It’s easy to think that you can throw whatever you want into the trash. Most of the time, we throw things into our household trash cans without thinking about it, we put the trash bag into the trash can, then put it onto a curb and wait for some stranger to take it all away. We don’t see the inner workings of the waste industry, nor do we have a good intuition for how our waste is processed. So it’s no wonder why so many people think that they can throw anything into the garbage with reckless abandon.
In reality, there are some things that you should never throw away by conventional means, either because they represent a risk to you or because they pose a threat of environmental damage.
What You Should Never Throw Away
Whether you’re using a kitchen trash can, a rented dumpster, or some other form of traditional waste disposal, there are several items you should never throw away.
1. Electronics and batteries. First, you should never throw away your old electronics or batteries. These electronic components usually contain a variety of harmful chemicals that can leach into the soil, harming plant life and wildlife alike. It’s much better to responsibly dispose of your electronics by visiting an electronics recycling facility. You can also drop off your old electronics in a collection bin destined for one of these facilities if you’re looking for something more convenient. Just make sure you scrub these devices of all your old personal information before you do so; most electronics recyclers will properly dispose of your devices, but there’s no need to take an unnecessary risk.
2. Sensitive information. It’s also important to avoid throwing away any documents or materials that contain sensitive information, such as your social security number, bank information, or credit card numbers. Criminals sometimes go through trash to discover items like these and pursue identity theft. Instead of throwing them away, you should properly destroy the information by shredding these documents or burning them in a controlled fire.
3. Paints, stains, and lacquers. You are not permitted to throw away paints, staining agents, or lacquers in the trash or in a dumpster. These materials are considered hazardous and can cause significant environmental damage. It’s important to take them to a proper disposal or recycling facility so they can be handled appropriately.
4. Fuels and oils. Similarly, you may not dispose of gasoline, propane, oil, and other types of oils and fuels in the trash. Just like paints, stains, and lacquers, these materials can cause environmental damage in a landfill. It’s important to take them to a designated disposal facility so they can be discarded properly.
5. Asbestos and other hazardous waste. You also need to be aware that disposing of asbestos or any other hazardous material is illegal in most areas. Depending on your disposal needs, you may be able to take these materials to a designated recycling facility or you may need to hire a hazardous material abatement service provider.
Reusables and Recyclables
We also want to take a moment to talk about reusables and recyclables. In our ever-consuming society, it’s common for people to throw things away even when they could be easily reused or recycled for a different purpose. While it’s not illegal to do this, and while this type of action probably won’t cause direct environmental damage, it is both ethical and responsible of you to reuse and recycle things whenever possible.
As simple examples, you can use old T-shirts and old toothbrushes as cleaning rags and tools. Instead of throwing away a malfunctioning piece of equipment and purchasing a new one, you can look into getting it repaired. If you no longer need certain books on your shelf, you should consider donating them or passing on to someone interested in them.
A Better Approach to Personal Waste Management
Overall, you can improve your personal approach to waste management with the following:
- Minimize your waste. First, you should strive to minimize your waste as much as possible. Consuming less, prioritizing purchases that come with less packaging, and reusing and recycling things whenever possible can all help you in this endeavor. The less you throw away, the better.
- Know the rules. Different states and municipalities have different approaches to waste legislation. Make sure you familiarize yourself with the rules in your area. Most waste collection professionals have online resources you can consult if you have any questions.
- Get friendly with your local recyclers. Get to know the waste disposal facilities and recyclers in your area in case you need them in the future.
Most things can be thrown away conveniently and easily. But for the outliers, it’s important to be aware of landfill and waste management limitations.