Toxic chemicals, e-waste, light bulbs and batteries are just a few common household items that exit our homes and can end up in the landfill, where they may or may not break down or leach into the soil and water. Equally concerning is the potential for broken glass and chemicals to cause problems to sanitation workers, the water system and wildlife. Even when you make the best purchasing decisions upfront, you will eventually find yourself with toxic household waste. Before tossing items in the trash, check out these disposal options for items like batteries and paint that are safer for the planet.
Because most automotive, tractor and machine tires are a mixture of rubber and steel, they can’t be recycled without separating those components. As a result, you will likely have to pay to drop them somewhere. The landfill is one option, but you can commonly return them to a local tire center. Regardless of where you take it, the fee typically ranges from $2-10 per tire, so consider upcycling those old radials into a property border or flower bed divider.
Your local recycling center probably accepts spent CFL light bulbs. Because CFL bulbs contain a small amount of mercury, it’s important that they are properly disposed of. Most large home improvement stores also provide a return option for CFLs and basic fluorescent bulbs. Depending on your local recycling center, LED or incandescent bulbs may be recyclable with your glass items. You can also visit Pinterest for ideas on ways to repurpose bulbs.
The best option when it comes to batteries is to make the investment in rechargeable batteries. When they wear out, look for drop boxes at your local home improvement and office supply stores.
For single-use household batteries, you can return them during city household waste collection events, or your recycling center may have a drop spot. Some home improvement stores also provide a drop location.
Car, tractor and motorcycle batteries are easily recyclable at any retailer that sells them. You will likely even get a core refund for returning them. Check with automotive repair locations, car part stores or your local Battery Exchange.
When the stereo, computer, TV or cell phone bites the dust, skip the landfill and head to the recycling center. You may need to separate the cords and/or batteries from the laptop or TV remote, but most components are accepted at these locations. Also check with the manufacturing company or service provider. For example, Apple and many cell phone companies will accept old devices for recycling, and some even offer a credit for it.
Expired and unneeded medications are absorbed into the soil and waterways if flushed down the toilet. They are also a danger to children and pets, so proper disposal is important. Most local police stations accept medications, and they can be returned at city waste collection events. The U.S. DEA also provides an annual National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day in conjunction with local law enforcement agencies.
Stains and paints
The good news is that modern paints and stains are formulated to last, so you can finish up the can while doing touch ups or other projects, even years down the road. If you’re moving and have to come up with a quick yet responsible disposal method, visit your local Habitat for Humanity reStore, where it will reformulate the paint for resale. Another option is to allow the paint to dry in the can, either naturally or with the aid of a commercial paint-dry product. Once dry, it can be thrown out with the rest of your garbage without a risk of contamination, although we do recommend using it entirely or donating it for resell before turning to the landfill.
Between glass cleaner and furniture polish, household cleaners have a way of accumulating. So when you pull out the last of the carpet and no longer need carpet spot cleaner or you make the switch to natural cleaners and need to do away with your old bottles, keep an eye out for that city waste collection event. For cleaners you can still use, try to use them up and recycle the container when you can. Also consider giving away any cleaners you no longer want, but note that most donation centers will not accept them, so offer them to friends, family and co-workers.
Lawn and garden products
Insecticides and pesticides should not be added to the garbage, where they can leak into water systems and soil. The same goes for the old oil and gasoline from your lawn mower and other equipment. This type of pollution will impact plants, animals and humans. Hold onto any lawn and garden chemicals for the next household waste round-up to return them responsibly.
Personal care products
If you find your bathroom cabinets and shelves full of old skincare, fragrances or nail polish you don’t want anymore, it is important to dispose of them properly, especially if they are from your pre-green beauty days. Unused, unexpired products may be suitable for donation. Otherwise, do not dump products in the sink or toilet. Check with your local hazardous household waste facility to see if it can accept your items. If you must, put all of the contents of the containers into one jar and place it in the garbage.
Whether you’ve undergone laser eye surgery or upgraded your style, eyewear is another common household item that may no longer be serving its purpose. Fortunately, there are many ways to donate old eyeglasses where they can provide the gift of sight and keep them out of the landfills. Lyons Clubs International, New Eyes (a division of United Way), OnSight and Eyes of Hope are all options. You can also drop eyeglass lenses and frames at most optical centers or local drop boxes, or donate them to a thrift store.
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