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Warning: Do Not Throw These Household Items In the Garbage

  Cleaning and tidying up can be really therapeutic sometimes. There is something about going through our stuff and throwing out the old unnecessary items that can feel almost cleansing. However, it’s important to know that not everything can be simply thrown in the trash, be done with and forgotten. Certain materials pose a danger and should be disposed of in a specific way (and of course, if something can be recycled you should always opt for that). So, to help you out, we compiled a list of ten items you should never throw in the trash, along with instructions on the safe ways to get rid of them.

1. Rechargeable batteries 

10 Items You Should Never Throw in The Garbage batteries
It’s important to take a careful look at what kind of batteries you’re throwing out. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Forest Service, rechargeable batteries containing nickel-cadmium and lead-acid need to be brought to special facilities. These substances can be extremely harmful to the environment, leaching into the soil, water, and air from landfills or incinerators. On the other hand, the USDA notes, "regular alkaline, manganese, and carbon-zinc batteries are not considered hazardous waste and can be disposed of with ordinary trash." 

2. Fluorescent lightbulbs and old thermometers

10 Items You Should Never Throw in The Garbage thermometer
Fluorescent lightbulbs and older thermometers should never be thrown away together with ordinary waste as they contain mercury - a shiny, silver-white metal, historically referred to as quicksilver, that becomes liquid at room temperature. Also at room temperature, exposed elemental mercury can evaporate to become an invisible, odorless toxic vapor.
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), fluorescent lightbulbs and mercury thermometers should be disposed of at a household hazardous waste (HHW) facility (you can find one near you on earth911.com). That way, the materials that these items are made of like glass and metal can successfully be repurposed and the mercury will be properly handled so it doesn’t cause any environmental damage.

3. Paint

10 Items You Should Never Throw in The Garbage paint cans

How to properly dispose of paint depends on what the paint is made out of. Oil-based paints, coatings, stains, varnishes, paint removers, and strippers qualify as household hazardous waste (HHW) because they contain chemicals that can be harmful to humans, animals, and the environment. Water-based paints are not considered hazardous and can be tossed in the regular trash. 

If you only have a very small amount of oil-based paint, you may throw it out with the rest of your household garbage so long as it is mixed with an absorbent material that will soak it up.

4. Old laptops

10 Items You Should Never Throw in The Garbage laptops

You probably know that old laptops (as well as old TVs, cellphones, DVD players, and any other electronic waste) cannot simply be thrown away and you likely have one lying around somewhere, despite being out of use for ages. E-waste, in general, contains heavy metals and toxic chemicals such as cadmium and lead.

The most environmentally friendly way to dispose of e-waste is to donate it for reuse if it sill works or drop it off at a recycling center. The EPA website offers many e-waste reference tools, from directories of local and government-supported drop-off centers to manufacturers' mail-in recycling and trade-in programs.

5. Medication

10 Items You Should Never Throw in The Garbage pills

The reason medications have instructions for proper disposal, is that otherwise, they can end up in the water supply or the wrong hands. Most municipalities have controlled substance public disposal locations where you can drop your unwanted subscriptions.

That said, there are some ways to get rid of unused medications at home, as long as they don’t have specific disposal instructions listed. According to the Federal Drug Administration (FDA), you can combine the medications with something inedible, like cat litter or dirt. Then place the mixture in a plastic bag, and throw it away. 

6. Mail

10 Items You Should Never Throw in The Garbage mail
It is understandable if you don’t think twice when you open junk mail, and automatically toss it in the trash. However, those credit card applications and other pieces of mail contain personal information, such as your address. Because of all those valuable credentials, old mail can be a target for identity thieves. It’s best to shred and recycle all of your mail, even if it’s spam. That way, you are being kind to the environment and staying safe.

7. Detergent

10 Items You Should Never Throw in The Garbage laundry detergent
If for some reason you are left with extra laundry detergent that you cannot use because someone in the house has become allergic to it, for example, it’s important that you don’t just throw the whole thing away in the trash. Instead, pour the remaining liquid down the drain with the water running. This will prevent the risk of toxic chemicals seeping into the ground and polluting it. The plastic container can be recycled, of course. 

8. Hot oil

10 Items You Should Never Throw in The Garbage hot oil

Hot oil is tricky. It should not be poured down the drain after cooking, as fats, oil, and grease congeal and solidify to form blockages and damage your pipes. You should refrain from pouring it into the bin, too, because it can get stuck in there and cause a serious mess. 

The best way to dispose of hot oil is to wait for it to cool down and then pour it in a sealed container to be thrown out with the rest of your garbage.

9. Dead plants

10 Items You Should Never Throw in The Garbage dead plant
Not many people know this, but compost isn’t just for vegetable peels and eggshells. Instead of throwing your dead plants in the garbage, you can make garden compost out of dry leaves, shredded twigs, and well, the dead plants. Compost is a great material for garden soil. To gardeners, it is considered "black gold" because of its many benefits in the garden. By adding organic matter to the soil, compost can help improve plant growth and health.

10. Knives

10 Items You Should Never Throw in The Garbage kitchen knife

For safety reasons, you shouldn’t simply put an unwanted or broken knife in the garbage can. Instead, you can donate it to a local soup kitchen or a thrift store. If you’re certain the knife is not useable at all anymore, find a scrap metal recycler in your area.

If for some reason this is impossible for you, there is a way to carefully dispose of your knife at home. Taste of Home suggests you wrap it in newspaper, cover it in cardboard or bubble wrap, secure it with heavy-duty tape, and then place it in a box and seal it with more tape.

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