Wait! Don’t throw that in the trash! You might be breaking the law. Some things in your apartment can’t go out with your regular garbage–even if they fit in the apartment complex’s dumpster or trash compactor. Find out what these items are (they’re more common than you might think!), why they can’t go in your trash can, and how to dispose of them properly.
You’re not allowed to throw away…
Though there are several different types of batteries, almost none of them can go out with your regular trash. Batteries contain toxic chemicals like mercury, cadmium, and nickel which leak into the soil and water system if left in a landfill.
How to Dispose of Batteries Properly
Take your rechargeable batteries to a retail collection point like those found at IKEA, Walmart, Staples, or similar stores for proper recycling. For lithium, silver oxide, alkaline, or zinc-carbon batteries, you’ll need to dispose of them at your local Household Hazardous Waste (HHW) facility.
Note: The EPA offers a list of HHWs in your area.
#2: Fluorescent Light Bulbs
Regular incandescent light bulbs contain no toxic chemicals and may go out with the rest of your trash. Fluorescent light bulbs are a different story. Though much better for the environment, fluorescent bulbs contain a tiny amount of mercury (5 milligrams, to be exact) which makes them a hazard if broken.
How to Dispose of Light Bulbs Properly
Recycle your expired light bulbs at your local HHW. Stores like IKEA and Home Depot may also accept fluorescent light bulb drop-offs.
Oil-based paints, primers, coatings, and varnishes are not good for the environment. They can also be harmful to humans and other animals. Water-based paint tends not to pose a threat, but keep it away from pets and kids.
How to Dispose of Paints Properly
Consider donating your extra paint to local schools, theater groups, or a non-profit like Habitat for Humanity. Otherwise, take your paint cans to the HHW.
Old laptops, TVs, DVDs, CD players, VCRs, iPods, cell phones, digital watches, alarm clocks, printers, video game consoles—none of these electronics should go in your trash can. According to FMC Landfill, although electronic waste accounts for just 1-4% of typical municipal waste, “e-waste” accounts for roughly 75% of the heavy metals and 40% of the lead waste found in landfills—which is not good!
How to Dispose of Electronics Properly
Many programs exist to help you dispose of your electronics. You could always donate your gadgets for reuse. If that doesn’t strike your fancy, your local government probably has a drop-off center. Some manufacturers even offer mail-in or trade-in recycling programs for certain products like cell phones. You might even make a little bit of money for recycling your electronics!
#5: Motor Oil
If you’re the D.I.Y. type, you might change your car’s oil. But in most states, it’s illegal to even pour motor oil on the ground, let alone down a drain. That’s because wastewater treatment can’t function properly if it’s mixed with motor oil. Used motor oil from one oil change, according to the EPA Archives, can contaminate one million gallons of fresh water—a year’s supply for 50 people.
How to Dispose of Motor Oil Properly
The only legal way to dispose of motor oil is by sealing it in a plastic container and bringing it to a recycling center, automotive parts store, or car service station.
#6: Smoke Detectors
Smoke detectors come in two basic types: photoelectric or ionization chamber. If your smoke detector is the ionization chamber type, it contains a small amount of radiation that helps detect the presence of smoke, which classifies it as a hazardous substance according to the Fire Protection Agency.
How to Dispose of Smoke Detectors Properly
First, figure out which type of smoke detector you have. If it’s a photoelectric smoke detector, you can recycle it the same way you’d recycle electronics (see #4). If it’s a smoke detector containing radiation, you have two options:
- Take it to an HHW or recycling center in your area.
- Mail it back to the manufacturer by ground delivery (air delivery of radioactive substances is not permitted).
#7: Garden Chemicals
If you like to maintain a garden on your apartment patio or balcony, chances are you have a few chemical bottles lying around filled with herbicides, pesticides, and fertilizers. Don’t throw these bottles away in the trash, unless you want to break the law.
How to Dispose of Garden Chemicals Properly
Take your garden chemicals to an HHW. Or, if you no longer have a use for them but they aren’t empty, donate them to a neighbor.
#8: Mercury Thermometers
Cleaning out your medicine cabinet? It’s illegal to throw away old mercury thermometers for the same reason it’s illegal to throw away some batteries: mercury is toxic to humans and the environment.
How to Dispose of Old Thermometers Properly
Some schools and universities have exchange programs that allow you to drop off your old mercury thermometers for new electronic ones. Otherwise, find a waste collection program or HHW in your community.
Tires are illegal to throw away in your weekly garbage because they contain steel belts which can puncture the liners in landfills and cause ground contamination.
How to Dispose of Tires Properly
Most tire retailers and used car dealerships will take your old tires, but you’ll probably have to pay. Want to support a good cause? With Rethink Tires, you can drop off your used tires for free. Rethink tires will turn them into innovative recycled rubber products. Drop your old tires off at any registered collection site.
When you buy new tires and get them installed, your auto service station should dispose of your old tires for you.
It’s a hassle to throw away a lot of these items, especially if you don’t live near a recycling center. Find the perfect apartment with on-site recycling amenities on ApartmentSearch and never worry about inconvenient waste disposal again. We’ll show you hundreds of environmentally-friendly or green technology apartments, then match you with the best ones for you and your budget.