Q: My inflatable mattress has sprung a leak (maybe two) and is beyond repair. How do I responsibly dispose of it? Will my local recycling centers take it?

Michelle M.

A: There’s nothing worse than a large, useless item taking up space in your home. A manufacturer’s label on your now-defunct mattress should help determine the type of plastic. Popular Aerobed inflatable mattresses are PVC-free, which makes them much easier to recycle. However, some recycling centers will accept plastic versions made with the bad stuff. Use the search engine on Earth911.com to find a plastic recycling center near you.

In the spirit of Mother Nature Network and the reduce-reuse-recycle mantra, I offer a few ideas to help you reuse that leaky mattress.

  • Cut it up and use the remnants to patch inflatable pool toys.
  • Line your car trunk or the area under your kitchen sink.
  • Use it as a cover for your lawn mower or outdoor grill.
  • Create a liner to go underneath a rack of muddy shoes.
  • Turn that “fabric” into something fabulous like a handbag.
It’s also worth bookmarking sites like Real Simple. The site’s regular feature called “New Uses for Old Things” always offers brilliant advice. For example, old ketchup bottles distribute perfectly round portions of pancake batter, while toilet paper tubes handily store hair clips and bands. I also like to use old mouse pads — remember those ancient relics? — to open sealed jars. My broken stainless steel step trashcan soon will become a storage container for dog food and wire twist ties help keep stray cords in check.

If you have young ones around, visit Kaboose.com for a treasure trove of kiddie craft projects made with household items. You can help the kids turn used and broken crayons into stained glass “windows” or revive the crayons with help from cookie cutters.

Creativity definitely is the key to finding new uses for old or damaged items. Also, a good offense truly does make the best defense, so shop with purpose and seek out multifunctional products with minimal packaging whenever possible. These tips may not pump up a leaky mattress but they could significantly reduce the amount of stuff you send to a landfill.

-- Morieka

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Photo: Josh [unemployed IT dude]/Flickr