While we try our best to reuse and recycle waste at home, there are a lot of things we toss in the trash can unknowingly. But not all of these things should actually be in there, for instance, batteries, electronics, cleaning products, etc. Some of these household waste items release toxic chemicals into the environment that are hazardous to our health and that of the planet.
One way to know what to do with such items is to check the label. Manufacturers usually give details on dos and don’ts of how to safely dispose of such items on the label itself. Other than this, you can also contact local recycling or household waste management facilities to know the details on how to dispose of common household items.
Here’s how to get rid of these 10 common household items
Let’s have a look at things you should not casually toss in the trash can and the ways to safely dispose of common household items.
1. Personal electronics
Recycling our personal electronics like a laptop, mobile phones, T.V., printers, computers, etc. can help us recover a lot of materials that go into their manufacturing like metal and glass. According to the U.S Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) –
- One million laptops, when recycled, can save enough energy to power more than 3,500 US homes in a year.
- Similarly, by recycling one million cell phones we can recover approximately 33 pounds of palladium, 35 thousand pounds of copper, 75 pounds of gold, and 772 pounds of silver.
The best way to recycle these products is to check with the manufacturer for a take-back program. You can also take these electronics to EPA-certified electronics recyclers like GreenerGadgets, and Call2recycle.
Bonus tip: Remember to delete all personal data and also to remove the batteries from your electronics. The batteries might need to be recycled separately.
2. Used CFLs and bulbs
CFLs and incandescent bulbs contain very small amounts (around 4 milligrams) of mercury which can be released into the environment, if they break inside the trash can or in the landfills. So, the best way to prevent this from happening is to send the CFLs and bulbs for recycling. Either visit your local retailers and collection agencies to give away your used bulbs or visit search.earth911.com to find a recycling program near you.
Note that while most of these services are free, some agencies might take a small charge to pick up your waste. Similarly, you might need to store your waste for a while as some agencies only pick up hazardous waste once or twice a year.
It is a common mistake to flush medicines down the drain once they expire or are no longer needed. Since most wastewater treatment facilities are not equipped to remove medicines from water, these drugs can easily end up in rivers and lakes, and ultimately, in our drinking water sources. If you have prescription drugs or over-the-counter medicines that you no longer need, make sure to dispose of them safely.
You can take these medicines to a nearby drug collection site which can be a local pharmacy or police station that has a drug take-back program for proper disposal. In case you do not have a drop-off location nearby, you can refer to EPA’s guide to disposing of medicines properly at home.
4. Cleaning products
Toxic chemicals such as bleach and ammonia are often found in cleaning products. As these ingredients are dangerous if consumed or inhaled, it’s important that they be disposed of properly by following the instructions on the label. This is one reason why it’s best to make your own cleaning products or switch to eco-friendly options.
But if you do have some cleaning products you need to get rid of, then the best way is to use them up or give them away to friends, local charities, homeless shelters, etc. In case you cannot find a way to use it or give it away, then read the label and follow directions to dispose of the cleaning product safely.
Related Articles: 6 Eco-Friendly Cleaning Products For Your Sustainable Home
5. Large appliances
According to the EPA, ‘Roughly nine million refrigerators/freezers, six million window air conditioning units, and nearly one million dehumidifiers are disposed of each year.’ So, it is important to safely dispose of these common household items aka large appliances.
If you are purchasing a new unit, it’s best to ask the retailer if there are any appliance pick-up services. Another good way to dispose of your large appliances is to contact curbside pick-up programs offered by municipalities.
Once in a while, you will need to dispose of this common household item and it’s best to do so responsibly. There are many solutions for disposing of old mattresses, but the best one is to take them to a recycling center or drop-off location if not in a good shape. However, if your mattress is in a good condition, you can either donate it or resell it. Before giving the mattress away, make sure to take precautions by washing the cover, and filling any holes in the padding with new foam.
Batteries contain a lot of heavy metals and chemicals like lithium, mercury, etc. which can be toxic and can even explode if not disposed of properly. If you need to dispose of batteries, do not throw them in the trash. Instead, take them to a household hazardous waste collection site for recycling or proper disposal.
Never toss single-use lithium batteries and button cell batteries in the recycling bin. Instead, find proper recycling facilities to dispose of them correctly. For other kinds of batteries such as rechargeable ones, refer to this guide by the EPA on ways to recycle household batteries.
8. Leftover paint
Once you are done with renovations, there’s a good chance you might have some leftover paint. The best way to dispose of leftover paint is to take it outside and let it dry completely. You can do this by hanging it from a tree or balcony railing and letting the sun do its job of drying out the paint.
Once your paint has dried completely, mix it with some kitty litter and simply throw it in the trash. Make sure not to mix paints with other flammable liquids and powders, before throwing them away. In case, you have latex paint, you should give it away to a paint recycler as it can be easily recycled.
From insulation to floor tiles to your ceiling, asbestos can be found in multiple places in your home. In case you have recently redone your insulations or done home renovation, it is best to get professionals and take care of the asbestos as soon as it is removed. It is important to handle asbestos with care as exposure to it can lead to major health problems including lung cancer and mesothelioma.
Even though tires do not fall under the category of hazardous waste, when disposed of irresponsibly and in huge numbers, they can cause large tire fires which are very difficult to extinguish and expensive to clean up. Fortunately, tires have value — they can be recycled into new products such as sustainable flip-flops!
You can also take up a DIY project and upcycle tires into multiple things like a cozy bed for your canine friend, a decorative centerpiece for your yard, or a planter for your garden. It may not be that easy to find a place that accepts your old tires, but it’s worth it to take care of this problem before it gets out of hand. There are many organizations that will accept tires for free or at a low cost.
Knowing the right way to dispose of these common household items will help us keep our homes, families, and the planet safe. Other than these 10 common household items listed above, there can be more items that need to be disposed of safely. So, make sure to do your research and dispose of household items responsibly.