While looking into battery recycling for my 18th post, I realized that waste disposal was a huge topic on its own. I also realized that although I’ve been trying to decrease the amount of trash I put out at the curb, there are things in this house that will still need to be disposed of in a safe manner. My 19th sustainable habit is to find out what household garbage needs to be disposed of separately and where one might dispose of it. The specific information included in this post won’t apply directly to everyone (unless you’re in the Ottawa area), but there are hopefully similar programs in your area.
Some of the household waste that we dispose of without thinking twice is hazardous. Items from thermometers to pesticide containers, aerosol cans to paint tins, propane cylinders to fire extinguishers all pose a risk of contamination if they are not disposed of correctly. Basically, anything that is corrosive, poisonous or flammable is considered household hazardous waste and should be treated as such. The most sustainable way to approach these items is not to purchase them in the first place; but that’s of little help if you’ve already got them lying around the house or tucked away in the corner of the garage.
The first step to getting rid of hazardous items is to check with your municipality. Municipalities in Ontario generally have hazardous waste sites where you should take materials that pose a contamination risk if they were to be put in regular landfill. Sometimes, these sites are only open for drop-offs on specific days. Unfortunately for me, Ottawa hasn’t yet posted the dates or locations for hazardous waste drop-offs for 2014. They have, however, posted lists of items that they will be accepting as well as other special items that should be diverted from landfill (and some programs/places that might accept those items).
So what will they accept at their drop-off site?
- Aerosol containers
- Propane cylinders
- Fluorescent bulbs/tubes
- Fire extinguishers
- Fertilizers and pesticides
- Mercury switches/thermometers
- Needles and syringes
- Paints and coatings
- Oven and window cleaners
- Pool chemicals
If you’re in Ontario, you can also check out Make the Drop for local retail outlets that will collect the following items:
- Paints, stains, coatings and their containers
- Paint thinners, strippers, degreasers and solvents
- Alkaline batteries
- Pressurized cylinders
- Fertilizers and pesticides
- Antifreeze/coolant and containers
- Empty lubricating oil containers
- Oil filters
If you’ve made the switch to compact fluorescent lightbulbs and rechargeable batteries, you should check out your local hardware stores and electronics stores to see if they collect spent bulbs and batteries to be recycled. Many of them do.
Speaking of electronics waste. Don’t throw your old, broken electronics in the regular garbage. Electronics are comprised of glass, plastic and metals like steel, copper and aluminum – not to mention all of the rare earth elements. Most electronics can be stripped apart to be recycled and reused. Many municipalities run drop-off days for electronics and some electronics stores will collect your used items to be recycled (some will even run sales where you can get money off a new purchase by returning your old items to be recycled). In Ontario, you can check out RecycleYourElectronics.ca to get started looking for places to take your e-waste.