You might have just finished your massive spring cleaning project or are thinking about clearing out your yard to get things ready for summer fun. Either way, you’ve likely been thinking about junk.

Junk is a bit of a mystery. We don’t really know why we hang onto it, and half the time we can’t remember how we even got it in the first place. But the biggest mystery of all is this: what happens to your junk after you get rid of it? To get a better idea of where everything ends up, let’s take a look at all the stops our 1-800-GOT-JUNK? trucks make to drop off all the junk we collect.

got junk

Donation is always the first option when it comes to dealing with junk. Items that still have some life left in them are donated to charities so they can be enjoyed by others. We work with local charities like Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore or the Salvation Army and usually stop at these stores first to drop off anything that is still in good condition.

For anything that can’t be used in its current condition, recycling is the next option. We typically do all the sorting at our shop, where things like plastics, metals, batteries, building materials, propane tanks, and more are separated. Then we head to the appropriate recycling depots for further processing. Items that aren’t in working order, but can be broken down into usable parts are taken to the salvage yard. Here, they are taken apart and the pieces are then resold or recycled.

Lastly, any items that can’t be recycled are taken to our county solid waste facility – a waste-to-energy plant. All of this junk is incinerated in 3 huge furnaces that drive 3 huge turbines to generate electricity which is sold back to the community. The ash residue goes into a controlled landfill, but it is a tiny fraction of the original materials.

Now that we have an idea of the journey your junk goes on when you’re done with it, let’s take a closer look at how some of the most common junk items are actually broken down and reused.

TVs and computer monitors:

While we used to hang onto TVs for years and years, these days they are replaced a bit more often. With old CRT units, they must be carefully broken down to remove any lead, which can be quite dangerous if not done correctly. Even newer flat screen units contain mercury and other toxic materials that have to be carefully removed before the other components can be recycled. Once broken down, the plastic, wood and copper coil found on the back of the CRT can be sold and turned into new products. Also, the circuit boards contain gold, platinum, and other precious metals that can be resold and reused.

Fridges & freezers:

When your fridge or freezer has bitten the dust and just isn’t working anymore, it’s time to send it to a better place. (That place being a recycling facility.) First, all the coolant chemicals are carefully removed, leaving the body intact. If the item is still in decent shape, it’s often refurbished and resold domestically or overseas. If it can’t be fixed up, it is taken apart and separated into materials to be recycled individually.


Even though that old mattress might not be suitable for sleeping on, it can live on thanks to the recycling process. First, it’s deconstructed so each different material can be individually recycled. The metal springs (often made of steel) are either shredded or crushed into cubes, and these are sold for new uses. Quilting and foam can be transformed into carpet underlay, while the wood is recycled, and the fabric can be recycled into new felt and insulation.

Since 1989, 1-800-GOT-JUNK? has been at the forefront of responsible disposal. We realized early on that responsible disposal is good for the community and environment, but also makes good business sense. Donating and recycling keeps stuff out of the waste steam and helps us keep costs fair. In fact, due to our responsible work with clients’ junk, 1-800-GOT-JUNK? became an inaugural member of the Green Business Partnership with Pinellas County and University of Florida in 2010.

Now that you know a little more about what happens to your junk, you can rest easy knowing that everything has been properly taken care of. The environment will thank you!