items go to a sorting facility where they are cleaned, tinkered on, sorted and graded. 

Items that don’t make the grade are baled by material, including cardboard, metals and cloth. Clothing that is deemed too worn for resale gets packaged into ½-ton bales which are then sold to salvage companies. Very little of anything goes to waste.

Textile salvage companies buy the bales of clothing (home sewers—donate your fabric scraps), most of which get shipped overseas where some of the clothing is donated to organizations and used to aid impoverished people. Other pieces will be shredded and repurposed into low-grade fiber items such as car door panels and insulation.

Many of us have donated items to our local thrift stores. Surplus is donated to The Salvation Army and other charitable organizations. 

There are dozens of thrift stores around the lake, many of which use the money generated from sales of your generous donations to fund philanthropic programs in the area and beyond.

These stores are run predominantly by volunteers. Donations are great, but one thing you might want to consider is giving the gift of time. Both stores in Incline Village are in dire need of volunteers and probably others as well. Volunteering at your local thrift store may be the greatest gift you give this season. And go ahead and donate those torn jeans and moth-eaten sweaters. They might just end up as door insulation in your next car.

B.Old Shoes

I have a hard time throwing anything away so I was tickled to learn about the Nike shoe reclamation program. Those old sneakers with soles worn thin as pancakes and holes in the toes don’t need to go in the trash. They can be taken to the Nike Factory Store, located at the Legends Mall at Sparks Marina. They will take any shoes, even boots, which get shredded and turned into playground surfaces or foam pads used at sports arenas. Tip your hat to Nike for this innovative program and round up those old shoes.

C.Hazardous Waste

I know you are now so motivated to start going through your house, flinging items into boxes for donation. While you are doing this, keep a mind on some other items that may be lurking in the recesses of your cabinetry such as old cleaning supplies, unused computer items and printers, old-style televisions, batteries, fluorescent bulbs, moth balls and a host of other hazardous-type materials.

Some things should not be donated or thrown out. In many communities, these items must be taken separately to a waste facility where they can be disposed of for a fee. 

Incline Village, however, has a fee-free program (a small fee for TVs) for disposal of hazardous waste and small electronics. On Tuesdays and Thursdays from 3 to 5 p.m., IVGID Public Works collects these items from residents (be prepared to show your IVGID pass or a utility bill and an I.D.). For program details, please call IVGID Waste Not at (775) 832-1284.

We all have things piling up in corners, closets and garages but it might make it easier to begin the process of dealing with it if you know there is a use for much of it. Find your elephant and as Nike would say, “Just Do It!”

A baling machine, inside The Salvation Army sorting facility
Baled items for salvage, The Salvation Army
Baled paper goods, awaiting salvage The Salvation Army
Tahoe Family Solutions Thrift Store in Incline Village Nevada.
Trailer at IVGID Public Works, nearly full and ready for transport off the mountain
Photo courtesy of Madonna Dunbar, IVGID Waste Not Program/Public Works
Unused or unwanted cleaning supplies and paint disposed of through the program
Photo courtesy of Madonna Dunbar, IVGID Waste Not Program/Public Works