What Do I Do With .... ?
A Resident's Management Guide
For Those Not-So-Common Household Items
"One person's trash is another person's treasure".
There are many ways to reuse or recycle items that are no longer of use to us in our homes. As residents of Connecticut, reusing or recycling these items can reduce the amount and toxicity of the garbage that is disposed in our state. Some alternatives to disposal that you should think about include:
Fix it! Can your item be repaired? If so, you will not have anything to dispose of, and you could save on replacement costs.
Give it away! If the item you have is still usable, chances are that there is someone else that could use it. Before throwing it away, check with friends, relatives, and neighbors to see if they would like to have it. Consider listing items on an Internet site such as FreeCycle, and Craigslist, or in free classified ads and circulars. Or, just put it on your curb on a nice day with a sign on it saying "free."
Donate it! Many charities are happy to take items such as consumer electronics, furniture, rugs, etc. Before throwing these kinds of items away, check with your local Goodwill, Salvation Army, church, reuse store, or other charities to see what items they may be willing to take. Some organizations will even schedule free pickups of donated items.
Sell it! Hold a tag sale, or take your item(s) to a local flea market (look in your local newspaper for times and locations in your area). Or, list your item on an Internet site like eBay, Craigslist, or other similar sites. You might be surprised to find that that an old item you think is a piece of junk is just what some collector is looking for!
None of these ideas work for your item? Then read on for assistance on proper disposal or recycling:
A B C D E F G H L M N O P R S T U V W Y
Animal Waste/Pet Waste
Ash (Wood, Charcoal, Coal)
Automobiles / Vehicles
Books and Textbooks
Bottles & Cans
Carpets & Rugs
Clean Brick, Rock, Ceramics, Concrete, or Asphalt
Clean Wood (Brush, Stumps, Logs)
Clothing, Shoes and Other Textiles
Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFL's)
Construction and Demolition Debris
Consumer Electronics (E-waste)
Cork (From Wine Bottles)
Fats, Oils & Grease (FOG)
Fluorescent Light Bulbs
Gasoline and Other Old Fuels
Grease & Vegetable Oils
Holiday String Lighting
Household Hazardous Waste
Medical Supplies & Equipment
Motor Oil & Filters
Nursery Pots and Trays (horticultural)
Oversized Items (Mattresses, Furniture, Rugs, etc.)
Packing Peanuts (Styrofoam Pellets)
Pet Waste (Feces)
Plastic Bottle Caps
Plastic Containers #3 thru #7
Plastic Shopping and Other Bags
Prescription Medicine and Over-the-Counter (OTC) Products
Rugs & Carpets
Shoes & Sneakers
Thermometers & Thermostats
Underground Storage Tanks
Video Cassettes (VHS), CD's, DVD's, Old Film
Water Filters for Drinking Water Pitchers and Faucets
Wrappers (Snack, Chip, Candy & Cookie)
Air conditioners are appliances that may contain ozone depleting substances, including refrigerants and/or insulating foams that can be released if disposed of improperly. Older air conditioners may contain a harmful refrigerant called Freon. Air conditioners may also contain other toxic chemicals, such as mercury.
It is important to find an appliance recycling program or technician to remove the refrigerant. Do not attempt to remove refrigerant or compressors yourself. Improperly handled refrigerant may result in physical harm. Contact your local municipal recycling coordinator
to learn how to properly dispose of your air conditioner. Some utility companies offer rebate programs when you upgrade to a more energy efficient air cooling system, contact your local utility company to see if they will accept your old air conditioner for proper disposal.
Aerosol cans are pressurized canisters that house everything from cleaning supplies and air fresheners to hygiene products and paints. The contents of the can determine whether it is recyclable or hazardous materials. If the can contains paints or toxic materials the can itself, including its contents, need to be disposed of at a household hazardous waste collection event or facility. Check the schedule
for an event near you.
Some communities are starting to collect non-hazardous aerosol cans (from deodorant, air fresheners, etc.) with bottles and cans for recycling. However, not all communities do so. Please contact your local municipal recycling coordinator
to find out.
Do not put ammunition in the trash! People who want to dispose of old or excess ammunition should call their local police/public safety department or state police
to surrender the ammunition. It will either be used by the department or disposed of properly.
Antifreeze can pollute groundwater, surface water and drinking water supplies if dumped, spilled or leaked, and is harmful to pets, marine and aquatic life. Antifreeze should be brought to a household hazardous waste collection event or facility. Check the schedule
for an event near you. Guidance for Auto Centers
. Guidance for Marinas
Many of the appliances we use every day contain man-made chemicals that destroy the ozone layer – our planet’s natural protection against the sun’s harmful ultra-violet radiation. Refrigerators, window and car air conditioners, and dehumidifiers rely on refrigerants that contain ozone-depleting chemicals called chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs), under various trade names that contain the word "Freon."
If not disposed of properly, these common household items can release these refrigerants into the atmosphere.
For proper disposal:
- Speak with your municipal recycling contact person to learn how to dispose of appliances safely in your community.
- Ask your local home appliance retailers about their refrigerator and home appliance collection programs or about the availability of refrigerant-recovery services. Sometimes, the store from which you buy a new large appliance will take back the old one.
- Contact your local utility company about appliance recycling programs.
- If the appliance is still in good working order, consider donating it to a local charity or family in need.
Commonly used paints, like oil, acrylic and watercolor, may contain toxic heavy metals such as cadmium, chromium, and lead. First consider if the art supplies can still be used for their intended purpose. Consider donating reusable art supplies to art schools or creative art reuse centers. If the supplies are old and not reusable, determine if they contain toxic materials.
Toxic and hazardous materials including oil paints or solvents (such as turpentine or mineral spirits) should be brought to a household hazardous waste collection or facility. Check the schedule for an event near you.
Asbestos-containing materials ("ACM") in good condition should be left alone. There is no danger unless fibers are released and inhaled into the lungs. Check material regularly if you suspect it may contain asbestos. Don’t touch it, but look for signs of wear or damage such as tears, abrasions or water damage. If the material is damaged or becomes damaged, the Connecticut Department of Public Health (DPH) recommends that a licensed asbestos contractor be contacted to abate the material. Abatement activities may involve repair, enclosure, encapsulation or removal of the material.
Connecticut law does not allow any person to discard more than 1 cubic foot of ACM in the trash at any one time. Contact a hauler to transport the ACM to an approved disposal site. Approved disposal sites in Connecticut include the Manchester landfill (non-friable ACM only), and Charles M. Gordon & Sons, Inc., in Portland.
For more on asbestos including general information and lists of licensed asbestos consultants and abatement contractors, see the DPH’s Asbestos Program Website. See also DEEP's webpage on Construction & Demolition Health & Safety Requirements You Should Know About.
Ash (wood ash, fireplace ash, charcoal grill ash, and coal ash)
Wood ash and ash from the fireplace (assuming you didn’t burn treated or painted wood) can be used in your compost pile (very small amount), used in the winter to help gain traction against ice and snow, as an insect repellant (sprinkle small amounts around the perimeter of your garden to deter slugs and snails), spot remover on wood furniture (make a paste with water, rub over rings left by water glasses – follow up with furniture polish) or applied to your soil if you need to raise the pH. Treated or painted/stained wood should not be burned, as it emits toxins into the air and results in contaminated ash.
Spreading the ashes over your lawn and garden may or may not be the best means of disposal. Wood ash is somewhat beneficial to the soil because it contains essential plant nutrients. Depending on the type of wood, the ash may contain five to eight percent potash, one percent phosphate and trace amounts of micro-nutrients such as iron, manganese, boron, copper and zinc. See the University of Connecticut webpage on the use of wood ash in gardens.
If you heat your home with coal, you are creating coal ash. Coal ash should not be used on any plant crop that you plan to eat – do not place coal ash in your compost or your vegetable garden. This ash should be put in a bag and disposed of with your trash. Be aware that coals from ash can be ‘live’ and continue to burn for as long as 4-6 weeks after they’ve been removed from the stove.
Ash from charcoal grills, where you’ve used charcoal briquettes with or without lighter fluid should not be used in your compost or garden. This ash should be put in a bag and disposed of with your trash.
What about ash from manufactured logs and pellets? Usually manufactured logs and pellets are made from wood waste, sawdust and waxes. Make sure you know if the these products contain natural adhesives (natural waxes and oils) vs. petroleum based products. Ash from logs and pellets with petroleum based products or unknown ingredients should not be applied to your garden, soil or compost. If you’re not sure, contact the manufacturer directly, or throw it out in the trash.
Automobiles / Vehicles
Any number of junk yards and salvage companies will take your old vehicles for recycling or parts. But why not consider donating your vehicle to charity? You will be helping a cause and also receiving a tax deduction for your gift. There are hundreds of charities that participate in vehicle donation programs, and many take not only cars, but also trucks, boats, RV's, motorcycles, etc. If you have a favorite charity, try calling them directly first to see if they are interested in your vehicle. Many of them work with companies that will tow your donated vehicle for free. If you want to search for charities, both in CT and beyond, visit some of the organizations that manage these donation programs on behalf of the charities. These include, but are not limited to: Wheels for Wishes, DonationLine, Cars 4 Causes, DonateCarUSA, Kars 4 Kids, and Donate for Charity. Another resource is Infoline 2-1-1, an integrated system of help via the telephone accessed toll-free from anywhere in Connecticut by simply dialing 2-1-1. It operates 24 hours a day, 365 days a year and does have information about vehicle donation.
There are many different types of batteries, and the environmental concerns and disposal options may vary for each. Please read through the following sections carefully to determine the type of battery you have and how to properly dispose of it. You can read more about managing Household Batteries
and Rechargeable Batteries
on our website.
Automotive Batteries (Lead-Acid Batteries)
Lead-acid batteries may not be disposed of in the trash, buried, or thrown in wetlands or waterways. These batteries contain a corrosive and toxic electrolyte that is very harmful to the environment. Connecticut law requires consumers to return their lead-acid auto batteries for recycling, and requires retailers of these batteries to accept a used battery for each battery they sell. Retail stores that sell batteries are required to accept up to three batteries from a customer that is not purchasing a new battery. In addition, some towns accept lead-acid auto batteries at their local transfer station. To find out if this service is available in your area, call your local recycling coordinator.
Rechargeable batteries (learn more) are commonly found in cordless phones, power tools, portable electronics and cell phones. They include nickel cadmium, nickel metal hydride, small sealed lead acid and lithium ion batteries. All rechargeable batteries can be recycled at participating retail collection points including most Radio Shack and Wal-Mart Stores. For information on where to recycle nickel cadmium batteries in your area, call 1-800-8-BATTERY or 1-877-2-RECYCLE or log on to the Rechargeable Battery Recycling Corporation (RBRC) website.
Household Batteries (Alkaline and Zinc Carbon Batteries)
If you have AAA, AA, C or D batteries, and they are not rechargeable, then they are most likely alkaline and zinc carbon batteries (learn more). If possible, they should be recycled. If recycling is not available, these batteries can be disposed in the regular trash. Some community household hazardous waste (HHW) collection events will accept household batteries. To find out about HHW services in your area, call your local recycling coordinator, or check the DEEP's HHW web page for the schedule. Also, INMETCO, a metals reclamation facility in Pennsylvania, recycles alkaline and zinc carbon batteries. Call (724) 758-2800 for more information.
Watch or Button Batteries (Silver Oxide Batteries)
Silver oxide batteries are hazardous when put in the regular trash. Many jewelry and watch stores will recycle the silver oxide battery when you bring your watch in to have the battery replaced. If not, please bring your silver oxide batteries to your next household hazardous waste (HHW) collection. To find out about HHW services in your area, call your local recycling coordinator, or check the DEEP's HHW web page for the schedule.
Camera and Portable Electronic Device Batteries (Lithium Batteries)
There are lithium batteries that are button-size, as well as those that look like regular household batteries. The latter type will say "lithium" on the battery. Button lithium batteries are commonly found in cameras and other portable electronic devices, such as PDA's, watches, thermometers, calculators and in remote car locks. Any type of lithium battery should not be put in the trash. Please bring lithium batteries to a household hazardous waste (HHW) collection. To find out about HHW services in your area, call your local recycling coordinator, or check the DEEP's HHW web page for the schedule.
Commonly used in hearing aids, the best management option is to bring such batteries to a household hazardous waste (HHW)collection. To find out about HHW services in your area, call your local recycling coordinator, or check the DEEP's HHW web page for the schedule. There is currently limited recycling of zinc-air batteries available. INMETCO, a metals reclamation facility in Pennsylvania may recycle them. Call (724) 758-2800 for more information.
Boat Shrink Wrap
Boat shrink wrap is made of low-density polyethylene (LDPE), which can be recycled and used in the manufacture of new products such as plastic bags, composite lumber (decking, railings, docks, benches, etc.), lawn edging, and plastic banners among others.
Reusable boat covers are the environmentally preferred choice to disposable covers. However, you may be able to recycle boat shrink wrap through your marina, boat yard or yacht club. Check with your boating facility to see if they are participating in a recycling program. The Clean Marina Guidebook offers best management practices for boat shrink wrap.
Books and Textbooks
Reuse is environmentally preferable to recycling. Offer books to your local library, senior center, school libraries, friends, thrift stores, swap shops, and charities. Got Books? Out of North Reading, MA is a professional fundraising group that provides pick-up service and holds weekly charity book sales. Textbooks can be a challenge to reuse because they get outdated. However, Green Textbooks, and Textbook Recycle both specialize in textbook reuse and/or recycling. Other book recycling resources include the International Book Project, Books for Africa, Books First, Bridge to Asia, Better World Books, and the California Integrated Waste Management Board. You can also contact your local recycling coordinator to see if your town collects books through their recycling program.
State law requires all towns in Connecticut to provide for the recycling of glass and metal food and beverage containers, and plastic containers with resin codes #1 and #2. Each Connecticut town has a recycling ordinance in place to address proper handling of these and other recyclables. Check with your town or city hall for the proper handling of bottles and cans. At a minimum, containers should be rinsed before being placed in the appropriate recycling receptacle. 5-cent deposit cans and bottles covered under the CT Bottle Bill may be returned to the store for redemption, or consider donating nickel-deposit containers to local civic organization fund-raisers.
See "Plastic Bottle Caps"
Carpets & Rugs
If your carpets and rugs are in good reusable condition, consider donating them to a local non-profit thrift shop or a building materials reuse center. Currently there are no companies in CT that accept carpets or rugs for recycling. Old, dirty and used carpets are considered ‘bulky waste' in some communities and 'municipal solid waste' in others. Contact your local municipal recycling coordinator or department of public works to learn how your community disposes of old used carpets.
Certain components of old cellular phones such as printed wiring boards, batteries and liquid crystal displays can pose a threat to the environment if improperly disposed of. If your cellular phone is in working condition, you may want to donate it to a growing number of programs that provide free phones to the elderly or potential victims of domestic violence. Call your town hall to find out if your town either sponsors such a program or is aware of a non-profit in your area that does so. When purchasing a new phone ask your cellular service provider if they will take your old phone for recycling.
Cell phones and used cell phone batteries can be recycled through the Rechargeable Battery Recycling Corporation’s (RBRC) recycling program. Participating retail outlets include Wal-Mart, Radio Shack, Circuit City and Home Depot. To learn more or to find a location to recycle your phone or battery, visit the RBRC website or call them at 1-800-8-BATTERY or 1-877-2-RECYCLE.
Clean brick, rock, ceramics, concrete, and asphalt paving fragments, which are virtually inert and pose neither a fire threat nor a pollution threat to ground or surface water, are considered clean fill and do not require disposal in a solid waste facility. There are some aggregate recycling facilities in Connecticut. If these materials are contaminated, they must be treated as bulky waste and should be disposed of at a permitted solid waste disposal facility.
Brush, stumps and logs should preferably be recycled into wood mulch or firewood. If you do not have or cannot rent the equipment to do this yourself, check with your local town or city hall to see if they accept clean wood at the recycling center or transfer station. When hiring a contractor to do land clearing, be sure to include removal of materials in the contract, unless you want the wood for your own use. There are several private wood recycling facilities and services in Connecticut. If disposal is the only option, land-clearing debris is considered bulky waste, and may be disposed of at any permitted solid waste disposal facility that accepts bulky waste, such as at a resource recovery facility (RRF), solid waste landfill, or transfer station. You may not bury land-clearing debris on site, or at another location that is not a permitted solid waste disposal area.
Hazardous chemicals can often be found in these common household products: drain cleaners, floor-care products, oven cleaners, window sprays, bathroom cleaners, furniture and metal polishes, pesticides, and laundry products. When you shop for cleaning products, you can usually avoid these chemicals by reading the labels. Those labeled "Danger" or "Poison" are typically the most hazardous and should be avoided. Others are labeled "Caution" or " Warning" because they are skin or eye irritants and they may or may not be hazardous. Always read the instructions for proper use.
Disposal Options: Unwanted or leftover hazardous products should not be disposed of in the trash, flushed down the toilet or sink drains, nor should they be poured into storm drains or onto the ground. If you have any hazardous products in your home that you need to dispose of, bring them to a local household hazardous waste collection. See the section below on "household hazardous waste" for more information.
Alternatives: Most cleaning products have environmentally friendly alternatives that are effective and much safer for people, pets, and the natural world. Some are available in stores, and these products will typically have all their ingredients listed. You can also choose to make your own cleaners, which are just as effective and usually much less expensive. For some alternatives, see Household Alternatives for Reducing Toxic Products in Your Home.
Clothing, Shoes, and Other Textiles
The broad definition of “textiles” includes clothing, shoes, belts, hats, undergarments, bedding, linens, towels, fabric, and curtains/draperies, regardless of condition. A large percentage, about 95%, of textiles can be recycled. Consider donating your goods to Salvation Army, Goodwill Industries, Vietnam Veterans of America, or some other organization. DonationTown helps you find a charity in your area that will pick up your donation for free. There are even places to recycle women's bras - the Bra Recyclers is a textile recycling company that specializes in the recycling and reuse of used and unused bras. Or, if you want to trade your old clothes for new clothes, check out Big Wardrobe which promotes “swishing” or Rehash; both are on-line clothes swapping websites. Other reuse options include Soles-4-Souls, a non-profit organization that encourages reusable shoe collection events at schools and through community groups. The shoes are then sent to developing countries. Another shoe recycler is Recycle My Shoes, a for-profit company that sells used shoes.
Have one NEW shoe without a partner? The National Odd Shoe Exchange will accept donations of NEW single shoes for folks needing only one shoe - great if your dog ate one of your new shoes!
Nike is best known for creating opportunities to recycle sneakers through their ReUse-A-Shoe program. In Connecticut, many communities collect sneakers in the fall to celebrate America Recycles Day (November 15th) or Earth Day in the spring (April 22nd). Learn more about Connecticut events from the CT Recyclers Coalition Reuse A Shoe Program.
The US EPA reports that the US generates 25 billion pounds of textiles per year (or 82 pounds per person per year), but of that, only 15% gets recycled. That's why the Council for Textile Recycling has set a post consumer textile recycling goal at virtually 100% by the year 2037.
Even damaged clothing and other textiles may be repurposed—so do not be so quick to throw them away! If a textile is badly stained, missing buttons, or torn, it can still be used to make rags or used as fiber to stuff car seats, pillows, stuffed animals, soundproof insulation, and many other purposes. According to Secondary Materials and Textile Recycling, or SMART, about 45% of donations are reused as clothing, 35% of donations are used as rags, 15% of donations are used as fiber, and 5% is wet, smelly, or oily, which renders it unfit for reuse.
When clothing and other textiles can no longer be reused, they can be collected for recycling. Listed below are a few resources for coordinating a large collection effort in your community. Ask them about the minimum quantity they will accept, how the materials should be collected/prepared and what types of clothing and textiles they are willing to accept.
Clothing and Textile Recycling & Reuse Markets in New York
Council for Textile Recycling
Harmony Enterprises (sells balers for textile recycling efforts)
Global Recycling Network
Secondary Materials and Recycled Textiles (SMART)
Cork (from wine bottles)
Corks can be reused in craft and art projects – consider donating to schools, daycare centers or art studios. You can also use them as mulch in the garden, or grind them up and use in potting soil or as drainage medium in plant pots. Efforts to collect corks for recycling are increasing – although there are no known projects in Connecticut.
Yemm & Hart, a company in Missouri is collecting wine cork stoppers (no plastic) with the goal of converting them into a useful self sustaining product. For more information contact Yemm & Hart Ltd. on-line or by phone at 573-783-5434.
Another option is ReCORK America, a project collecting natural corks (no plastic) with a recycling market based in Portugal. ReCORK America, located in California, lists Public Drop-off Locations in Massachusetts, New York, and New Hampshire.
Korks 4 Kids, a program of Recycle for Children in Pennsylvania, also collects corks to raise funds and can be contacted on line or by phone at 717-880-1709.
TerraCycle, located in New Jersey, collects plastic wine corks and can be contacted on line or by phone at 609-393-4252. TerraCycle pays you for shipping and for each item you send. They also sell products made from the corks and an assortment of items they buy directly from the public.
Planning before your construction or remodeling project begins can reduce waste and increase the ability to divert materials for reuse and recycling! Connecticut has a number of reuse centers for building materials that accept leftover or unused construction materials. Many materials can also be recycled including unused/scrap wallboard/gypsum board, CLEAN wood scraps (free from paint, not old furniture wood), asphalt shingles, pallets, and corrugated cardboard. Work with your hauler to create a successful waste diversion program. Wood or wallboard that has paint or other contaminants should be disposed in the trash.
During demolition or deconstruction, it is important to recognize building waste may be contaminated with asbestos, lead-based paint, or other materials that may require special disposal. Before starting a demolition project, be sure to have the structure inspected by qualified professionals for the presence of asbestos, lead-based paint, mercury-containing lighting and equipment, and other hazardous materials, and ensure that these are removed, as necessary, to allow the remaining waste to be disposed of as regular construction and demolition (C&D) waste. For more information on the environmental issues involved with demolition, see Renovation & Demolition: Environmental, Health & Safety Requirements You Should Know About.
Deconstruction activities work to recover cabinetry, decorative molding, doors, windows, flooring, and more before demolition. Although this takes planning efforts, it can save money by avoiding disposal costs and items can be sold, or donated to a community building materials reuse center.
If you are a contractor visit our page on Information Resources for Contractors in the Construction Trades.
If you are a homeowner, learn more about green building techniques.
Consumer electronics include items such as computers, monitors, televisions, IPods, PDA's, pagers, VCRs, radios, telephones and other small electronic devices. Items that are in good working order can be donated to charities such as Goodwill Industries, Salvation Army, or can be offered on FreeCycle or Craigslist . Items that are no longer useful should be recycled at a local electronics collection.
There are several options for recycling consumer electronics. Some municipalities offer drop-off locations at their recycling center or transfer station. Other towns participate in regional one-day collections such as those offered by CRRA. Check with your local recycling coordinator for more information. Staple’s stores offer recycling of computers and peripherals and Best Buy stores will recycle old televisions.
An electronics recycling law took effect in the fall of 2010. Under the law, each municipality is required to provide its residents with a free, convenient and accessible collection point for recycling televisions, computers, monitors and printers. For more information, go to the DEEP's e-waste page.
The environmental impact of crayons isn’t so pretty. Crayons are made of paraffin, a petroleum-based wax, pigment, and sometimes fragrance and sparkles for the fancier ones. Crayola estimates that the average child wears down 730 crayons by age ten. So what can an environmentally conscious parent or teacher do about this waste? A little creative recycling!
Contact Crayons for Cancer which supports Family Funds and Treasure Chests on the Oncology floors at the Connecticut Children's Medical Center, Hasbro Children's Hospital (Providence, RI) and The Minneapolis Children's Hospital; or send them to the National Crayon Recycle Program. Learn about more re-use ideas in our DEEP P2View article.
Report dead wild animals found on your own property to your local animal control officer. Generally, dead animals on local roadways (roadkill) are removed by the municipal public works department or animal control officer. Check with your town or city hall for your town’s procedures. To report dead animals found on state roads, contact the CT Department of Transportation using the drop-down menu on their comment form . Do not attempt to remove the animal yourself.
Small dead pets may be buried in your yard, disposed of by your veterinarian, cremated, or secured in a black plastic garbage bag and thrown in the garbage. Some communities prohibit burying animals in the back yard, and/or have specific guidance on choosing a suitable burial location, so please check with your local health department or animal control officer about local ordinances.
Dehumidifiers should not be disposed of with your regular trash. They use refrigerants that contain ozone-depleting chemicals called chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs), found under various trade names that contain the word "Freon." Certain Freon types have been phased out, but newer model dehumidifiers still contain gases that are hazardous to the environment and must be disposed of properly.
To learn how to dispose of dehumidifiers safely in your community, contact your municipal recycling coordinator. Many towns accept dehumidifiers at the local transfer station or other collection location and may charge a fee. Certain communities also offer curbside pick-up of appliances. You may also be directed to a scheduled Household Hazardous Waste Collection.
See Consumer Electronics
Lions Clubs in Connecticut coordinate eyeglass recycling activities. The used eyeglasses are cleaned and classified by prescription and distributed to children and adults in developing nations. You may donate used prescription or nonprescription glasses or sunglasses. Both plastic and metal frames are accepted.
Lions-sponsored collection boxes may be found at Pearl Vision, Lens Crafters, Target Optical, Sears Optical and Sunglass Hut Stores in addition to libraries, schools, community centers, places of worship, train stations, coffee shops, video stores, optometrists' offices and other high traffic areas. Contact your local Lions Club for information about where to donate glasses in or near your community.
If you would like more information about donating used eyeglasses, or if your organization or school would like to start an eyeglass collection campaign, contact the Health and Children’s Services Department, Lions Clubs International, via email or phone: 630-571-5466, ext. 318.
All fire extinguishers are under pressure and should not be put in the regular trash. There are three varieties of fire extinguishers manufactured in the past decade: water filled, gas filled and chemical filled extinguishers. Water filled and gas (CO2) filled extinguishers are inert, and are not harmful. The dry chemical variety can cause irritation, so extra care should be taken with these units. Many of today's units are rechargeable. For a small fee you can have your fire extinguisher emptied, checked and re-filled.
Some communities accept fire extinguishers at the town transfer station, or local fire department. Other communities collect extinguishers at household hazardous waste collection events. Please contact your local municipal recycling coordinator to learn how to dispose of fire extinguishers in your town.
Monofilament fishing line can be very harmful to aquatic species and boaters. Because this fishing line does not decompose, it will stay in lakes, ponds or oceans. Fish and other species can become entangled and this will often lead to death. Fishing line can also become wrapped around boat propellers causing mechanical damage.
A better option is to recycle fishing line pieces and keep it out our waterways. Fishing line can be recycled at certain recycling locations in Connecticut, such as in designated state parks, boat launches, and wildlife management areas.
If there isn’t a convenient location for you to recycle fishing line in your community, consider starting your own recycling program at your favorite fishing site. Start by talking to your local marina, tackle shop, or fishing supply store to see if they’d be interested in starting a recycling program. The Berkley Conservation Institute makes it easy for retailers, groups, and individuals to create their own recycling collection programs for fishing line. To participate as a retailer you can request a recycling collection bin and it will be shipped at no charge. As individuals, you can mail it directly to Berkley.
Resources and examples of fishing line recycling programs include the Florida Fish & Wildlife Commission's Monofilament Recovery and Recycling Program and Educational Materials; Virginia's Department of Game & Fisheries Fishing Line Recycling Program, including plans for constructing and installing recycling containers; and the "Keep Daytona Beach Beautiful" school program for fishing line recycling which makes and decorates fishing line recycling containers.
Currently, there are no curbside collection programs or centrally located compost facilities in Connecticut that accept residential food scraps for recycling. You can, however, consider starting your own compost bin for your organic materials. View DEEP's home composting brochure, video (free download), and fact sheet on line. The VHS video entitled "Home Composting – Turning Your Spoils to Soil" is available at your local library. Or, you may purchase it for $8.00 at the DEEP Bookstore. A good on-line resource for purchasing compost bins and tools is COMPOSTERS.com. Check with your town or city hall to see if they offer compost bins through a special truckload sale.
Consider donating usable food to your local food pantry or community kitchen.
Avoid putting food scraps down the garbage disposal. It shortens the life of septic systems and needs to be treated and disposed of at landfills or incinerators if it goes down the city sewer system. See the Ask Eartha article in the Spring 2006 edition of DEEP’s "P2View" for a more in-depth discussion on this topic.
Food scraps that cannot be composted or otherwise reused or recycled may be put in the regular trash.
Gasoline and Other Old Fuels
The best way to deal with old or unwanted fuel from cars and trucks, recreational vehicles, lawn care equipment, space heaters, or heating oil storage tanks is not generate it in the first place. If possible, don’t store motorized vehicles or equipment with fuel in them for long periods of time. For example, run your lawnmower dry on the last day that you mow your lawn in the fall, and store it in your garage to prevent water from getting in the tank. Plan ahead when you are buying fuel. For example, don’t fill up your five-gallon gasoline can just before mowing the lawn for the last time in the fall, to avoid having old gas left over in the spring.
If the fuel is in good usable condition, try to reuse it yourself, or give it away to someone else who will use it. There are additive products on the market that you can put in old fuels to recondition them and make them usable again. If you have some old gasoline or other fuel that you would like to reuse, check with your local auto parts or fuel oil retailer to see if they carry one of these products.
If all else fails, you will have to dispose of your old or excess fuel. Check with your local service station or fuel retailer to see if they will accept it. If not, see if your local household hazardous waste collection will accept these fuels or contact your local municipal recycling coordinator.
Grass clippings are banned from disposal at landfills and incinerators. Leave them on the lawn where they will decompose and act as a natural organic fertilizer. View the DEEP's "Don't Trash Grass!" brochure , video (free download), or fact sheet on-line. A 15 minute VHS video of the same title is available in your local library or may be purchased at the DEEP Bookstore for $8.00. You may also check with your local town or city hall to see if they accept grass clippings in their organics recycling program.
Grease & Vegetable Oils
At home, you should never put grease, oils or fats down your drain. Oils and fats can be disposed of in your regular trash. Hot oil should be allowed to cool. Place in a can or container before putting it into trash.
Businesses should never put grease, oils or fats down the drain/sewer or in the trash. DEEP issued a new general permit in 2005 to prevent the discharge of fats, oils and grease (FOG) from food preparation establishments to the sanitary sewer system. Learn more about FOG disposal and a FOG Model Program for businesses. Business must containerize high-quality grease and vegetable oils (e.g., from fryolators) and have them picked up by a rendering company or biodiesel producer.
In addition to recycling your batteries from hearing aids, you can also recycle the hearing aids themselves – regardless of how old they are or what kind of model including cochlear implants and analog hearing aids. Hearing aids will be refurbished or pieces will be used for parts. Hearing aids are collected by both the Lions Club International Hearing Aid Recycling Program and the Starkey Hearing Foundation "Hear Now" Program.
Household Hazardous Wastes (HHW) are household-generated wastes or unused products that are hazardous in nature, but are not regulated as hazardous waste, since they are generated in households. Included are such items as old stains, paints, and paint related products, pesticides, pool chemicals, drain cleaners, mercury-containing products such as thermostats and thermometers, and degreasers and other household and car care products.
The best method of managing HHW is to prevent its generation in the first place. When purchasing household and car care products, select the least toxic item needed to do the job, and buy only the minimum amount necessary.
To discard any leftover or unused material, it should be taken to your local Hazardous Household Waste collection center or one-day collection event. For information on dates and times in your area, call your town or city hall and ask to speak to your recycling coordinator, or visit the DEEP’s household hazardous waste web page. If you can wait for the next collection, store the contents in a dry place and keep them sealed in their original containers. If you have any questions about storing materials that are potentially flammable or explosive, call your fire or police department.
If you must discard the materials prior to the next scheduled event, first try to use-up the product for its intended purpose. Ask you friends, neighbors and family if they have any use for the product. If not, you may legally discard them in your regular trash pickup, provided:
- You have read the label and complied with any disposal directions;
- Liquids have either been allowed to evaporate (if water based) or absorbed (if non-water based) on an absorbent material such as vermiculite, cat litter or sawdust so that there are no free-draining liquids);
- The remaining residue has been packaged to prevent leakage while the material is being transported to the disposal facility.
State law requires that towns provide for leaf recycling and that leaves be kept separate from other recyclables and garbage. Some towns collect leaves curbside during the fall, and some have residential drop-off areas. Others ask residents to compost them at home. Check with your town or city hall for specific leaf collection information, as each town varies in their collection schedules and collection methods (bagged, raked to curb, drop-off, etc.). Leaves are perfect for home composting . There are almost 100 large-scale leaf composting sites in Connecticut.
Fluorescent bulbs come in various shapes and sizes. Some are the traditional, 2-, 4-, or 8-foot-long "tube" type bulb. Others include the newer "compact" fluorescent lights (CFLs) that screw in like a regular incandescent bulb. All of them contain varying amounts of the toxic metal mercury, and should not be disposed of in the regular trash.
CFLs are accepted at household hazardous waste collections. Refer to the schedule of household hazardous waste collections for a location near you. Some municipalities offer recycling of CFLs and other fluorescent lamps at their transfer stations or other drop sites. Check with your local recycling coordinator or Department of Public Works for more information.
In 2008, The Home Depot began a collection program for compact fluorescent lights (CFLs). Residents can bring any brand of CFL, regardless of where it was purchased, to any Connecticut Home Depot. IKEA stores also accept CFLs for recycling.
Incandescent bulbs include traditional screw-in line bulbs, and come in various sizes and shapes (e.g., round bulbs, and cone-shaped flood and spot lights). They include traditional tungsten-element light bulbs, as well as the newer halogen lamps. All of these types of bulbs may be disposed of in the regular trash. If you use these lamps, though, you should consider switching over to fluorescent bulbs since they can provide dramatic energy savings, which in return reduces air pollution emissions from electrical generation plants.
Holiday String Lighting
Both incandescent and LED holiday lights are recyclable. By recycling your broken and outdated lights, you’ll keep the toxins in the electric cables out of the incinerator. First, check with your local municipal recycling coordinator to see if they collect Christmas lights for recycling.
Home Depot and Whole Foods Market have coordinated seasonal trade-in or recycling collection programs at different locations. These programs are usually only a week or two held in November or December.
Other options include mailing your broken or obsolete lights to a number of retailers, including Christmas Light Source in Fort Worth, Texas and Five Star Holiday Décor in Springville, UT, which sell your old lights to raise funds for the Toys for Tots program and HolidayLEDs.com in Jackson, Missouri recycles your old LED lights and offers discount on your next purchase.
Whether you subscribe to Vogue, People or the New Yorker these published periodicals can pile up on our tables, floors and dressers. You can avoid the clutter all together by borrowing magazines from your local library and then returning them once you’re finished reading. Though, if you must have them delivered, consider sharing recent issues with friends, libraries, or hospitals. Nature magazines with photos of animals and beautiful scenery can be donated to schools and daycare centers after you’ve finished reading them. Once you’ve exhausted re-use opportunities, all magazines should be recycled!
Biomedical waste ("BMW") must be packaged, labeled, and marked as required by state regulations. Generators and permitted BMW transporters must deliver the waste to a permitted "BMW treatment facility" to store, treat, or dispose the waste. The methods of treatment/ disposal are as follows:
- Chemotherapy waste – by incineration;
- Pathological waste (i.e. human tissue, organs, body parts) – by incineration;
- Infectious waste (i.e. body fluids or items dripping with body fluids, discarded sharps, BMW generated from research, etc.) – either by incineration, discharge to a sanitary sewer, treatment by steam sterilization or other alternative treatment technology.
BMW may be treated in accordance with methods specified in the regulations. If treated, BMW must be rendered unrecognizable in order to be disposed as municipal solid waste.
Please see Prescription Medications and Over-the-Counter Products for guidance on proper disposal of these items.
Medical supplies and equipment includes home medical equipment and unused, unexpired surplus medical supplies, and medical and nursing textbooks. Programs that reuse or recycle medical supplies do not include the disposal of pharmaceuticals, opened sterile packages, or hazardous waste.
There is a recent movement to distribute these resources to underserved areas in the U.S. and internationally. In Connecticut, Chariots of Hope
accepts used wheelchairs, repairs them and gives them away to those in need. Recovered Medical Equipment for the Developing World (REMEDY
) accepts all medical supplies such as gloves, sutures, drapes, gowns and many other items, prepared but not used during a medical procedure, for the purpose of global aid. The American Medical Association (AMA) encourages recycling supplies when possible. There are several programs the association has created that can be found on the AMA website
Mercury fever thermometers are easy to identify since they have a distinct, grayish-silver liquid in the bulb (if the liquid in the thermometer is red, it is alcohol, not mercury, and may be disposed of in the regular trash).
Each mercury fever thermometer contains about ½ gram of liquid mercury. Mercury thermometers should not be thrown in the trash. Mercury thermometers are accepted at household hazardous waste (HHW) collections. Contact your town recycling coordinator or check the DEEP website for a schedule of HHW collection days.
Traditional circular thermostats contain a sealed glass "tilt switch" that contains several grams of liquid mercury. These thermostats should not be placed in the regular trash. By law, as of July 1, 2014, all mercury thermostats will be prohibited from being disposed as solid waste. Instead, place the thermostat in a secure container (e.g. a leftover plastic food container), and take it to a local household hazardous waste collection center or one-day collection event. To find out about collections in your area, call your town or city hall and ask to speak to your recycling coordinator, or visit the DEEP’s household hazardous waste web page.
See above under "Light Bulbs".
Pressure Measuring Devices
Devices used to measure pressure, such as barometers, manometers, sphygmomanometers (blood pressure cuffs), and vacuum gauges often contain large amounts of mercury and should not be disposed of in the trash. The mercury is typically visible as a bright silver liquid. Take these items to a local household hazardous waste collection center or one-day collection event. To find out about collections in your area, call your town or city hall and ask to speak to your recycling coordinator, or visit the DEEP’s household hazardous waste web page.
Electrical switches and relays
Some chest freezers, pre-1972 washing machines, sump pumps, electric space heaters, clothes irons, silent light switches, and automatic car hood and trunk lights contain mercury switches or relays. These devices typically contain up to 3½ grams of liquid mercury, and should not be disposed of in the regular trash.
If you need to dispose of an item that you suspect may have one of these sensors, check with your recycling coordinator at your local town or city hall and find out if they collect "white goods" at your transfer station or landfill. If they do, then the mercury switch or relay, and any other hazardous components may be removed prior to recycling the appliance as a scrap metal.
Pilot light sensors
Some gas appliances such as stoves, ovens, clothes dryers, water heaters, furnaces and space heaters have a pilot light sensor that contains mercury. If you have an old appliance that you suspect may have one of these sensors, check with your recycling coordinator at your local town or city hall and find out if they collect "white goods" at your transfer station or landfill. If they do, then the pilot sensor and any other hazardous components may be removed prior to recycling the appliance as a scrap metal.
If you have one or more pilot light sensors to dispose of, call your town or city hall and talk to your recycling coordinator about household hazardous waste collection services in your area, or visit the DEEP’s household hazardous waste web page.
Household "do-it-yourselfers" often generate used oil and filters from the maintenance of cars, trucks, lawn and garden equipment, and recreational vehicles. Connecticut law requires every town in the State to provide its residents with a way to properly dispose of the used oil generated by their residents. Most towns meet this requirement by providing an oil collection tank at the town transfer station or recycling facility for their residents to use. In addition to collecting "do-it-yourself" (DIY) oil, many towns also collect used oil filters. Check with the recycling coordinator at your town or city hall for information on the services available in your area.
If your town does not accept used oil or filters, check with a local service station to see if they will accept it. Used oil may never be disposed of in the trash. Filters may be disposed of in the trash, but should be punctured and drained for 24 hours first. Be sure to collect the oil that drains from the filter, and place it in the same container as your used oil.
You should never do any of the following:
- Never mix DIY oil with antifreeze, other vehicle fluids, or hazardous waste;
- Never burn DIY oil in residential boilers or space heaters;
- Never pour DIY oil into sewers or storm drains;
- Never dump DIY oil on the ground, use it for weed control, or to keep dust down.
For more information, see the DEEP’s "Do-it-Yourselfer" Used Oil Fact Sheet.
The best option for the environment is to reuse nursery pots and trays. Sanitize them first in a solution of 1 part chlorine bleach to 10 parts water in order to kill any plant pathogens. If you have more pots than you can reuse, offer them to your local garden club or post them on FreeCycle. Some nursery and garden centers will take them back, but call ahead to confirm. At this time, they should not be put in the recycling bin.
One local nursery supplier, Griffin Greenhouse & Nursery Supplies, has begun a plastic pot and tray recycling pilot program in CT for their clients. Their clients (local nurseries and garden centers) can become collection points for certain types of used pots & trays. Griffin will then recycle them with a manufacturer of plastic products, Myers Industries. Ask your local garden center if they are participating, and if not, encourage them to do so by giving them this brochure. The more nurseries that become Griffin clients and who participate in the program, the more options consumers will have for recycling pots. Griffin will not accept pots and trays directly from consumers, just their clients who purchase nursery supplies from them.
On occasion, homeowners may have items that are too large to fit in their regular trash container, or that are too large for trash collectors to lift or place in the hauling vehicle.
Although procedures vary from town to town, most towns have disposal services for these items. Some towns will collect these items curbside, although you may have to call ahead for a pickup. In other towns, pickups are scheduled on certain days. Some towns require that you bring such items to the local transfer station. Check with the recycling coordinator at your town or city hall for information on the services available in your area.
Packing Peanuts (Styrofoam Pellets)
Packing peanuts is the common name for polystyrene loose fill. If saving packing peanuts at home for a future project isn’t for you, there are other options. The Plastic Loose Fill Council was founded in 1991 to promote the reuse of polystyrene loose fill. The Council's Peanut Hotline is one of the country's most successful material reuse programs. They offer drop off centers around the country, including locations in Connecticut. Call 800.828.2214 or check them out on-line.
Many homes built prior to 1978 have lead-based paint on interior or exterior surfaces. Great care must be taken when removing paint to prevent this material from being released inside the home, or to the environment. For information on the proper removal of lead-based paint, see Renovation & Demolition: Environmental, Health & Safety Requirements You Should Know About. Additional information may be found on the Connecticut Department of Public Health’s Lead Program website.
Lead-based paint wastes generated by homeowners are considered "Household Hazardous Waste" and should be taken to a local Household Hazardous Waste collection center or one-day collection event. For information on household hazardous waste services in your area, call your local recycling coordinator, or check the DEEP’s household hazardous waste web page.
Beginning in summer of 2013, latex paint will be accepted at some household hazardous waste collections as well as participating paint retail stores. Latex paint that is in good condition will be recycled into new paint and other products. Paint that is dried out will be properly disposed. Continue to monitor this webpage for updates and the launch of the paint stewardship program. For details concerning the paint stewardship program, visit the PaintCare website.
If you need to dispose of latex paint before the program begins, and if the paint is usable, try to find someone who can use it. Local building material reuse centers may accept your paint if it’s at least half-full, has a label and is in good reusable condition. If you cannot find anyone who wants your paint, or the paint is not useable, than the paint can be dried and put in the trash. Here are the steps to follow before throwing it away:
For cans that are less than one quarter full:
- Protect work surface by lining it with old newspaper.
- Add a commercial waste paint hardener* to the can. Follow the instructions on the label.
- Stir and mix thoroughly.
- Set aside for 30 minutes. At the end of that time, the paint will have a tacky, oatmeal-like consistency, but will not spill out.
- Your paint is now ready for disposal. Put it in the trash.
* If you cannot find a paint hardener, a clay-based kitty litter, vermiculite, SpeedyDry or other drying agent will also work.
For cans that are more than one quarter full:
- Prepare a work area by putting down some old newspaper or plastic sheeting to manage spills.
- Double-bag a large heavy-duty garbage bag.
- Place some clay-based kitty-litter, vermiculite, sawdust, SpeedyDry, or other drying agent into the bag.
- Pour in some paint and stir thoroughly.
- Let the paint dry. When using kitty litter, it will take about 10 minutes for it to solidify.
- When the mixture has reached a tacky, oatmeal-like consistency, and there are no free-flowing liquids, then seal the bag and throw it in the trash. Check with your town to see if they recycle empty paint cans.
The paint stewardship program mentioned above will also accept oil-based paint starting in the summer of 2013. Until then,
if you cannot use-up the paint yourself, or find someone else who can, oil-based paint should be taken to a local Household Hazardous Waste collection center or one-day collection event. For information on household hazardous waste services in your area, call your local recycling coordinator
, or check the DEEP’s household hazardous waste web page
Dispose of pesticides at your local Household Hazardous Waste collection center or one-day collection event. For information on household hazardous waste services in your area, call your local recycling coordinator, or check the household hazardous waste collection schedule.
Pet Waste (Feces)
It is recommended that you do not put dog and cat feces in your home compost pile because it may contain parasites, bacteria, pathogens and viruses that are harmful to humans. These may or may not be destroyed by composting. Put dog and cat feces in a plastic bag and set it out with the trash. Did you know that your dog’s waste can be a health risk and source of water pollution? Learn more from these resources:
Give a Bark for a Clean State Park (P2View Article, CT DEEP)
NonPoint Source Pollution Education: Managing Pet Waste (MA DEP)
What's the Scoop on Pet Waste and Water Quality? (TAPP-Think About Personal Pollution)
According to the Product Stewardship Institute (PSI), 660,000 tons of phone books end up in landfills and incinerators across the country because people do not recycle them. And a report from EPA found that not publishing a phone book reduces greenhouse gages by about 3 times as much as recycling (compared to landfilling). CT state law 22a-256ee requires phone book companies to retrieve at least 30% of the directories they distribute in CT.
YellowpagesOptOut.com, a consumer choice program that the Local Search Association and the Association of Directory Publishers has launched, provides an easy and secure option for Connecticut residents to control the number of yellow pages telephone directories they receive or stop directory delivery entirely. It is the only industry-approved online site where consumers can connect directly with phone book publishers to share information about their delivery choices. If those directories are just collecting dust, you may want to just say no to yellow.
In Connecticut, each town or community has its own recycling program guidelines. Contact your local recycling coordinator to learn if your recycling program includes telephone books. If not, see if your local school coordinates phone book recycling drives. Some phone companies collect old phone books either by working with towns, or on their own. Look for recycling drop-boxes at municipal recycling centers and in major parking lots for about a month after new phone books have been distributed in your area. Or, consider other practical uses including using pages for fire starters in a wood-burning fireplace or outdoor fire pit. Balled up or shredded phonebook pages also make nice packaging filler in place of problematic polystyrene "peanuts." Phonebook pages can also be shredded and used as mulch to keep weeds down in your garden. The paper is biodegradable and will eventually return back to the soil.
The dry and wet photographic chemicals used in the development of film and photos in home darkrooms often contain hazardous ingredients. Please read directions carefully on how to use these chemicals properly. Always read the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) for a specific chemical before use. MSDSs are available through photo-chemical suppliers, or on the Internet. When working with any chemical, you must assume responsibility for its safe use and proper disposal.
Disposal of used or unused portions of photo chemicals should be managed as household hazardous waste. Check the household hazardous waste collection schedule for an event near you. For more information, contact your local municipal recycling coordinator.
To learn more about proper handling of photographic chemicals and equipment:
Tips for Recycling and Disposing of Photographic Chemicals (Earth911)
Film Safety, Recycling and Disposal (Kodak)
Scientific, Photographic, and Control Equipment Industry: Doing What It Takes to Be WasteWise (EPA)
Plastic bottle caps can be harmful to the surrounding environment if not properly recycled, but many Connecticut recycling facilities differ on their bottle cap policies. Most threaded (or screw-top) plastic bottle caps, typically from soda and shampoo bottles, squeeze bottles with flip-top lids, peanut butter containers, and laundry detergent bottles, are made from polypropylene plastic #5. Some recycling facilities can’t afford or aren’t equipped to process #5 plastics, so they ask that you remove caps from bottles and throw them away before recycling the bottles. However, many recycling programs are beginning to accept bottle caps.
Which towns recycle bottle caps?
If you already know which recycling facility/authority takes recycling from your town, look here for its policies:
If you live in a town that is NOT participating in the above referenced facilities/authorities, contact your local municipal recycling coordinator
for more information.
Your recycling program doesn’t accept plastic bottle caps?
The Aveda Recycle Caps
program accepts all rigid plastic caps and lids for collection at Aveda stores and participating salons and schools. Aveda recycles the caps in the U.S. and turns them into new packaging for their products.
Preserve, along with several other companies, created the "Gimme 5" program, which collects all #5 plastics for recycling, including plastic bottle caps. Mail in your #5 plastic caps, or drop them off in Gimme 5 collection bins, found in select Whole Foods Market locations and in other participating stores.
Plastic Containers #3 thru #7
Because additional viable recycling markets for plastic containers #3 through #7 are beginning to emerge, many Connecticut towns now have programs to recycle those types of containers. Check with your municipal recycling contact to see if your municipality has such a program. If your municipality or waste hauler does not provide for recycling plastics 3-7, the remaining options are somewhat limited i.e. reuse or disposal.
Here’s why markets for plastic containers #3 through #7 are so challenging:
In order for a material to be recycled there must be 1) markets for the material, 2) an infrastructure in place to recycle the material, and 3) enough generated to make the collection viable.
Different types of plastic resins (PET, HDPE, PS, LDPE, etc.) and different types of plastic containers such as bottles, tubs, cups, etc. generally have different properties such as melting temperature, impact resistance, elasticity, strength, etc. and cannot be recycled mixed together. There are some very limited markets for mixed plastics used to manufacture some types of plastic lumber. However, most plastics need to be separated by resin types and type of container in order to be processed to meet market specifications and be used to make new products. There have been great strides made recently in improving technologies for separating the different types of plastic resins and in addition, much of the plastic we collect for recycling is exported – much of it to China where the plastic is further sorted.
The plastic resins are identified by a resin identification code developed by the Society of the Plastics Industry (SPI) and is usually stamped on the bottom of the container. That code is meant to help identify the type of resin used to make the container and is not necessarily an indication of the container’s recyclability. PET (#1) and HDPE (#2) plastic bottles represent as much 96% of all plastic bottle types, and represent a large enough part of the container stream to make their collection worthwhile making them the most widely recycled plastic containers both nationally and in CT. This is one reason why those types of plastics are most commonly included in municipal recycling programs.
There is some good news though for residents who want to recycle more plastic. Some manufacturers have started taking responsibility for the packaging products they produce. One example is Preserve®, which has recently partnered with Stonyfield Farm and Whole Foods Markets to start a "Gimme 5" recycling program for #5 plastic containers (such as yogurt cups). As well, some large CT grocery stores and department stores will take back plastic shopping bags for recycling. And, some CT marinas have recycling programs for boat shrink-wrap.
Plastic Shopping and Other Bags
Plastic shopping bags are used almost daily, yet only a small percentage of them are recycled. Reducing the number of bags you generate is better than recycling. To reduce the number of bags you bring home, use reusable bags. If you already have a large number of plastic bags at home, consider reusing them the next time you go shopping.
For more reuse ideas, try Thrifty Fun, or some other plastic bag craft ideas including fusing the bags into fabric, weaving handbags, or creating laptop carriers and even boots, yes boots, are being made from old plastic bags. If all else fails and you want to recycle your bags, most supermarkets have containers at the front of the store for plastic bag recycling. Find out where to recycle locally at Plastic Bag Recycling. Ziploc offers RecycleBank points for buying their brand, and they are also recyclable at in-store recycling bins. Watch their video on why plastic bags can't be put into your home recycling bin. Alternatively, mail your plastic shopping bags (and dry cleaning bags, shrink wrap and veggie bags) to the Newark Recycled Fibers Group in Salem, MA.
Prescription Medicine and Over-the-Counter Products (OTC)
Do not throw prescription medicines or over-the-counter (OTC) products down the sink or toilet. Although using the toilet or sink prevents someone from accidentally taking the medications, disposing of them in this way causes water pollution and has adverse effects on septic systems, sewage treatment plants, fish and other aquatic wildlife.
Consumers have several options to dispose of medicines and OTC products:
- Put them in the trash following these disposal instructions. In CT, most of our trash is burned at Resource Recovery Facilities at high temperatures that destroy these products.
- Chain pharmacies such as CVS, Walgreens and Rite Aid provide disposal envelopes for prescription and OTC products for a small fee. Ask your pharmacist for details and program restrictions. Find a pharmacy.
- The federal government and towns occasionally offer special medicine collections where residents can bring prescription medicines, veterinary medicines and OTC products for safe disposal. But they are not regularly scheduled and are sometimes limited to residents of the sponsoring town. (Medicines cannot be brought to Household Hazardous Waste collections.)
- Many towns have installed special drop boxes for permanent disposal of used medications. Look for them in local Police Stations.
Before purchasing a new propane tank, consider using a tank/cylinder exchange program such as AmeriGas and Blue Rhino now available at many hardware stores, convenience stores, home improvement stores, and large retailers. Many of these exchange programs will accept old tanks with the purchase of a new, full tank. Take note that some of these exchange companies install valves on their tanks that can only be refilled by that company, meaning that you will be locked into their tank-for-tank service, and won't be able to get the tank refilled at your local propane dealer. Learn more about recycling your propane tank.
Observe the following safety precautions in regard to discarding your old tank:
- Do not throw your tank in the trash.
- Propane is very explosive! Do not attempt to puncture or remove the valve from your tank because tanks usually contain small amounts of propane, even if you think they are empty.
- Take tanks to a municipal recycling program, if available.
- Save for disposal at your local household hazardous waste collection. Call your town or city hall and ask for the recycling coordinator to see if these tanks are allowed at your local collection event.
Railroad ties are traditionally pieces of wood that have been treated with creosote. Creosote is the black goo that railroad ties are treated with. Creosote is made from a wide range of chemicals and is divided into two types; the more common is created when coal is heated to produce coke (a cleaner burning form of coal) or natural gas. This process produces coal tar creosote, coal tar, and coal tar pitch, which are referred to simply as creosote.
What can you do with old railroad ties? First, they should not be used for garden beds or landscaping. They should not be burned in fireplaces or boilers. Coal tar creosote may dissolve in water and may move through the soil to the groundwater. Once it is in the groundwater, it may take many years for it to break down. Coal tar creosote can also build up in plants and animals. Exposure can occur through inhalation and/or handling treated wood structures, utility poles or railroad ties. For more information about health related go to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (US Department of Health and Human Services) website.
Treated wood of all types can be most responsibly disposed of as follows:
Homeowners engaged in small projects should take treated wood to their local landfill or transfer station and place it in the designated location (i.e., the non-clean wood pile).
Contractors, utilities, and manufacturers should contract directly with a DEEP permitted bulky waste landfill, or send it to an out-of state wood burning facility appropriately equipped and permitted to burn treated wood.
Learn more about Green Building: Proper Use and Disposal of Treated Lumber
Satellite dishes can be reused or recycled quite easily. There are several options for these items including giving them back to the dish companies, donation to a recycling center, selling online, or reuse of the dish for something else. Some satellite companies, such as Dish Network, want the dishes returned for reuse or recycling. If the company won’t take it back there are some recycling centers or transfer stations that will accept large appliances. Contact your local recycling coordinator
to see if your town accepts satellite dishes. If you’re feeling creative, learn how
to make a bird bath, garden planter, solar cooker or Wi-Fi antenna from your old dish!
Sharps used at home are not regulated as biomedical waste. However, throwing them in the household trash or flushing them down the toilet presents serious risks for both you and others who may come in contact with such items. Improper disposal of sharps can lead to:
- Needle-stick injuries that cause infection and spread disease;
- Injuries to curious children, waste haulers, recycling workers, and animals; or
- Needles washing up on our beaches and riverbanks.
Instead, the DEEP recommends checking with your supplier (i.e. your physician, local hospital, or pharmacy) to see if they are willing to accept properly packaged used sharps. Some companies offer mail-back disposal services to their customers. See DEEP's "Sharps" Brochure for more detail on proper sharps disposal.
To properly dispose of sharps/needles:
- Seal them in rigid, puncture-resistant containers that you can’t see through (i.e. bleach or detergent bottles, coffee cans, etc.);
- Label the containers "Do Not Recycle;" and
- Reinforce containers with heavy-duty tape before throwing them in your household trash.
- Throw loose needles in the trash;
- Flush needles down the toilet;
- Place needles in soda bottles, cans, or glass containers; or
- Put sharps containers in the recycling bin.
Personal and/or confidential papers are often shredded. The question is, can these still be recycled? Overall, the answer is yes.
However, many curbside residential programs will not accept or collect shredded paper because it tangles with the other recyclables and may gum up the sorting equipment used at the recycling facility (gets stuck on screens and/or is viewed as contamination by the automated equipment). Contact your local recycling coordinator to verify if they will accept shredded paper.
The length of a paper fiber determines its value. A longer fiber can be used to make a higher-grade paper and can be recycled more times. When paper is shredded, the lengths of the individual paper fibers are actually being cut shorter, thus reducing the future recycling potential of that fiber. So, only shred paper that absolutely needs to be shredded.
If a recycling company offers paper shredding services for a business, they are recycling the paper, but are most likely collecting it in a way that prevents mixing it with other materials that lead to contamination. If it is collected and goes straight to the market, there isn’t the same concern of it gumming up the equipment that separates recyclables.
The most common type of smoke detector is an ionization detector which contains a small amount of Americium 241, a synthetic isotope which emits both alpha and gamma rays. The ingredient is shielded by a metal chamber within the plastic casing of the detector. On your wall, this material poses little threat; however, when a detector is broken-open in an incinerator or a landfill, it can present a health hazard. For this reason, the Department strongly encourages finding alternatives to throwing smoke detectors in the trash (see below for suggestions). Unfortunately, these items are not accepted at most household hazardous waste collections. To be sure, call your local recycling coordinator.
There is at least one company, Curie Environmental Services
, that accepts any brand of smoke alarm for recycling. For a nominal fee, the company will disassemble the smoke detector and recycle the components instead of disposing of them as hazardous waste. They accept items from residential, commercial, institutional, and government sources. Visit their website for pricing and shipping instructions
Manufacturers of smoke detectors are not required to accept these items for disposal or recycling, but if you are persistent in your request, most will. Homeowners should contact the manufacturer by phone for instructions on how to mail back used smoke alarms. Do not mail back the smoke alarm without first calling the company or you will run the risk of having the item returned to you! The following is a partial list manufacturers. Look on the smoke detector itself for manufacturer contact information.
- American Sensors (1-800-387-4219), 557 Long Road, Pittsburgh, PA 15235
- Code One/Firex/Maple Chase, No longer made - acquired by Kidde (1-800-880-6788), 2820 Thatcher Road Downers Grove, IL 60515
- First Alert/BRK Brands (1-800-323-9005)
- Life Saver/Kidde/Frynetics, Inc. (1-800-880-6788), 1055 Stevenson Ct. Suite 102 W. Roselle, IL 60172
- Safety's Sake/Funtech (1-800-877-1250), 388 N Elliot Creek Road Amherst, NY 14228
Thermometers & Thermostats
When purchasing new tires, the old tires can be left at the retail store. However, the retailer will usually charge you a nominal fee to cover their disposal costs. Many municipal recycling facilities accept tires, preferably without rims. There are also private facilities that accept tires.
Many toner and ink cartridges can be refilled and reused at least 6 times. Many retail stores such as Best Buy
, Office Depot
, and Office Max
will refill your cartridge or provide payment or credits when you recycle cartridges. Some companies such as Hewlett Packard
, and Xerox
provide recycling services for their own cartridges. These services often involve ordering a prepaid envelope to mail cartridges directly back to the manufacturer.
Due to their size and potentially hazardous contents, underground storage tanks (USTs) and associated piping should be removed and properly disposed of by competent professionals or under the supervision and direction of the local fire marshal. All USTs and associated piping must be properly emptied, cleaned, and rendered inert before transportation off-site, and must be hauled to a scrap metal yard or other facility equipped for approved UST disposal. USTs that are not prepared in this manner pose a serious threat of explosion or fire. View more information on USTs.
Video Cassettes (VHS), CDs, DVDs or Old Film
If you have VHS or DVD movies that are still in good watchable condition, consider donating them to a local senior center, day care facility, Salvation Army, Goodwill Industries or Got Books.
A number of companies including GreenDisk , We Recycle , Lacerta Group Inc., Alternative Community Training Recycling Program, and the CD Recycling Center recycle VHS tapes, DVDs, CDs or cell phones. Ask them about minimum quantities and the condition of materials they will accept for recycling. Also check the NY State Recycling Marketing Database which includes some CT companies.
Water Filters for Drinking Water Pitchers/Faucets
Currently there are no programs in place that collect filters that were connected directly to a faucet or used within a pitcher system. However, some manufacturers have programs, are starting programs, or are being asked to start recycling programs. Take Back the Filter is working to recycle Brita and Pur filters. To recycle Terra Flo filters, contact them directly.
Wrappers (Snack, Chip, Candy and Cookie)
Plastic wrappers from chips, candy bars and other snacks are being collected and made into new products including bags and home décor. TerraCycle and It’s Our Earth will accept your wrappers for recycling – and may even pay you! These programs are mostly set up for schools or non-profit organizations to raise funds for themselves or a charitable organization. These businesses also collect other materials including corks, men’s ties and yoghurt containers to make bags, pouches and other products from our indulgences.
Most yoga mats are made from PVC (poly vinyl chloride) with others made of plastic, latex and more greener choices including jute, natural rubber and wood pulp. Many of these yoga mats can be reused or recycled. If your mat is still in decent shape, consider donating it to a community center that offers yoga or exercise classes, or contact the nearest yoga studio. Other reuses? Animal shelters will sometimes accept them to use in cages. To recycle mats, contact Recycle Your Mat. You can mail your yoga mat to them, or look for a studio near you.
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Disclaimer: The Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) maintains the content on this web site to enhance public access to information and facilitate understanding of waste reduction, reuse and recycling. The DEEP is not recommending these resources over any others and recognizes these represent only a partial listing of resources on this subject.
Content Last Updated May 8, 2013