CHATHAM COUNTY, N.C. (WTVD) -- Despite decades of increasing environmental awareness and recycling education, we still often throw away things that don't have to go into landfills.
And those landfills are quickly filling up.
A lot of us did a lot of cleaning out during the extra time we've spent at home during the pandemic and maybe we could have been more careful about what ended up in the dump.
Turns out a lot of stuff that ends up at landfills could have been reused.
"Landfill space is a finite resource. So there's only so much space in the landfill to put things. There's only so many landfills that you can make," Kevin Lindley told ABC11.
Lindley, the environmental quality director for Chatham County, said that's one of the reasons their solid waste centers have swap shops.
Those shops accept everything from small electronics, furniture, and televisions to clothing and books.
And sometimes the reading material is quite unique Lindley noted while pointing at notebooks on a shelf saying, "These are Broadway musicals that are in those notebooks."
For Chatham County residents who have a collection center decal, everything at every swap shop at all 12 of the county's solid waste centers is free.
"It's twofold really; to save space in the landfill and also to, to just help your neighbor out," Lindley said.
Everything that's picked up from the swap shops and reused is something that doesn't end up taking up that limited space in a landfill.
That's why Darren Cranston often visits the collection center swap shop near his Chatham County home.
"I've got four children and often the things they no longer use we bring them in and you know a lot of people can use them," he said as he dropped off a box of educational materials including flash cards.
Cranston is among those who realize that space for trash is limited and the need for gently used items is growing, especially during the pandemic.
"We need to start to reuse more things instead of just throwing them away," he said.
The swap shops were closed for more than a year during the pandemic.
When they finally reopened this spring, there was pent-up demand from housebound people who had done a lot of de-cluttering according to Lindley.
"They needed to clean out, it was something they weren't using but they didn't want to just throw it away," he said. "They wanted to see it repurposed. And they were waiting for the swap shops to open up to be able to do that."
Since the reopening, there have been some problems with people dropping off unacceptable items.
So Lindley asks that you visit the county's solid waste website for a list of swap shop needs.
If your county doesn't have a swap shop, you're encouraged to take gently used items to your local charity thrift stores to keep them out of landfills.