How to Properly Dispose of Household Products

At Pure Earth Pets, we love Earth Day. We love the planet every day, so it’s only natural for Earth Day to be a very important day in our world. One of our goals with this blog and in our business is to help Earth Day be every day. For that reason, over the next several months we will be sharing some of the goals of Earth Day 2021 and how you can help support the theme of Restore the Earth. In this blog post we will focus on the importance of properly disposing of recyclable items at home with the goal of keeping these items out of the natural environment. 

The Earth Day Great Global Cleanup Starts at Home

One of the ways that you can work toward the goal of restoring our earth is to support the Earth Day Great Global Cleanup campaign. You have probably heard about the very serious problem with plastics in our oceans. Plastic waste on land is as big of a problem. One of the best ways to help with global cleanup is to work to make sure trash and recycling are disposed of correctly. When we pay close attention to how we are disposing of things at home, we reduce the need for global cleanup of our natural spaces and bodies of water. After all, if we don’t dirty it, we don’t need to clean it. 

Recycle Correctly: Household Items 

Recycling is a complicated topic in the United States.  It can be expensive for municipal governments, and they are often faced with limited places to send the recycled items. For the items in your recycling bin to make it all the way through the recycling process and become recycled materials, it is essential to recycle correctly. 

Always check your town’s recycling program guidelines 

The rules vary from town to town about what you can recycle and how to do it. We recommend printing the recycling guidelines from your municipality or waste management company and posting them near your household recycling bin.  When everyone in your household follows your local rules, there is a greater chance that your home’s recycling will be useful to your recycling program. 

When waste that is not recyclable is included in a batch of recycling, it can make the entire load of recycling impossible to be recycled. For example, a cardboard box is recyclable. However, a cardboard pizza box with cheese and grease on it can make an entire shipment of paper unable to be recycled. If that cheese gets into the recycling machines, it can cause damage and shut down the process. As much as you may want to recycle every single bit of paper and cardboard, a pizza box should usually go into the garbage. 

Plastic wrap, chip bags, and all forms of plastic wrap also wreak havoc with many recycling programs. Those materials can wrap around the conveyor belts used in the recycling process, not unlike long hair wrapped around your vacuum cleaner. This video is a good example of why these items are not permitted in many curbside recycling programs: Why Can't You Recycle Plastic Bags

Here are some basic guidelines that apply to most recycling programs: 

  • Thoroughly rinse all bottles, cans, and other containers before placing in the recycling bin. 
  • Remove the lids from all bottles, cans, jars, jugs, etc., before recycling. 
  • Tear or cut away the plastic film on envelopes before placing into paper recycling. 

These items are typically never recyclable in any municipal program: 

  • Plastic film, wrap, chip bags, plastic shopping bags, and all forms of plastic wrap.
  • Cardboard and paper food containers, cartons, and wrappers.
  • Styrofoam
  • Plastic clothing hangers, toys, and other hard plastic items

Even though some items may not be recyclable through your municipal recycling program, you can find other options for recycling those items. Many grocery stores have bins outside their stores to recycle bags. You can also find Styrofoam recycling programs, although you may have to take it to a center for recycling. 

Safe Disposal of Household Hazardous Materials

Chances are, you have partially full containers of cleaners, paints, pesticides, beauty products, and other household chemicals you no longer use that fall into the category of Household Hazardous Materials. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Household Hazardous Materials include items that can “catch fire, react, or explode under certain circumstances, or that are corrosive or toxic. 

These items should be disposed of at your local Household Hazardous Waste (HHW) drop-off site. HHW should never be poured down the sink or put out with the regular trash. This includes products that are labeled as environmentally friendly or all-natural. While those items may be safer for human use, when it comes to their scientific properties, they should be disposed of according to EPA guidelines.

Common Items to Dispose of at a Household Hazardous Waste Site

The items accepted at your local HHW site may vary, so it is important to look up your local guidelines before taking your items for disposal. Common items that are accepted include: 

  • Aerosol cans
  • Household cleaners
  • Swimming pool chemicals
  • Oil based paints and stains
  • Automotive fluids
  • Solvents and strippers
  • Propane tanks
  • Beauty products like hairspray and nail polish remover 

Household Hazardous Waste Dropoff Best Practices 

HHW drop off sites are only permitted to accept household waste. Business owners must follow commercial guidelines for disposing of large quantities of hazardous materials. The best practice is to keep the items in their original packaging with the labels intact. This helps the employees at the site determine the chemical makeup of the product so that they can process the item correctly. 

You can find the nearest HHW drop off site by performing an internet search of Household Waste drop off sites near your zip code. 

Electronic Recycling

Putting electronics in the garbage is illegal in many states, including Illinois, California, Connecticut, New York, and Vermont. Electronic waste, or e waste, includes computers, televisions, DVD players, CD players, stereos, copiers, fax machines, mobile phones, and tablets. E waste also includes electronic appliances used in the home, like coffee machines, microwaves, hairdryers, electronic shavers, mixers, coffee machines, and more. Essentially, if it has a plug, a battery, or can be recharged, it falls under electronic recycling. 

Fortunately, there are a lot of ways to properly dispose of electronic recycling so that you can avoid putting these items in the garbage. Even if throwing away electronic items is legal in your state, it is not healthy for the planet to do so. 

Selling or donating working electronics

There are a variety of ways to sell or donate working electronics.  Many companies that sell electronics also buy them back or offer recycling programs. These include Apple, Best Buy, and more. You can find a long list of options on the EPA website: Mobile phones can be donated to charities like Cell Phones for Soldiers, Second Wave Recycling,  or the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence

Many local governments offer electronic recycling centers or events. You can check your town or county’s website for more information or perform an internet search for electronic recycling centers near your zip code. 

Disposing of CDs and DVDs

Disposing of old CDs and DVDs can be tricky. You can often donate CDs and DVDs that contain movies, tv shows, and musical albums to places like libraries and second-hand stores. Some titles can be sold to online buyers, used CD stores, and used bookstores. 

Reusable, rewritable CDs and DVDs that are left over from the days of CD drives are harder to dispose of correctly. The CD Recycling Center is closed as of this post due to Covid-19, but usually accepts shipments of CDs and DVDs. Green Disk also accepts CDs, DVDs, plastic floppy discs, zip drives, CD cases, and more. Green Disk also accepts cords and chargers, ink cartridges, and other items. There is a fee to use their service, but if you only have a few items, you can partner with friends or family members and ship a box together, splitting the cost. 

Depending on where you live, you can find businesses who accept these items or who will help you organize a recycling event of your own. Recycling these items is not always easy, but worth the effort to avoid putting them into a landfill. 

Garbage Day Best Practices 

On garbage day, you can help ensure that everything in your trash or recycling ends up in the truck. If your local trash company provides recycling bins with a lid, one simple best practice is to make sure your items fit in the bin without pushing the lid open. When cleaning out your car or emptying small trash bins, use a garbage bag that you can seal completely instead of tossing the trash into your bin without a bag. Both of these simple things can help your recycling and trash contained on windy days, so that the items are collected and not blowing through your neighbors’ yards. 

We hope that these tips will help you correctly dispose of unwanted items and trash in your home. Small changes and a little bit of education can have a big effect on the earth that we all share. Stay tuned for more blog posts from Pure Earth pets with simple ways you can prepare for Earth Day 2021. 

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