Keep Spring Cleaning Green with Household Hazardous Waste Disposal Tips

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Spring has finally arrived after a challenging winter, and for many Americans that means beginning the annual rite of Spring Cleaning.

Nearly three-quarters of all Americans tackle Spring Cleaning annually, according to the American Cleaning Institute, and some of the clutter is Household Hazardous Waste (HHW).  This is often just pitched in the trash, but can be managed in a more appropriate way. Many communities hold collection events for HHW items or have drop-off locations available at waste facilities.

“Waste employees have tough jobs, but when chemicals, potentially explosive items or other hazards are tossed in with common household trash, workers are put at serious risk for injury,” said Sharon H. Kneiss, president and CEO of the National Waste & Recycling Association (Waste & Recycling). “There are safer, environmentally friendly ways to dispose of Household Hazardous Waste.”

Waste & Recycling shares tips at www.beginwiththebin.org/hhw on what goes in the trash, what needs extra care and what should be brought to community HHW drop-offs for special handling.

If friends or neighbors can’t use your extra stuff, community HHW collection events are ideal for the following items:

  • Outside:  Products including fertilizers, pesticides, weed killers and pool chemicals
  • Inside:  Household chemicals including nail polish remover, hair relaxers, bleach, oven cleaners, drain cleaners, metal polishes and full or partially full aerosol cans
  • In the garage:  Motor oil, paint thinners, varnishes and oil-based paints. Latex paints are not considered hazardous and, in most communities, can be disposed in the trash—but recycle the cans! Just let the paint air-dry, or add cat litter to speed up drying, before removing it from cans and tossing it.

Help recycle, reduce and reuse these usable items:

  • Batteries:  Battery recycling is preferred and, in some areas, required. Visit www.call2recycle.org for information on how to dispose them.
  • Light bulbs:  Energy-efficient compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) contain mercury and should be managed properly, ideally at HHW events. Otherwise, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends sealing old CFLs in plastic bags and placing them in outdoor trash bins. Visit www.beginwiththebin.org/cfl to learn more.
  • Motor oil:  Used motor oil and filters can be recycled. HHW facilities, automotive stores, repair shops and garages will often take them from you.
  • Electronic waste:  Discarded computers, cellphones and televisions are a growing portion of the waste stream, and half the states have electronics recycling laws of some kind. Consider reusing and recycling e-waste before throwing it in the trash. Learn more at www.beginwiththebin.org/recycling/e-scrap.

Use extra attention and care when disposing of:

  • Sharps:  The EPA estimates that 9 million Americans use needles, syringes or lancets at home, disposing nearly 4 billion sharps each year. These should be placed in approved containers and disposed according to community guidelines. Sharps should never be recycled, as they endanger recycling center employees who manually handle materials. For more information, visit www.fda.gov/safesharpsdisposal.
  • Medicines and pharmaceuticals:  Never flush medicine down toilets or drains! Wastewater facilities are not designed to filter medicines. If trashing medicine, first mix it with substances like coffee grinds or cat litter. April 26 is National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day, so visit www.deadiversion.usdoj.gov/drug_disposal/takeback/ to learn more.
  • Pressurized containers may explode under heat or pressure. Full or partially full containers should be taken to HHW collection sites. Refillable propane tanks can usually be returned to suppliers, and empty aerosol containers are recyclable.

You should contact the company or authority that handles your waste for more information on local HHW collection or for questions on how to dispose of particular items properly. For more HHW and recycling tips, visit www.beginwiththebin.org.

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