When you decide to clean your home, the trash container might seem like the ultimate solution for all of your clutter. Old magazines, receipts that date back years, empty hygiene bottles, and even fabric scraps or broken utensils. Whatever we come across and no longer need when cleaning is something we usually end up just toss straight into the trash can. And though your trash container can easily hold old, broken and unwanted items, keep in mind that all of that garbage is ultimately going somewhere: your nearest landfill.
While your local waste and recycling service provider can accommodate most of what gets thrown away, some items can have a negative impact on the environment if disposed of incorrectly. The following items, in particular, require separate disposal to ensure they don’t harm plants, animals and the community.
1. Rechargeable Batteries – It’s pivotal to check what kind of batteries you’re tossing before throwing them in your bin. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Forest Service, rechargeable batteries containing nickel-cadmium and lead-acid need to be brought to special facilities. (You can find a list of suitable recycling facilities here.) Otherwise, “regular alkaline, manganese, and carbon-zinc batteries are not considered hazardous waste and can be disposed of with ordinary trash,” according to the USDA.
2. Mercury Thermometers – If your thermometer is filled with mercury then you can’t just toss it in the trash. The EPA warns that you should either “wait for a hazardous waste collection day” or bring it “to a household hazardous collection center in a cardboard box,” depending on what services your local city offers.
3. Paint – How to properly dispose of paint depends on what the paint is made out of. Latex-based paint needs to be disposed of at special waste drop-off sites, which you can locate by using Earth911. As for oil-based paints, small amounts – emphasis on small – can be thrown away along with your household trash so long as they are mixed with an absorbent material that will soak them up. If you’re dealing with a large quantity of oil-based paint, then you’ll need to contact a private contractor to pick up your stash and get rid of it properly.
4. Lighter Fluid – Because lighter fluid is a fuel, it’s considered hazardous waste. As such, any unwanted kerosene must be disposed of at a household hazardous waste facility where it won’t harm other humans or the environment.
5. Motor Oil – Similar to lighter fluid, motor oil is flammable and therefor a hazardous waste. In addition to bringing this fluid to a hazardous waste facility, you can also bring it to a local automobile repair shop where it will be put to proper use.
6. Old Laptops – Hopefully you know by now that laptops should never go in the garbage, seeing as they have toxic chemicals like mercury, lead and chromium. However, did you know that both Staples and Best Buy make it easy to do away with old computers, whether they’re working or not? Each of these stores offers an electronic recycling program at no cost to you. Just bring your old laptops or computers in and drop them off at the customer service counter.
7. Mail – Of course, you should be recycling all of your mail because it’s, well, recyclable. However, that’s not the only reason why this particular item doesn’t belong in the garbage. Because of all the valuable information contained within letters from credit card companies, doctors, and the like, security company LifeLock notes that “your mail can be a valuable target for identity thieves.” Shred and recycle your mail—even if it’s just spam.
8. Laundry Detergent – The best thing to do with extra laundry detergent is use it. However, if you’ve become allergic to your detergent or can’t stand its smell, then you should pour the remaining liquid down the drain as the water is running. This is safer for the environment than pouring it into the trash, where it runs the risk of seeping into the soil and polluting it with toxic chemicals.
9. Old Appliances – Although you can technically schlep your fridge or dryer downstairs for curbside pickup, who wants to lug such a large appliance to the street on the one day of the month when bulk items are collected when there is a much easier way to dispose of it? When you’re at the store buying the replacement model for your old appliance, ask a salesperson whether they offer removal services. Most companies will take unwanted items off your hands – sometimes even for free!
10. Space Heaters – Whether or not your space heater can be thrown in the trash depends on what type it is. If your space heater is made primarily of plastic and doesn’t contain any hazardous materials, then it can be disposed of alongside your household trash. If the heater is made primarily of metal without any hazardous fluids, then you can bring it to a scrap metal center to be recycled. And if the heater does contain hazardous material, then you’ll need to bring it to a hazardous waste facility to be taken care of safely.