Recycling is more than sorting out plastic bottles and composting leftovers. Proper disposal of household objects is of the utmost importance, never more so than with materials that pose a threat to the environment if relegated to a landfill. Here are just some of the common items that should be taken to special recycling outlets for safe disposal:
Did you know that one ton of electronic scrap yields more gold than 17 tons of gold ore? That's the good news. The bad news is that electronics contain metals that are potentially harmful to the environment, like mercury, lead, and cadmium. Many cities and towns organize special events or establish permanent centers for recycling electronic devices. And many retailers (e.g., Staples) operate recycling programs for such equipment through the mail.
Batteries contain harmful chemicals and heavy metals-lead and acid among them. Make sure to separate standard two-button batteries (9-volt, AA, AAA, D, etc.) from your regular trash and bring them to special recycling locations/kiosks. Office supply stores often have these on-site, as do municipal waste centers. Need to offload an old car battery? Try bringing it to your local service station; many garages will see to the recycling on your behalf.
New oil is one thing, but used oil contains dirt and toxins collected during use. Many manufacturers actually recycle the used oil they collect, cleaning it and then blending it with new oil. If you change your own car oil, be sure to bring it to your local automotive garage and allow the professionals to properly dispose of it for you.
Illegal tire dump. Photo: cf.missouri.edu
Tires are a big environmental issue. Because they are so bulky and do not decompose, they are not permitted in landfills. Tires also contain heavy metals that can leech out into the surrounding area over time. Some tire manufacturers will collect old tires and outfit them with new treads. Other companies are chipping them into new material for a variety of recycled products. If you're not going to make a tire swing from your old used tires, bring them to a garage or deliver to a commercial outfit for reuse.
Because of its high chemical composition, paint should never be dumped. We covered paint disposal in our blog post: What to Do with Old Paint, but we forgot the number one important option! Find a local school and donate your old paint to the theater department! They're almost guareenteed to need and want it (but it's always nice to call ahead.)
To learn odds-and-ends about household items that can and should be recycled, visit 50 Things You Can Recycle at Squidoo.
For more on waste management and recycling, consider:
Learning to Love Recycling
Quick Tip: Recycle Building Materials
7 DIY Recycling Centers for Small Spaces