Can You Recycle Blinds?
Abigail Sawyer | 21 May 2014 | How To
Abigail Sawyer | 21 May 2014 | How To
After replacing a house full of old worn out blinds, what do you do with the old ones? I don’t know about you, but we would feel pretty wasteful sending 20 + blinds straight to the landfill. There has to be another way!
Like us, you may have googled “How To Recycle Blinds” and come up with lots of conflicting answers. Some websites say to take them to the local recycling center, but if you try this, you’ll probably be turned away. Nearly every major city’s waste services website site has window blinds on the do-not-recycle list along with light bulbs, mattresses, appliances and other odd-ball items.
“Recycling” is one of those words that has many definitions. We can “recycle” our window coverings by repurposing them or donating them although only a few kinds of blinds can truly be recycled and turned into other usable items.
Aluminum blinds are made with 100% recyclable aluminum and can be taken to any scrap metal yard, or recycling center. If you have vinyl mini blinds, check to see if your recycling center accepts PVC or vinyl. You can check the Vinyl Institute’s directory to find a drop of location near you.
Before you load your car, clean the blinds thoroughly. Hosing them down is a quick and easy way to get this done.
Many scrap metal yards and recycling centers won’t accept full blinds, only the aluminum, steel or vinyl parts. Cut the lift cords and ladder cords to free each slat. Remove any components you can from the metal headrail and recycle it as well.
If your local scrap yard won’t accept them, try these ideas for how to reuse aluminum blinds around the house.
Any wood that is painted or treated cannot be recycled. Recycling centers and construction resale stores accept cut limbs or leftover lumber pieces, but wood blinds don’t fit the bill.
Our best suggestion is to donate any wood blinds you don’t want. If someone else can reuse your blinds as they are, it’s more eco friendly than using the energy it would take to turn them into something else. Read more about donating blinds below.
If you’re not sure what to do with broken wood blinds here are a few ideas: Cut the slats into smaller pieces and make garden makers. Learn How!
Use slats to make a herringbone finish dresser like this one.
If they’re broken, you could turn the slats into a sunburst mirror.
Any fabric window coverings are a cinch to recycle. The first choice should always be to give them to a friend or donate them. Higher end window coverings are almost always in demand.
But if your shades are torn or broken you can take them apart to be recycled. Use scissors to cut the fabric away from any hardware or cords. Metal hardware can be recycled at a local drop off center. The fabric can be taken to a clothing donation location like Goodwill, or used around the house for a sewing or decor project.
Resale stores like Goodwill send off fabric scraps and clothing that can’t be sold to factories that turn the fabric into industrial rags and insulation material. Many houses and cars are insulated with a large percentage of fabric scraps. However, if your fabric is wet, mildewed or has been exposed to something hazardous, it’s better to just throw it away.
Cell shades are made with a plastic headrail, metal components and 100% polyester fabric. Some polyester fabric is made from recycled materials like plastic bottles, but their recycling is not a closed loop process. The technology does not currently exist to “melt down” the fabric back into other usable items and recycle them over and over again.
However, polyester fabrics can be shredded and reused as batting for quilts and filler for homes and cars. Cut the headrail and bottom rail off of the fabric and take it to a clothing donation bin or Salvation Army. They sell usable clothing, but send soiled or scrap textiles to be shredded as filler and insulation.
If your shades are still in good working condition, it’s always better to donate them so that they can be used in their current state.
Like wood blinds, some bamboo shades are made with stained or treated wood which cannot be recycled. Shades made with untreated wood are still not accepted at wood recycling centers that turn wood scraps and brush into mulch. The threads in woven wood shades can interfere with machinery used to shred wood at these facilities.
But rest assured knowing that bamboo shades are made with materials that are almost completely biodegradable. They have wooden headrails and are woven together with natural fiber thread, so if they’re thrown out with other trash they will decompose quickly and turn back into an environmentally useful element.
If you don’t want to throw away your bamboo blinds, there are many ways that you can reuse them around the house. Remove the shades from the headrail and turn them into beach mats, a lamp shade, placemats, vase coverings, a wall hanging, or use them as garden screening. In fact, we’ve got a blog post all about it: 10 Surprising Ways to Reuse Bamboo Blinds.
As we mentioned earlier, reusing is always a greener choice than recycling. If your blinds can be used as they are, the energy doesn’t have to be used to turn then into something else.
Working blinds are gladly accepted by many organizations. If your blinds have never been used and are still in the original packaging you can take them to a Habitat for Humanity ReStore where they will be resold with other building materials to support Habitat.
If your blinds are used, but still operational, see if a friend or neighbor needs them. Neighbors may have the same size windows and be able to reuse your blinds with no extra work. College kids or newlyweds may gladly accept secondhand blinds while they’re just starting out. Churches, women’s shelters and children’s homes often accept donations of any kind. Resale stores like Goodwill and The Salvation Army may also accept window coverings, or you put them up for grabs on a site like Freecycle.
Before you give your blinds to anyone else, uninstall them and keep all of the hardware together with the blinds. Clean with a dust cloth or quick spray with the hose. raise blinds fully and wrap the cords up neatly.
Send them our way in the comments, or tweet to us @BlindsDotCom!
Abigail Sawyer is a Senior Social Media Specialist for Blinds.com. She's a home improvement junkie who is currently restoring a 1972 cottage with the help of her husband and goldendoodle, Biscuit. Walking in the footsteps of Martha Stewart, she’s happiest when she’s crafting or whipping up a new recipe; although nothing beats curling up with a good book and some Girl Scout Cookies. Follow her on twitter + instagram at @whatabigailsaw