Dear Recyclebank: What is the best way to dispose of, or repurpose, broken luggage? –Rachel G.
Dear Rachel: Years of travelling can take a toll on your suitcases, no matter how well constructed they are. This wear and tear can become especially noticeable around the holidays — after numerous trips to see loved ones, you just may find yourself with an unusable bag that’s beyond repair.
Reusing the luggage for yourself is the best option since you can delay the need to recycle it, and there are plenty of ways to incorporate it into your life at home. One straight-forward solution is storage. An attractive suitcase is more visually appealing than a cardboard box and doesn’t need to zip properly to keep your summer clothes safe in the closet. Other crafty ideas include a set of “drawers,” cute beds for your pets, and even stylish chairs. If you have DIY skills (or the willingness to learn and experiment), you can construct all sorts of useful things from your old luggage and keep it from going to waste. Check out Pinterest for more possibilities.
When your luggage is way past its expiration date and can’t be used at home anymore, it’s time to consider your recycling options. While you can’t throw a giant piece of luggage in your curbside recycling bin as-is, suitcases and other bags often contain useful material that can be recycled. Between fabric, metal zippers, plastic handles, and rubber wheels, different components can be given new life if properly separated. If you feel comfortable disassembling the separate parts, feel free to separate the bag into more easily recyclable bits. This route will take some research, though, as you’ll need to confirm that all the materials you salvage are accepted by your local facility, and in that form.
If you’re not comfortable acting as a luggage surgeon, you may be able to recycle your suitcase without taking it apart first. Many cities have special curbside recycling pickup for large items, whether it’s a designated day set by the city or a date set by you, by contacting the handler directly. If this is an option in your area, it’s worth investigating. Another convenient way to send luggage in for recycling is to order the appropriate Zero Waste Box from TerraCycle. However, as this is a relatively expensive option, you may want to work with your friends and family to gather all of your old bags and fund a box purchase together.
Of course, if you're luggage isn't unusable, consider donating it. Beyond Goodwill, you may want to look into donating to shelters, or check out Suitcases For Kids, which helps get suitcases to foster children, who may move often. And as you plan your travel, keep your eyes peeled — travel agencies sometimes run luggage drives, too.