5 Companies That Will Pay You for Your Junk (or Take Out the Toxic Trash)

Get cash for your gently used designer clothing, rusty fridge and recycle dead computers at these Chicago companies.

Photo by: Crossroads Trading Co. Crossroads Trading Company in Wicker Park is part of a booming resurgence of designer resale franchises that buy and sell recycled, trendy clothing targeting the fashion and budget conscious shopper.

Ready to get rid of that eye-sore 1980s pinstripe sofa? Believe us (and your teenage daughter): It has zero curbside appeal. How about those cell phones and Jurassic computers? (Psst, it's okay to get rid of a Mac.) We put together a must-have list of the top Chicago companies that will haul too big to handle equipment, old appliances, help dispose of hazardous waste and a few, like ComEd, where you can make a buck off your junk.

1. They'll take your upscale duds for cash. If you’ve outgrown the look of that Burberry jacket (and you only wore it twice, anyway), or you’re planning a closet-cleaning marathon to make room for a revamped wardrobe, consider trading or selling those fashionista gems at Crossroads Trading Company. (Sometimes confused with that other Crossroads.) They want gently used items (not rags). Designer quality is desirable – think Marc Jacobs, Gucci, Anthropologie.  Seasonality gets you first dibs, and they’ll pay in greenbacks (about 40 to 50 percent of the rack price) or issue store credit.  What’s not to like? They offer a consignment option and if you’re in a rush, leave your items at the counter and get a response within one day. And they have three Chicagoland locations: Wicker Park, Lincoln Park and Evanston. Suggestion: Browse the store first.

 2. Appliances: What to do with them when you’re done? It’s surprising how many people don’t know this, but through its recycling program ComEd will pay you $35 bucks for your old (working) fridge or freezer. They'll haul it for free, too. Just schedule a pick-up online. The Salvation Army (1-888-5-PICKUP) will also take appliances (but alas, no cash exchange). Fair warning: The driver can reject your forlorn item if they think it’s too much of a wreck. Arranging a pickup reduces curbside and alley blight. But if you must, and you live in the City in a single-family home or apartment (four units or less only), the alley is a pickup spot for the Department of Streets and Sanitation. They’ll load and drive the ice box to a sorting center. Done. Suggestion: Best time to swap or dispose of a fridge, freezer or other heavy-duty appliance? When you’re shopping and ready to replace it.

 3. Heavy Haulers: These local boys get rave reviews. Junk Removal 911 is a full service, non-franchise operation serving the Chicago area. They’ll clean out a garage, shed, foreclosed home or storage unit (the one you forgot about). They do the ugly post-clean-up, even for extreme situations you might see you see on a Hoarders episode. And here’s the kicker: They’ll first try to donate salvageable items to the Salvation Army or other charity organizations, Goodwill and local churches. No takers for the goods? Only then will they make the journey to a transfer station where all materials are sorted and grouped into transport loads: wood, cement, plastics, metals. Suggestion: When you’re serious and ready, call for a totally free estimate.

 4. Computers & Electronics: Lots of people toss out old ratty PCs, antiquated cell phones and tube televisions with last night’s pizza box. Don’t do this. There are state laws regulating the disposal of electronic waste, an ever expanding problem as we discard these ubiquitous devices. To trade in or recycle your laptops, PCs and Macs, those 1990s cell phones and fax machines, start with the City's program. You can drop off items at the Household Chemicals & Computer Recycling Facility at 1150 N. North Branch Street, located near Goose Island off Division. (Check out the list of acceptable devices. For instance, they don’t take answering machines or video cameras.) Next, believe it or not, look into consumer retail outlets. Best Buy has a recycling program and offers cash or store credit for trade-ins. Tiger Direct has a recycle, donate and trade-in program.  Restrictions apply – like ComEd’s appliance program, they won’t take just anything you can plug in, but you if you can get a discount on a new computer, laptop, tablet or phone, consider it cash. Suggestion: For every computer you trade in or recycle make double-plus certain the hard drive is wiped clean.

 5. Hazardous Waste: You have to get rid of the smelly, toxic, household chemicals – cleaning solutions, bleach, oil-based paints, old car batteries, motor oil, antifreeze and fluorescent light bulbs (yes, those are considered hazardous waste). These items pile up under your sink, in your garage, in your car and attic. During spring cleaning the temptation is to dump them first and ask questions never. Once again, watch our tax dollars at work through the City’s Household Chemicals & Computer Recycling Facility. This is for residential waste only, so don’t bother with the commercial grade stuff. Suggestion: Check out the list of what they’ll take and what you’ll need to make other arrangements for. (Not much of a surprise that they won’t accept refrigerants or radioactive waste.) Suggestion: Bone up with this residential overview of safely disposing hazardous waste.

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