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Recycle your junk without hurting the earth

Rustle around your garage or attic after a long winter, and you'll probably uncover a bunch of things you don't need anymore. Plenty of castoffs can find a new home via a tag sale or donation to a thrift store -- but what to do with clunky, nonworking or just plain eco-unfriendly stuff? You can't (or shouldn't) just throw it in a Dumpster.

Here are some ways to bid farewell to hard-to-dispose-of things.

BATTERIES : Alkaline batteries leech toxins. So when you throw them into a landfill, you're creating a bigger problem. And, like so many things, they darn near last a lifetime.

Where: Rite Aid stores, CVS and Wal-Mart retail stores will take spent single-use alkaline batteries as well as rechargeable batteries (think cordless phones, digital cameras). Search for other drop-off points by ZIP code at rbrc.org and earth911.com .

ELECTRONICS : Junked televisions, computers and other electronics take up room in landfills and contain components that can leak toxins.

Where: You can bring old televisions 32 inches and smaller, as well as computer monitors, laptops (remove hard drives) and DVD players to Best Buy retail stores for recycling. There's a $10 fee for some items, which is offset by a $10 gift card to the store (888-BESTBUY, bestbuy.com ).

If your digital cameras, camcorders, gaming systems or GPS receivers, for example, are still working, you may be able to trade them in for store credit at RadioShack. For top dollar, be sure the items are fully powered and bring the electrical charger. Online at radioshack.cexchange.com .

CELL PHONES : There's usually still plenty of life left in cellular phones traded in for newer models. And trashed phones can contain toxic substances, including arsenic and lead.

Where: Local shelters reactivate cell phones with emergency dialing service and distribute them to domestic abuse victims. Donate them via Habitat for Humanity of Suffolk (643 Middle County Rd., Middle Island, 631-924-4966 ext. 109), or call the Victims Information Bureau of Suffolk Family Violence and Rape Crisis Center, which accepts nonworking phones and sends them for repair, for a drop-off point in Suffolk County (631-360-3730). Phones should have all the owner's information removed and be accompanied by the electrical charger.

SNEAKERS : The dump has enough already. Sneakers can be recycled and put to a better use.

Where: If those rubber-soled shoes have seen their last jump shot, Nike retail outlet stores will take them (any brand) and turn them into ball courts, artificial turf and playground surfaces in needy communities. Bring yours to Nike at the Tanger Outlet centers in Deer Park (102 Archer Circle, 631-242-3014) or Riverhead (1520 Tanger Mall Dr., 631-369-0706). Online resource: nikereuseashoe.com/get-involved

GOWNS / FORMAL WEAR : You're really not going to wear it again, so make someone's dream come true.

Where: Local youth service groups are now collecting formal gowns, shoes and accessories (even perfume and new cosmetics) to be given to high schoolers going to the prom. Gowns should be dry cleaned and dropped off at the Family Service League in Huntington (790 Park Ave., 631-673-3303), Hempstead High School's Team Center (201 President St., 516-292-7111, press 5) or the Town of Brookhaven's Youth Bureau Prom Boutique (1Independence Hill, Farmingville, 631-451-8014).

BICYCLES : Trade up to a shiny, new Schwinn? Or maybe there's a classic two-speed collecting dust in your garage? If you're not going to ride it, donate it to someone who will. Pedals for Progress ships bikes to people in other countries who need cheap, nonpolluting transportation to work, the market or school. Co-coordinator Linda Merola says the annual local collection typically yields 150 bicycles. The optional $10 donation helps defray international shipping costs.

Where: Massapequa Public Library (Bar Harbour), 40 Harbor Lane, Massapequa Park, 516-606-1400 or 516-242-2041, p4p.org . Cost: $10 suggested donation

When: 11 a.m.-2 p.m. April 4

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