Browsing the web for crazy things people make guitars out of is quite fun. It’s also interesting to read how some companies make their guitars – some, like Martin, are conscientious about their manufacturing waste. The flip side of considering eco-friendly materials when building or buying a guitar is figuring out how to responsibly dispose of existing guitars and accessories.
Yes, you could take your wooden acoustic guitar, remove the strings and pegs and just burn it, but that would be really sad. People are always taking up guitar, and tired old instruments can be given a fresh lease of life in the hands of a new owner. If you’ve got a functioning but unwanted guitar then sell it through local classifieds like Craigslist, ebay, or Reddit. Often it’s not worth your time marketing and shipping something that’s of small value. A better use of your time might be to just give it away, maybe by donating it to a charity shop or thrift store.
What to do about broken or surplus items? Lots of guitar equipment uses bits of metal and plastic that can be fiddly or even impossible to recycle. Many guitarists I speak to just throw stuff in the trash. Maybe that trash gets sorted by the waste company, but maybe not. There are options to take responsibility for your own guitar waste. I hope by demystifying the process to help make it easier for you to choose these options.
Worn or snapped guitar strings are on their own too small to warrant selling to a scrap merchant, but I recommend storing old strings, wires, cables, metal connectors etc. in a box with your other household metal waste like those old screws you find under the sofa. Small bits of metal including bass or guitar strings can be turned into jewellery like bracelets! Or once the box gets full and heavy take it down to a scrap metal dealership. They will happily take it off your hands and give you some cash in return (remember to take your ID with you). There is one scrap metal dealership just off Garner Rd in Raleigh, but it’s worth searching around to see who’s offering the best prices.
For faulty electronics and old cables keep an eye out for special electrical recycling facilities. Raleigh council offer residents the chance to drop it off for free directly at landfill sites. If you do this not only are you consigning some potentially useful material to be squished in the ground, but it is a waste of your time. Look for recycling options closer to home. At our apartment complex we have a special yellow bin just for recycling electrics, from batteries to switches and leads to small appliances. Some organisations specialise in preventing electronics ending up in landfill, and there’s one in the triangle – contact them to find out how you can best dispose of or pass on your unwanted or broken electrical items.
A final option is to take the item to a guitar shop you know offers repairs of electrical equipment. Maybe you’ve already bought new and don’t want it fixed, but someone else might like to buy a refurbished model.
If you have other ideas for how to responsibly dispose of guitar-related waste I’d be interested in hearing from you!