Spring Cleaning: Recycling, Bulk Pickup, & Donating Goods

by | Mar 17, 2022

The dreary winter is drawing to a close; spring awaits just around the corner. After three dark months of blankets and binge-watching, it’s time to shake off the blues, dust off the crumbs, and emerge from our winter cocoons.  


If wintertime and the general state of the world have made a mess of your living space, it might be time for a good spring cleaning. This article won’t give you any lifehacks, turn you into the next Marie Kondo, or teach you to achieve spotless walls and floors using this weird old tip, but it WILL help you with a vital cleaning component – getting rid of stuff. 


Bulk Pickup


I love curb furniture. I’m that roommate always bringing stuff home because “who would throw this out?!”. Scavenging is a hobby; garbage day is a highlight of my week. The lowlight is seeing good things go to waste. More than once, I’ve witnessed a nice piece of furniture put out on the curb, left unclaimed, and then ruined by rain or rendered generally suspect by exposure to the elements. I remember a Pottery Barn couch that sat in the median for weeks, looking sadder and sadder until it eventually disappeared. It’s understandable. In Ghent, trucks are rare; buildings with narrow stairways and without elevators are typical. Getting rid of a large item is hassle enough, reclaiming one even more. Hauling a couch up four flights of stairs (or worse, a fire escape) is a bad time. 


Luckily, the city has a Bulk Pickup service. You can find the guidelines here. One must schedule things like mattresses, couches, carpets, appliances, windows, mirrors, lumber, pallets, tires, and lawnmowers ahead of time for pickup, which you can do here. This service is free to residents, who can request a pickup for up to nine cubic yards of junk 12 times per year. “Overflow” items, like small furniture or large stacks of cardboard, either won’t fit in the bin or could damage the blades in the garbage truck. These must also be scheduled for pickup and placed outside the container in an accessible location, “not blocked by vehicles, trees, poles, mailboxes, fences or low hanging overhead wires.”. Some items, like small electronics or household appliances, can be put directly into the 90-gallon garbage bin, as long as the lid can close.


If you would rather your item(s) be donated, you can schedule a free pickup with Habitat for Humanity ReStore, the Salvation Army, or Union Mission Ministries, and someone will come and get your item. Rules vary by organization, but you might need to reserve your building’s freight elevator or move your item to the first floor, the ground floor, or outside for them to retrieve it. 


A note about hazardous household waste: it is not permissible in the “regular” trash, bulk pickup, or recycling. SPSA’s Norfolk Transfer Station, located at 3136 Woodland Avenue, accepts hazardous waste every Tuesday and Saturday from noon until 4:00 pm. Residents may take their electronic waste to the same place, Monday-Friday, from 8:00 am – 4 pm, or to the Division of Towing & Recovery at 1188-A Lance Road from 8:30 am – 3:30 pm. 


Donation Centers


Are you someone who drives around for weeks (or months) with donations in your trunk? Same. Improve your gas mileage by unloading those items at one of several local options in Norfolk. CHKD has three stores in town and 19 others in the region. Hope House is open Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays for donation drop-offs. Union Mission Thrift Store accepts donations Monday-Friday. Best Thrift, Thrift Store USA, and Thrift Store City take them during regular operating hours. Bring any leftover craft supplies to the 757 Creative Reuse Center. 


Recycling Info


“When in doubt, throw it out.” If you take one thing away from this article, let this be it. The triple-arrow recycling logo printed on all kinds of things only means that you can technically recycle that item somewhere. What is realistically recyclable varies by region, county, and even city. For Norfolk, you can find a list of those items here. Norfolk residents can request a free magnet, sticker, or laminated printout (or all three!) sent via mail as a reference. 


Most apartment buildings in town don’t have curbside recycling. For folks in this situation, two recycling drop-off locations accept all the same items as curbside recycling: Waste Management at 1176 Pineridge Road and Towing and Recovery at 1188-A Lance Road. If you want to play the long game, petition for a change to the City Ordinance that only requires “multiple residence” buildings of four or fewer units to pay a recycling fee. If you want to play the short game, wait until dark to stash your recyclables in neighbors’ bins once they’re out onthe curb (at your own risk, as this is actually illegal). Plastic bags, packaging, and film CANNOT go in the recycle bin. They damage the equipment at recycling plants and slow down the sorting process. But, most grocery stores have shopping-bag collection stations.


Keep Norfolk Beautiful


If all this purging and sprucing has you feeling good about your place, why not share the love? The Great American Cleanup, sponsored by Keep Norfolk Beautiful, has just kicked off and lasts through June 4th. Join them at one of their sponsored events – the March 26th Norview Avenue Cleanup Challenge, the April 23rd Crossroads Community Cleanup at Northside Park, or the Special Waste Collection Event on April 9th at the Southside STEM Academy. Or, host your own event in your neighborhood. 


As we learned from our parents, teachers, and maybe even some exes, the trash won’t take itself out. But these community resources can make it easier. 

Catie Sauer

Ghent, NFK

Catie was born in Norfolk and as an adult has lived here for two years and change. She has a master's in Environmental Planning and Design from the University of Georgia. She likes hiking, playing trivia, being a flaneuse, pinball, memes, and growing vegetables. 

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