Eco Tip of the Week: 16 Things None of Us Should Ever Throw Away

That two-gallon tank of old lawnmower fuel has been gathering dust in your garage for who knows how long.  Rather than pouring toxic fuel down the drain or into the gutter, you take it to the local hazardous waste disposal facility, right?

Most folks know that toxic substances like gasoline, motor oil, anti-freeze, etc. need to be disposed of in a hazardous waste facility and not down the drain or in the regular trash.

Well, the same goes for many everyday items whose clean, harmless-looking exteriors hide highly toxic materials within.  We use these items so often that it’s easy to forget how truly toxic the innards of batteries, electronics, and CFLs are.  When we toss these items in the trash, their dangerous chemical ingredients can escape into the groundwater and air.  Nasty. 

Making matters worse, we’re often ready to toss many toxic items (like electronics) while they still work.  Because most electronics become obsolete long before they break down, we can lengthen the lifespan of old computers, televisions, and cell phones by giving them to others.  Freecycle and Craigslist provide, quick and easy ways to keep toxic (and non-toxic) consumer products out of landfills.  (Our nameless resident Craigslist junkie insists that in CL’s free section, you’ll find someone who’ll be delighted to take that old, broken Atari machine and just about anything else off your hands.)

We can reduce the serious environmental and public health harm caused by toxic chemicals in yesterday’s must-have items by taking time and care to properly dispose of a few particularly toxic products.

Here are a few things that none of us should ever toss in the regular garbage, along with some suggestions for the easiest ways to properly dispose of them:

1.  Batteries

Why: Heavy Metals

Options: Ikea, Whole Foods, Radio Shack.  You can find local rechargeable battery recycling locations by entering your zip code here.

2.  Pharmaceuticals

Why: Water contamination

Options: Visit the Teleosis Institute’s website to find local locations to recycle hazardous pharmaceuticals.

3.  Pesticides

Why: Water and air contamination

Options: Avoid them in the first place.  If you can’t, dispose of leftovers at your Municipal Hazardous Waste Center.

4. Fluorescent lighting (including CFLs)

Why: Mercury

Options: Donate or bring to a Municipal Hazardous Waste Center.

5. Unused paint

Why: Water contamination

Options: Donate or bring to a Municipal Hazardous Waste Center.

6. Paint thinner

Why: Water contamination

Options: Donate or bring to a Municipal Hazardous Waste Center.

7. CDs/DVDs

Why: Polycarbonate plastic contains BisPhenol-A

Options: Donate to an e-steward

8.  Cell Phones

Why: Heavy Metals/Flame Retardants

Options: Recycle, donate, or bring to an e-steward.

9.  Televisions

Why: Heavy Metals/Flame Retardants

Options: Recycle, donate, or bring to an e-steward.

10.  Radios

Why: Heavy Metals/Flame Retardants

Options: Recycle, donate, or bring to an e-steward.

11.  iPods/MP3 players

Why: Heavy Metals/Flame Retardants

Options: Recycle, donate, or bring to an e-steward.

12.  Computers

Why: Heavy Metals/Flame Retardants

Options: Recycle, donate, or bring to an e-steward.

13. Monitors

Why: Heavy Metals/Flame Retardants

Options: Recycle, donate, or bring to an e-steward.

14.  Printers

Why: Heavy Metals/Flame Retardants

Options: Recycle, donate, or bring to an e-steward.

15. Other Electronics

Why: Heavy MetalsOptions: Recycle, donate, or bring to an e-steward.

16.  Electrical Appliances

Why: Flame Retardants/Freon/other hazardous materials

Options: Recycle, donate, or bring to an e-steward

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  1. [...] we have already discussed  the mountains of e-waste that accumulate from these electronics and how devastatingly toxic they a….  Of course it’s vital to dispose of electronic devices responsibly when they’re no longer [...]