Ahhh spring cleaning time… what a wonderful time of the year, when your significant other & the kids scatter like mice… Besides the whole house getting a major clean out (once you find all your helpers), the pantry, under the sinks, medicine cabinets, garages (maybe we can get a car back in there…) & sheds are commonly in the cross hairs resulting in some pretty full trash cans. Granted you may have heard the term “hazardous waste,” but that only applies to waste that comes from commercial facilities, right? Seriously, this is our home right, nothing we use can be considered hazardous right?
What is hazardous waste?
For most of us, all we might see on our garbage cans or maybe even the sanitation departments website is an innocuous warning – No Hazardous Waste. In some locations they will spell it out with issues that are local to them like fire place ash, paint, cleaners, pesticides, etc… if you try digging into your states or even the federal definition what you will see is something similar to this:
(Alabama § 22-30-3) A solid waste, or combination of solid wastes, which, because of its quantity, concentration or physical, chemical or infectious characteristics may: Cause, or significantly contribute to, an increase in mortality or an increase in serious irreversible, or incapacitating reversible, illness; or Pose a substantial present or potential hazard to human health or the environment when improperly treated, stored, transported or disposed of, or otherwise managed.
Before you think that anything that isn’t solid doesn’t count: Solid Waste is defined as any garbage, refuse, sludge from a waste treatment plant, water supply treatment plant or air pollution control facility and other discarded material, including solid, liquid, semisolid or contained gaseous material resulting from industrial, commercial, mining and agricultural operations and from community activities…
Why it matters:
While many landfills put measure in place to help prevent contamination of ground water, these are not only expensive but not fool proof. This doesn’t even include all those materials are bulky & take up much needed space. In locations like mine where we still have garbage men riding on the back of the trucks, it is a safety factor for them as some chemicals should never mix. Even for those where the garbage is picked up via specialty cans & trucks… (Yeah not a pretty site or smell for that matter)
Common Items & Disposal Tips:
In many locations there are Household Hazardous Waste Drop off days. Depending on your location, they may take everything or limit it to certain items. If your local sanitation department doesn’t know when the next one is, or what to do with the materials, each State has a department or agency that is responsible for environmental issues. You may also want to check on local Recycling Centers that will accept some items & might even pay you for them.
Paints, Stains & Solvents:
This is dependent on the amount & type – for full containers you might look at a hazardous disposal day as many communities will mix the same types together for graffiti removal. Whatever you do (unless you like men in black suits visiting you) do not pour it in a storm drain, the sewer, etc… For the following, do we really need to say that this should be done in a well-ventilated area away from kids & animals?
- Latex Paint: if there is just a little left in it, simply pop the lid & let it dry out – for fuller cans you can also add kitty litter or pour it out in a cardboard box to speed up the process.
- Oil based paints & Solvents like Paint Thinner: While some will object due to the VOC’s there isn’t much else you can do but pop the top & let it dry out. Cat litter, sawdust &/or the cardboard box work great for oil based paints work well also (just don’t use that trick with solvents)
- Spray Paint: Pop the top & spray into a cardboard box or on some newspapers, let it dry & toss it all
They need to go to a tire shop or a recycling center that accepts them
DO NOT FLUSH them – ADEQ has a great brochure on how to handle them here (pdf)
- Alkaline: In most places these are not considered hazardous & can be simply thrown out with the regular trash. Personally you might want to consider going with rechargeable as they can save you a ton & cuts down on the trash generated.
- Rechargeable & Lithium: This includes not only the regular types, but ones from cell phones, cordless tools, etc… Home Depot, Lowes, and many other similar locations will take them.
- Lead-Acid / Auto: most auto supply houses will take them
Cleaners, pesticides, chemicals:
These vary for each one & it is best to read the disposal directions on each container. Whatever you do, do not try to combine different types or pour into smaller unmarked or mismarked containers.
Automotive Parts & Fluids:
Recycling centers, automotive supply houses, automotive repair facilities, and even some Junk yards are good places to check with
Ammunition, Explosive Materials:
Call your local Police or Sherriff’s Department for advice, pick up or drop off information. This sure beats the alternatives…
Besides making sure you wipe the phone and SIM card many locations like Staples, local EMA & Crisis centers will take them and either recycle them or repurpose them.
Cooking oils, shortening:
Please do not pour them down the drain as it makes a mess of the sewage system and in some locations considered hazardous materials (yes even for trash collection). In many places this is gold so you might want to check with recycling centers &/or bio fuel companies.
Computers, Electronics, Televisions:
Many locations that sell them will take back used ones like Best Buy.
Fluorescent Lights / CFL’s:
If not broken, Home Depot & Lowes accept them – if they are broken the mercury that was in there is gone & they can be just thrown out.
Inkjet & Toner cartridges:
Bring them with you to Staples or Office Max & turn them in. Some places will give you a credit for them on your next purchase.
Additional Information & Sites:
- HTRC: Taking out the trash – This is part of our ongoing series about going off-grid in the 21st century & covers numerous topics or reducing, reusing & recycling materials
- HTRC: Results for Spring Cleaning which includes a few on organizing your pantry (including shelf life of many common items) & your refrigerator / freezer
- There’s an app for that: Recycling Centers
- Recycling Centers & State Agencies