There are some things we may use in our lives that are so toxic to the environment that they should never make it to a landfill. We should also never dump these items (if in liquid form) into the water supply through a home sink or a street storm drain. Not only is it illegal in most places, but dumping things into a storm drain takes the stuff directly to your local streams and rivers and kills anything in the vicinity.
Here’s a list of ten types of things too toxic for landfills or the water supply, along with how to properly dispose of them. You can always check with your local government for additional disposal options, and sometimes that’s the only option.
1) CFL light bulbs. Unfortunately, these contain a very small amount of mercury–but if people start throwing them out en masse it could create a problem with mercury leaching down into water tables. Home Depot has a CFL recycling program so you can just bring an old CFL bulb to your local store.
2) Lithium-ion batteries. These are usually the rechargeable kind found in small appliances, not the regular alkaline type that can be safely disposed of in the trash (at least here in Arlington, VA). The lithium-ion battery chemicals can leach into the soil and pollute water. Take these to Best Buy, which collects and recycles them.
3) Any kind of electronics. This includes TV’s, computers and all of their peripherals, stereos, speakers, and mobile phones and PDA’s. These components are chock full of poisonous substances, none of which are biodegradable and all pose a hazard to the landfill environment. Again, Best Buy now collects and recycles all such components, although there is a small fee for accepting components with screens (such as TV’s and monitors.)
4) Automobile-related fluids. If it’s associated with your car, it very likely doesn’t belong in a landfill or storm drain at all. This includes fuel, windshield wiper fluid, brake fluid, antifreeze, transmission fluid, engine oil, car batteries, and car care products. The only definite recycling option for these kinds of materials is your local government.
5) Any kind of paint. This includes latex, but especially includes anything oil-based, varnishes, stains, and polyurethane. All of these should go to your local government’s designated hazardous materials collection point.
6) Photography-related chemicals. These are becoming less of an issue as digital photography booms, but many people still have a film photography hobby. Again, these should go to the hazmat facility and never down the drain.
7) Any corrosive chemical. Examples include muriatic acid and any cleaning product containing lye. These are very destructive chemicals and again should go to the hazmat disposal site.
8) Home, lawn and garden chemicals used for pest/insect/weed control. These chemicals will kill lots of animals and plants you didn’t intend to kill, so again they should be carefully disposed of at a hazmat site.
9) Propane tanks. Not only can they explode, but they’re also very recyclable. Check the tank, the store, and your local government on how to recycle these items safely.
10) Flammable cleaning solvent. There is again the chance of an explosion in addition to the solvents’ caustic properties. Dispose of properly through a hazmat drop off center.
While some of these things won’t be in many of our environmentally friendly homes because safer alternatives exist, we don’t have much choice on the others. Please dispose of them as safely as you can, because you’ll go a long way to maintaining a cleaner environment.