When cleaning up around the house, it’s typical to dispose of household items that you’re done with—that light bulb that’s been out for months, the dead batteries in your TV remote, and the last bits of bathroom cleaner that just won’t do the trick. It’s second nature to toss these items without giving a second thought about what will happen once your local garbage collector has picked them up. However, once hazardous materials leave our homes, they can end up in landfills and seep toxic chemicals into the surrounding area. This, down the line, can have detrimental effects on soil and water in your town.
Because of the potentially harmful consequences of improper hazardous waste disposal, it’s important to know what common household items are usually thrown away. Being aware is the first step in preventing disposal of these materials.
We’ve all been there – the dead remote, weak flashlights, beeping smoke alarms; we get frustrated and quickly toss the used up batteries in the trash. While completely depleted alkaline batteries like these don’t usually contain enough hazardous material to do much harm, throwing them away in bulk can still have an effect on the surrounding environment.
The more acidic batteries that you need to be wary of are car batteries, lithium and lithium ion batteries, rechargeable batteries, and zinc air batteries. The materials used in these are extremely toxic and should be brought to a proper hazardous waste disposal facility in your local area.
Fluorescent and compact fluorescent light bulbs (or CFLs) contain small amounts of mercury. If broken (as things often get when being thrown out) the mercury can leak from the bulb; this is not something that should be brought to a public landfill. Make sure to research your closest HHW (household hazardous waste) facility and drop them off when they go out.
One of the more common items that we don’t think about throwing out are cleaning products. That last disinfecting wipe (and the loose liquid at the bottom,) the final drops of window cleaner that couldn’t possible clean your mirror, or even the bottom inch of the bleach bottle – don’t toss ‘em. In fact, don’t even pour them down your drains to get rid of them! The chemicals in cleaning products are extremely corrosive and, again, can have harmful effects if dumped in a landfill.
This should be a no-brainer, especially because you can sometimes get some extra pocket money by selling your old or broken electronics. However, electronics are made with heavy metals such as lead and cadmium. In fact, e-waste may account for up to 70% of the heavy metals that exist in landfills, up to 40% of it being lead.
Do your pockets a favor, run a quick Google search, and find a website that begs you to send them your old electronics or even sell them online! Otherwise, (let’s say it together now,) take it to your local HHW disposal facility!
Oil based paints, paint strippers or removers, varnishes, stains, and coatings are highly flammable and use chemicals that are considered hazardous. These should always be brought to a HHW facility when you’re finished with them. If you are using latex, or water based paints, you can actually dry these out – away from children and pets – and dispose of them regularly with your normal trash.
Being mindful of what constitute as hazardous materials in your home is the most important step in preventing undue contamination. If you ever have any questions or concerns about household items and whether or not you should throw them away, you can always call and check with Alpha Environmental. Our seasoned specialists will be able to identify any hazardous material risks and let you know if they should go in the garbage or straight to a dedicated disposal facility.