It’s Earth Day and the homestretch of our decluttering challenge. We want this post to serve as a reminder that, while it can be freeing to purge, we should always be mindful of the planet as we dispose of certain unwanted items. Observe caution when clearing out the following home goods and substances, and remember to make our environment a priority as part of your well-being plan.
7 Things You Should Never Throw in the Trash
Considered highly flammable and toxic, motor oil must be properly disposed of to avoid pollution and contamination. It’s estimated that 1 gallon of motor oil poured down a drain or spilled into our waterways could contaminate 1 million gallons of freshwater by diminishing the water treatment process. Put used oil in a clean plastic container with a tight lid and take it to a proper location to get rid of it. Never mix this substance with another fluid or they will not accept it for recycling.
E-waste accounts for 70 percent of the heavy metals and 40 percent of all lead found in landfills. A better option would be to donate your old VCRs, TVs, cell phones, alarm clocks, cameras, gaming systems and computers for reuse or identify a local drop-off spot, such as OmniSource Electronics Recycling.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates Americans throw out 64 million gallons of unused indoor and outdoor paint every year. Since oil-based paints are considered Hazardous Household Waste, they should be taken to a disposal facility or event like Tox-Away Day. Latex paints can contain mercury and therefore should never be poured into storm drains, on the ground or into a local water source. To get rid of these items, first try to find a local organization or do-it-yourselfer to donate unwanted paint to. If you want to put your latex paint in the trash, you must first make it solid by either leaving the lid off for several days, or by mixing in an absorbent material like cat litter until it hardens. Always try to purchase an appropriate amount of paint to minimize waste.
As a battery casing corrodes in a landfill, the item’s heavy metals can leak into the soil and water, causing air pollution. While some sources will tell you that alkaline batteries are safe to dispose of with your regular trash, it is still advised to collect all used batteries – rechargeable, single use, car, etc. – for recycling. You can get rid of your batteries the responsible way by taking them to a local drop off location.
Compact fluorescent light bulbs contain a small amount of mercury, which can be released into the environment if broken in a local landfill. Always dispose of used CFLs at a drop-off site, such as select Do It Best locations or Batteries Plus.
Some smoke detectors, specifically ionization models, contain a radioactive material called Americium-241. Many manufacturers will take back a used smoke detector to properly dispose of it once the consumer is finished with it. If yours does not, it is important to find a proper drop-off location for safe disposal. While it is legal to dispose of smoke detectors in a landfill, and they aren’t considered hazardous waste, if waste from your town is incinerated, smoke detectors containing Americium-241 will set off radiation detection alarms at the incineration facility and the load will be rejected.
If your thermometer contains a silver liquid and is not indicated as “mercury free” on the packaging, it likely contains mercury. Newer digital thermometers, or those with colored liquid, are typically made with non-toxic materials. Any exposure to mercury, a neurotoxin, has the potential to impact the health of both people and animals. Find a local drop-off location to properly dispose of this household staple. Should your mercury thermometer break, make all animals and other people leave the area, clean the solid surface or, if the spill is on carpet or upholstery, place the materials in a sealable bag, then trash bag and remove them from the home.
For more on recycling protocol and disposal sites, contact the Allen County Solid Waste Management District, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency or Earth911. Keep an eye out for local events such as Tox-Away Day for easy disposal as well.