When household items are broken, expired, old, or simply going unused, many of us simply reach for the nearest trash can. But the average household has nine categories of hazardous waste sitting idly throughout the home. Hazardous waste is dangerous to throw away, and a major hazard to our environment. How do you know what’s hazardous and what’s not?
We’ve put together a list of 24 household items that should never go in the trash. The next time you go to throw away an old item, reference this list so you’re aware of what’s trash, what’s recycling, and what needs special arrangements to be disposed of.
What You Shouldn’t Throw In The Trash
Strong household cleaners like bleach, pesticides, solvents and corrosive chemicals should never go in the trash. Chemicals should always be treated with extreme care because of their potentially harmful impacts to the land, water and humans they come into contact with.
Luckily, there are several safe alternatives that allow you to get rid of your unwanted chemicals. If you’re not going to use them up, take them to a household hazardous waste facility for safe disposal. Search for a hazardous waste drop-off facility in your area at Earth911.com.
Although small, batteries like AAA, AA, C, D, button cell, 9-volt, and others, contain large amounts of cadmium, mercury, and lead. Tossing your batteries in the trash sends them to an incinerator or landfill where their casing can disintegrate, releasing their chemicals, sometimes in large amounts.
Though they seem small, batteries pose a large environmental hazard. Recycling them is the best way to keep these harmful chemicals from the Earth.Many of the chemicals found in batteries can be reused and put back to work in new batteries. Earth911.comis also great for locating facilities to recycle your batteries.
Like small batteries, lead-acid car batteries, as well as lithium batteries, should not go in the trash either because of their contained chemicals. The saving grace with car batteries is that roughly 97 percent of the lead in a 12-Volt battery can be recycled. Even their plastic casing can be ground up and reused.
Take your old car batteries to a local recycler, such as an auto shop or a car battery supplier, and they’ll recycle them for you for free. It’s so easy and common that today 99% of all car batteries in the US are recycled.
Old tube, LED, LCD, OLED televisions should not be put in trash cans or dumpsters either. Televisions contain toxic chemicals like lead, mercury, nickel, cadmium, and more. These chemicals are detrimental to human and environmental health, and they need to be dealt with safely. It’s easy to chuck the old broken screen in a dumpster, but you’ll do the earth a favor if you take it it to a recycling center or a (participating) electronics store.
Computers & Monitors
Most computers and monitors are considered hazardous waste. They’re chock full of toxic chemicals like arsenic, lead and cadmium. Also consider that throwing away your computer, with your hard drive in tact could put your personal information at risk. Once you throw it away, there is no telling who can get their hands on your hardware and your data. Recycle your computers and monitors at a local recycling center or at participating electronics stores.
Cell Phones & Other Electronic devices
Cell phones, printers, VCRs, telephones, and radios don’t belong in a landfill. Most cell phones and other electronics contain precious metals and plastics that can be recycled to save energy and resources that would otherwise be required to mine or manufacture these materials. When placed in a landfill, these materials pollute the air, contaminate soil, damage animal and plant life and can impact our food supply and drinking water. There are more than 10 places to recycle these electronic devices — Including kiosks, donation bins, electronics store chains, and non-profits.
Although microwaves aren’t considered e-waste, parts of old microwaves can still be hazardous because they use a capacitor that contains a residual electrical charge. Taking old or broken microwaves to scrap metal or recycling companies can lessen their impact on the environment. Many local trash disposal companies recycle microwaves, which may be your easiest solution. Calls yours to find out. If they don’t, Earth911 is always a great resource.
Refrigerators should not be thrown in a dumpster because of the refrigerant they contain. Refrigerator disposal is usually provided by local sanitation departments as part of the “bulky debris” or “bulky waste” pickup schedule.
You should never throw commonly known hazardous materials like asbestos, pesticides, contaminated soils or absorbents in the trash. These materials are dangerous when exposed to the soil or water. Take extreme care when disposing of these hazardous materials.
Asbestos should be double wrapped in a strong plastic bag and disposed of at a waste treatment center. Take your unwanted pesticides to your local household hazardous waste or call 1–800-CLEANUP.
Prior to disposal of any chemical waste, soils or absorbents, ahazardous waste determination must be made. You can request a waste pickup but the waste must be labeled “EH&S waste” and the hazard ID on the label must be marked.
Medical Needles & Sharps
Medical waste, as well as needles and sharps, should never be thrown away in a normal trash. They can contain bacteria and diseases that shouldn’t have a chance to come in contact with anyone after disposal. Medical waste should be put in special containers like a “sharps disposal container.”
Unused or Expired Prescription Drugs
Prescription drugs should not be thrown away because their chemicals can leach into the soil and water supply, where they can wreak havoc with the environment. Instead, search takebackyourmeds.org for a drug take-back event in your area. If you’re unable to locate a take-back in your area, follow the FDA’s tips for safely disposing of your medications.
Paint and solvents
There is a large amount of oil and chemicals in most paints — that’s the main reason you shouldn’t throw them away in the dumpster. Paint becomes a problem for the environment when it leaks and contaminates the water supply. Empty paint cans can usually be tossed as well dried paint. If you still have fresh paint, find a way to dry it such as mixing it with cat litter. When it’s dry, you can throw it away.
See the rest of the items on the Trashcans Unlimited blog