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Exploring the differences of each approach

Donating, Upcycling, Recycling, and Proper Disposal

Exploring the differences of each approach
Casey Blakely
October 27, 2023
Circular Economy

In a world of growing environmental awareness and a desire to reduce waste, knowing how to handle items we no longer need or want has become increasingly important. Whether it's old clothing, electronics, furniture, or various household items, understanding the differences between donating, upcycling, recycling, and disposal is key to making a positive impact on the planet and the community. In this post, we will explore the distinctions and the benefits of each approach.


Most of you know what donating means, it’s the act of giving away items that can be used again to individuals or organizations. It’s a way of extending the life of your possessions beyond the time they spend with you. While there are plenty of reasons that you might donate, we wanted to list some of our favorite reasons and shed some light on what happens after you donate.

Helping Those Less Fortunate 

Donating plays a pivotal role for many people who are less fortunate in this life. Whether you donate to charitable causes and organizations, or to local nonprofits, your time, items, or resources may make a tangible difference in someone’s life. 

Environmental Impact

By choosing to donate, you reduce the demand for new items to be produced, thereby conserving resources and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Sadly, most reports indicate that a large portion of donated clothing either ends up in landfills or recycling plants. According to this post by Anna De Souza from Reader’s Digest, if your sweater isn’t picked up in as few as three to four weeks’ time, it can end up as carpet padding, insulation, and rags—or even overseas. While this may not seem so bad, remember that many parts of Africa are being overrun with our clothing waste. Source

Depending on the type of material in your clothing, it may be too expensive to separate fibers causing the clothing to be tossed. We are, however, seeing an increasing number of companies committing to more sustainable practices and improved recycling technologies


Upcycling and repairing your belongings has emerged as a powerful way to reduce waste and contribute to a circular economy. It involves creatively transforming items you might otherwise discard into something new and valuable. By giving old objects a fresh purpose, you extend their lifespan and minimize the need for new production. This not only reduces waste but also encourages innovation and creativity in reusing materials.

Repairing items, from clothing to electronics, is another vital aspect of the circular economy. Instead of tossing something away at the first sign of wear and tear, consider mending it. Not only can this save you money but also helps reduce the demand for new products, conserving resources and energy.

The environmental benefits of upcycling and repairing are significant. By keeping items in use and out of landfills, you reduce the strain on natural resources and lessen the environmental impact associated with manufacturing and disposal. Moreover, these practices foster a sense of personal responsibility for our possessions, reinforcing the idea that our belongings can have many lives, rather than a single-use existence.


Recycling has been around in various forms throughout history, but in 1960, the first recycling programs started popping up in the United States. To avoid filling landfills, curbside pickup was introduced leading to what we are familiar with today. However, recycling may not be as effective or as easy as we are all led to believe. According to a report released in 2022, recycling rates are only around 5 - 6% for post-consumer waste in the U.S. for 2021.

Judith Enck, President of Beyond Plastics and former U.S. E.P.A Regional Administrator says “The plastics industry must stop lying to the public about plastics recycling. It does not work, it never will work, and no amount of false advertising will change that. Instead, we need consumer brand companies and governments to adopt policies that reduce the production, usage, and disposal of plastics”

With that in mind, recycling is still a better option than just tossing things in the trash. Done correctly, recycling helps preserve our natural resources like timber, water, and minerals. It also reduces what ends up in our growing landfills. For the most effective results, be sure to check your locality’s recycling policies before putting something in the recycling bin.

Proper Disposal

Proper disposal involves safely discarding items that are damaged, hazardous, or beyond the point of reuse. While this is the least eco-friendly option, proper disposal is sometimes necessary. For any household materials that may not be suitable for your typical trash day, do your research and find out your best option for disposal. There is likely an organization near you who will take those goods from you. 

By understanding the differences and benefits of donating, upcycling, recycling, and proper disposal, you can be empowered to make more informed choices. While upcycling is your best option for sustainability and item longevity, donating and recycling can be great options. By making thoughtful decisions, we can all contribute to a more sustainable and compassionate world for generations to come. Remember, it's the small choices that add up to make a big difference in our environment and society. And Kwipoo is on a mission to make those small choices easy for you so you can make strides on your journey to sustainability.