Every couple of weeks, I take the plastic bags from my Washington Post newspaper over to my neighbor's house. He uses them when he walks his dog. My other neighbor heard about this and connected with someone a block away, who also wanted plastic bags for dog walking. Another neighbor suggested that we also hang a plastic bag dispenser on one of our light poles, so that others could get free, reused bags. (There was one regularly used on 7th and A St SE for years, which many of us kept clean until it was removed when the pole was painted.). The Yahoo group DC-Dog also seems to share plastic bags.
How can we easily share things with others rather than throwing them away? A few weeks ago (see below in an earlier post), a potter on the Hill asked for boxes and bubble wrap to ship her fragile art pieces. I assume that she has received a big pile of these! Someone else on the Hill asked for pumpkins for her new compost pile. What other items could we share with others and keep out of landfills? One can use neighborhood listservs or websites to connect with others interested in your pile of rubber bands, can of crayons, or stack of moving boxes. The new Hill East is a very busy listserv, but DCist lists others all over town.
You can sell or give things away through Craigslist and Freecycle. It might be even easier to set up a freecycle system at work or in your apartment building. World Wildlife Fund in DC has its Junk Mail system, which is an internal listserv where people can post items they want to give away or acquire. Someone asked for old hairbrushes for her horses. Another person posted a new bottle of nail polish. Employees can opt-in or opt-out of the system. It is run by one employee and monitored by another. Once it is set up, it has a life of its own. World Wildlife Fund employees have also organized regular clothes swaps and book exchanges (just an open shelf; uninteresting books are quickly recycled leaving the interesting ones).
You can also ask a store to collect items that either you or the store would recycle. A wine store might collect and recycle wine corks; a hardware store might collect Brita water filters; a Radio Shack might collect batteries. This is how the DC Recycler started.
Or share your tools, appliances, bikes, and other items with your neighbors through NeighborGoods, ShareSomeSugar, or your own neighborhood database. Join the thousands in the Maker Movement ("On a basic level, the movement is about reusing and repairing objects, rather than discarding them to buy more. On a deeper level, it's also a philosophical idea about what ownership really is.") or open a Share Exchange and create new jobs. These days it's easy to take recycling to a new stage and think about how recycling can be a resource to create a new economy, a sustainable job-creating one, rather than bailing out the current waste-creating, non-job-making one.