Get Rid of Things
Are you like me? I get stuck wondering how to get rid of things. I love decluttering, but I don’t love dealing with all of the stuff I’ve decluttered. I feel stuck, unsure of what to do with it all. Anything that can go to charity is easy (clothes, shoes, furniture, etc), but there are definitely other things I am never sure how to dispose of properly (expired medicine, old electronics, compact fluorescent light bulbs, old paint, batteries, etc).
I can hear you thinking – what do you mean “dispose of properly”? Can’t I just get rid of things by throwing them in the trash can? Well, in short – no. In certain cases, recycling these items helps reduce what we put in landfills and helps us conserve our limited natural resources (copper, silver, gold, and palladium.) In other cases, putting the items in question into the trash can actually cause them to leach yucky chemicals and other things into our soil and groundwater. No thanks!
In other cases, just like with clothing and furniture, what is old and no longer useful to you might be just right for someone else.
Since I love to research, I did some hunting for information. And I’d love to share what I learned about how to get rid of things with you!
Earth 911 has one of the most comprehensive search engines of places to recycle numerous items. From CFL’s and other fluorescents to rechargeable batteries and chemicals – even car parts!
I highly recommend you check it out when you need to get rid of things.
First let’s define what I’m talking about here – computers (desktops and laptops), monitors, TV’s, and cell phones.
The first question you should ask is whether or not the item is still usable by someone else. If it is – please consider donating it.
Working cell phones can be reused for victims of domestic abuse, survivors of natural disasters, senior citizens, and soldiers serving overseas. Old computers and tablets can often be reused by groups helping out low income school districts, seniors, at-risk groups or charities.
To find out more please check out the links below:
If the electronic item is broken or so old as to be unusable – recycle it!
The first stop for most of us should be our local city government – many cities offer electronics recycling programs. It’s easy and free or very inexpensive (for residents).
If your city doesn’t offer an electronics recycing program, another resource is major retailers that are participating in the Sustainable Materials Management Electronics Challenge. The EPA offers a very handy tool to help you find a participant close to you.
EPA SMM Electronics Challenge Where to Recycle (scroll down to the bottom of the page)
Or perhaps an easier way to go for some of us is Best Buy’s Recycling Program.
Before you let go of these items – make sure you delete all personal information and remove the batteries (they’ll likely need to be recycled separately).
For all those in the U.S. and Canada – I have an awesome website to share with you. You can recycle those rechargeable batteries you’ve got kicking around for FREE! All it takes is typing in your zip code or address to find your nearest dropoff point and a quick trip to the dropoff point. I typed my address in and found 6 different dropoff locations all within 10 miles of my house – many of them on the routes I already travel to run errands.
If you’re unsure of whether or not it’s a candidate for this recycling program – check here:
In the olden days, unused or expired medicines were just thrown into the trash can or flushed down the toilet. Medicines left in trash cans can be found and ingested by children, pets, and wildlife. Medicines flushed down toilets can be inadvertently released into groundwater or soil causing environmental problems. So in some cases, the old ways weren’t necessarily the best ways.
So just how can you safely dispose of your expired and unused medications?
The best way is to locate a participating pharmacy or other location that accepts them and will dispose of them safely.
Some websites to help you locate such a pharmacy or other location are:
If you have no luck finding a pharmacy or other location that will accept your unused or expired medications you can use the following steps to (more) safely dispose of them.
- Remove your medication from its original container and place in a water tight container (any smallish tub headed for the recycling bin is perfect – think sour cream, yogurt, etc).
- Add just enough of something yucky so that the resulting product won’t be tempting for a dog, cat, or kid to eat (dirt, dish soap, kitty litter, used coffee grounds, etc.)
- Put the lid on your container and put the container in a plastic bag. Tie that plastic bag up. Then dispose of it in your trash can.
Paint and Related Chemicals
Do you have leftover cans of paint, varnish, or paint strippers kicking around your garage or basement? I do too. Some of them were left by the previous owner (left for touch-ups and what-not). Some are from projects we’ve taken on since we’ve owned our home. I looked around and realized that we still had paint in our garage that matched rooms we’ve long since painted over. And other paints have been destroyed by being kept in the too hot garage. So what to do with them?
Oil based paints, strippers, and varnishes are considered hazardous waste and need to be disposed of as such. Latex based paints are not considered hazardous and in fact the paint cans can be recycled. Latex paints can be poured into a porous substance like shredded newspaper or kitty litter in a box and allowed to dry away from children and pets. Allow the paint to dry, then dispose of the remains in the trash can.
The very best place to start when it comes to getting rid of old paint is your local city goverment. Many municipalities have hazardous waste or paint disposal programs. Some of them are only once or twice a year and others are year-round at specific drop-off points.
If you run into a dead end there – a few other options are Earth 911 (you’ll need to type in your location) and/or 1-800-CLEANUP (1-800-253-2687).
CFL (Compact Fluorescent Light) Bulbs
I know my house has a lot of these bulbs. They use so much less energy and last so much longer than regular light bulbs that to use them seems like a no-brainer (and in fact in some areas it is becoming a requirement.) But to produce the same amount of light and less energy they use a small amount of mercury. That sounded kind of scary to me until I did a little research.
Mercury emissions are actually reduced by using these bulbs. Let me explain – only a very small amount is used to manufacture CFLs. And using CFLs makes us use less energy which in turn reduces the amount of coal that is burned to produce that energy. When we burn coal, we produce mercury emissions. So the less coal we burn, the less mercury emissions are released. If CFL bulbs are recycled properly, the mercury inside isn’t released into the environment.
Why do I need to bother recycling them in a special way? Can’t I just throw them in the trash can?
Throwing them away in the regular trash often results in the bulbs getting broken which releases mercury vapor into the environment. Plus, when you recycle the bulbs most of the materials used to make them can be reused.
The good news is that recycling these bulbs is widely available and free in most cases. Many hardware stores and other major retailers will collect them in-store.
To find a recycling center nearby – check out Earth 911 and search by CFL and your location. You could also call your local hardware store and see if they recycle them.
How do you get rid of things? Any difficulties or helpful tips?