It’s not always evident which elements belong in your trash can and which ones need special disposal handling. The hazards behind incorrect disposal aren’t commonly known, but it’s crucial to have an understanding of what can and cannot be thrown in the trash. Through this article, we aim to shed light on how to manage our household waste effectively and in an environmentally-friendly manner.
Understanding What Can and Cannot be Thrown in the Trash
Contrary to popular conception, there are numerous items that should never be thrown in our regular garbage. These items are either recyclable, compostable, or need special disposal due to their hazardous nature.
Incorrect disposal can lead to toxins infiltrating our environment, damaging ecosystems and potentially causing harm to local communities.
Burnt out LED and compact fluorescent lightbulbs, fire and carbon monoxide detectors, all type of batteries, oil-based paints, different types of oils, and even outdated electronics, all have special disposal methods that help reduce their negative impact on the environment.
In fact, improper disposal of these items can cause a significant environmental hazard, contaminating water systems, and contributing to air pollution.
According to the Waste Away Systems, people are often left unsure of how to safely dispose of items which are not frequently discarded, such as batteries, paint, electronics, and mercury-containing thermometers.
Common Household Waste
Today, we face the reality of our consumption patterns and its resulting waste. Not all waste is created equal – knowing what is trash and what could be recycled is vital. Let’s look at some common household waste and how we should manage them.
1- Food Waste
Food waste, primarily leftover food and scraps, usually ends up in the trash can. However, this organic waste can also be composted at home, reducing the amount of waste sent to our landfills and producing nutrient-rich compost for your plants.
Remember, food waste should not be mixed with recyclable materials as it can contaminate them.
2- Paper Products
Whether it’s mail, packaging, or used tissues, paper products often fill our bins.
Most paper products are recyclable, but those heavily soiled with food or oil, like pizza boxes, should be disposed of in the trash. Always ensure to check with your local recycling program to know the types of paper products accepted for recycling.
3- Plastic Items
Plastic items such as bottles, containers, and bags are common household waste. Many of these items can be recycled.
However, plastic items should be clean and dry before placing them in the recycle bin. Thin plastics like grocery bags often require special collection or drop-off programs.
4- Glass Items
Glass items like bottles and jars can often be recycled. However, other glass products like windows, mirror, and light bulbs have a different composition and usually aren’t accepted by most recycling programs. When disposing of glass, it’s crucial to handle with care to prevent injury.
5- Yard Waste
Yard waste generally includes organic materials like grass clippings, leaves, branches, and plant trimmings — all of which are commonly found in your home’s green bin.
However, it’s pertinent to stress that not all yard waste should be placed in the same bin. Larger branches (more than 4 inches thick and 36 inches long), stumps, treated wood, and sawdust should be managed separately as they may not decompose easily and pose potential challenges to composting processes.
Composting is an excellent way to manage organic waste. It involves the biological decomposition of organic materials into nutrient-rich soil conditioner. Compostable items should include:
- Food wastes: These include cooked or raw food, leftovers, fruit and vegetable waste, coffee grounds, eggs and shells, bread, and so on.
- Yard waste such as leaves, grass clippings, and smaller branches.
- Food-soiled paper products like napkins and pizza boxes (once any plastic or wax paper is removed).
It’s important to note that not all organic wastes are suitable for local composting efforts. For instance, meat or dairy products, oils, pet wastes, or treated wood items are usually not allowed due to potential health risks or composting complications.
In general, having a clear understanding of what can be tossed in your trash can and what can be recycled plays an integral role in effective waste management and environmental preservation.
Hazardous Waste (Household or Commercial)
Hazardous waste, is a waste with properties that make it potentially dangerous or harmful to human health or the environment. Certain everyday items fall under this category and should be disposed of carefully.
1- Chemicals and Cleaning Products
Chemicals and cleaning products can pose a significant risk if disposed of improperly. Many common household cleaners contain harsh chemicals that can contaminate soil and groundwater. It’s essential to read labels and follow disposal instructions.
Empty packages can often be recycled or discarded with regular waste, but any remaining product should typically be taken to a special facility or a local collection event.
Batteries, particularly rechargeable and lithium-ion types, are considered hazardous waste due to the heavy metals they contain.
These elements can leach into the environment if improperly discarded. Many retailers and local waste facilities offer battery recycling programs. Using these services can help reduce the environmental impact of battery disposal.
3- Electronic Waste
Most electronic waste (e-waste) is hazardous because it contains various toxic substances including lead, mercury, and cadmium.
Many areas have designated e-waste recycling facilities, and some manufacturers or retailers offer take-back programs.
It’s also worth noting that it’s illegal in some areas to dispose of certain electronics in the regular trash.
4- Paint and Solvents
Paint and solvents are also considered hazardous waste. These substances should not be poured down the drain or put in regular trash due to their potential to harm water sources and soil.
Many local waste facilities or hardware stores offer recycling or disposal programs for these items.
Bulky Items (Household or Commercial)
Bulky items can be a tricky category when it comes to deciding what can go in your trash can. Here’s a breakdown of few common bulky items and how to handle them:
When dealing with oversized items like furniture, many local waste management services offer special bulk pickup schedules.
However, it is always recommended to recycle or donate unwanted furniture before considering disposal. If the furniture is in decent condition, consider selling it online or donating to a charitable organization.
Large appliances such as refrigerators, washing machines, and ovens are also considered bulky items.
Due to their weight and size, they may not be accepted by regular trash collection services. The disposal of these items varies by region, so it’s crucial to check with local waste management services.
Often these items can be recycled, with certain components such as metals being extremely valuable for recycling purposes.
3- Construction Debris
Construction debris, such as brick, carpet, concrete, insulation, lumber, masonry, metals, and pipe, can be quite challenging to dispose of due to their size and weight. These items are typically not acceptable in regular trash bins.
Depending on your location, special haulers may be required for construction debris disposal, or you may be able to dispose of these materials at specific collection sites.
Do note: Always verify your local waste management rules and regulations to avoid violations and potential fines.
|Bulky Items||Disposal Methods|
|Furniture||Donate, Sell, Bulk pickup service, Recycling|
|Appliances||Recycle, Special haulers, Specific collection sites|
|Construction Debris||Special haulers, Specific collection sites|
As a rule of thumb, always check with your waste management provider about specific disposal procedures for bulky items. And remember, recycling and reusing should always be your first option before considering disposal.