7 things you should never throw away

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The next time you think about throwing used batteries, prescription drugs, or some other common household item in the trash, wait.

Throwing away objects containing hazardous substances or materials can pose a risk to public health and the environment.

You may already know not to throw things like motor oila water contaminant that degrades slowly, and antifreeze, which may contain hazardous heavy metals. But there are plenty of other items that should never end up in the trash or landfill either.

Do you want to help the environment, yourself and your fellow citizens? Take a look at this list of things you should never throw away to find out why they’re bad for human health or the environment and how to dispose of them properly.


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According to the Environmental Protection Agency (APE).

Indeed, many batteries contain metals such as lead, mercury, cadmium, nickel and silver, all of which can endanger public health and the environment. Indeed, some of these metals are known to cause cancer or reasonably suspected of causing cancer.

Another good reason to recycle batteries is that some also contain lithium, cobalt, and graphite, which the federal government classifies as “critical mineralsbecause they are essential to the economy and national security. Thus, battery recycling results in the use of smaller amounts of these valuable minerals.

Non-empty aerosols

cooking oil spray
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Aerosol cans used to spray food products, personal care products, paints, solvents, pesticides and other substances are considered hazardous waste and should not be disposed of in the trash unless they are empty, according to the APE.

Many spray cans contain butane or propane – flammable propellants that increase the risk of igniting the can’s contents when partially filled cans are dropped. Other chemicals and hazardous substances may also be contained in aerosol cans.

Partially filled aerosol cans should be recycled or properly disposed of at your city or county’s recycling center that handles hazardous materials. You can also check the label on the box for disposal instructions.

Oil-based paints and solvents

Open cans of paint containing bright colors.
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Latex paints, also known as water-based paints, and their containers can often be thrown away, says the APE. But you should always take oil-based paints and solvents such as paint thinner to your local hazardous materials disposal center.

Oil-based paints and solvents contain toxic and flammable substances, according the California Department of Toxic Substances Control.

While many latex paints today are less harmful to the environment than in the past, your state or local government may not allow you to dispose of latex paints. For instance, California requires residents to use the liquid latex paint or take it to a household hazardous waste collection facility.

Plastic shopping bags

Upset shopper in a grocery store
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More than 3 million tons of plastic bags, bags and packaging ended up in US landfills in 2018, according to the latest EPA report statistics. But you don’t have to contribute to the environmental nightmare of plastic bags.

Many grocery store chains accept used plastic bags for recycling. So save the bags when unpacking groceries or other items and take them to a local grocery store that recycles them.

Better yet, buy cloth bags or other reusable bags for groceries do your part for the environment.

Prescription drugs

Patient holding a bottle of prescription pills
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Throwing away expired or unused prescription drugs may seem like the quickest way to clean out the medicine cabinet. According to APE.

The best way to dispose of prescription drugs, including fentanyl inhalers and patches, is to take them to your city or county. medication take-back program, says the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). A handful of prescription drugs can also be flushed down the toilet if they are on the FDA empty list.

If you have no choice but to flush non-disposable prescription drugs down the toilet, the FDA recommended mix pills or liquid medication in a sealed plastic bag with coffee grounds, dirt, kitty litter, or another substance that may deter animals or people from rummaging through your trash cans.

Needles and syringes

Woman self-injecting insulin
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To avoid injury and the spread of infection, never dispose of loose needles or syringes in the trash, recycling bin or toilet, warns the FDA.

Instead, place used needles and syringes in an FDA-approved sharps container or durable plastic household container. Then, contact your local waste department or health department and ask about sharps disposal options in your area.

Bulbs containing mercury

Woman changing light bulbs
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Never throw fluorescent, compact fluorescent (CFL) bulbs or other bulbs containing mercury in the trash. They can shatter when thrown into dumpsters or burned, releasing mercury – which can be toxic — in the air, warns the APE.

Better to recycle these bulbs instead. Check with your local government for recycling and disposal guidelines for CFLs and other mercury-containing bulbs.

“Virtually all components of a fluorescent light bulb can be recycled,” according to the EPA.

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