11 Things You Can’t Throw in the Trash and What to Do Instead

Moving or cleaning out your home can be quite the undertaking. And it’s tempting to toss everything you don’t need for quick and easy cleanup. However, not all household items can be disposed of in the regular trash. Some pose environmental and health hazards, while others are subject to specific regulations and laws.


From electronics to furniture, here are items you shouldn’t throw away, their harmful effects, and eco-friendly alternatives for their disposal.


1. Batteries


Throwing away batteries in regular trash may seem harmless, but the opposite can be true. Some batteries contain toxic substances and heavy metals like mercury, cadmium, and lead. All of which can contaminate soil and groundwater when they break down. Others, like lithium-ion batteries, are highly flammable and are especially dangerous when sent to landfills. 


So when asking yourself, “Can I throw batteries in the trash,” the answer is likely no. Instead, opt for rechargeable batteries over single-use batteries whenever possible. 


Proper disposal: Many stores have drop-off bins for battery recycling. Some cities also have household hazardous waste collection locations where you can safely dispose of them.


2. Large Furniture


Big furniture might not fit in the trash can, but chucking it out can be a waste. Furniture often ends up in landfills, taking up space and releasing harmful chemicals as they decompose. Fortunately, many furniture items can be recycled or even reused


Look for furniture donation centers, second-hand stores, or consider furniture rental services like CORT Furniture Rental moving forward. CORT offers convenient, sustainable-by-nature furniture rental and delivery, which reduces waste and environmental impact.


Proper disposal: Research your local regulations. Some cities have strict laws against discarding furniture curbside, requiring residents to schedule drop-offs at designated facilities. Another option is to contact a local junk removal company – just make sure they offer eco-friendly recycling and donating.


2. Electronic Components


Is it illegal to throw away computers and other electronics? In many places, yes. Old electronics, like computers, smartphones, old televisions, and tablets, often contain hazardous toxins. These toxins can seep into the soil and water, posing a serious environmental threat. 


Proper disposal: Many cities have electronic waste recycling centers where you can drop off old computers and devices. Additionally, some manufacturers offer take-back programs for their products. If the product still works, consider taking it to a homeless shelter or charity organization. These items can go a long way in helping someone find renewed purpose. 


4. Refrigerators and Air Conditioners


Refrigerators and air conditioners contain refrigerants, such as chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) or hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs). Both are cooling agents. When improperly disposed of, the refrigerants can be released into the atmosphere, contributing to ozone depletion and climate change. 


Additionally, these appliances may contain other hazardous materials like mercury switches and polyurethane foam, further adding to their environmental impact.


Proper disposal: Fortunately, many disposal options are available for old refrigerators and AC units. You could take advantage of manufacturer take-back programs, stop by your local recycling center, or hire professional haulers. And there’s also the option to donate or sell working appliances.


5. Cleaning Supplies


Household cleaning supplies like cleaning spray, bleach, and detergents often contain toxic chemicals that can be harmful to the environment and human health. However, according to Earth 911, these products don’t usually need special treatment in smaller quantities. 


It’s still important to consider alternatives. Rather than dispose of cleaning supplies in the bin, consider using up leftover supplies or donating them to local charities. Then, look for eco-friendly cleaning products with biodegradable components in the future.


Proper disposal: Read the labels for specific disposal instructions. Many communities also have household hazardous waste collection centers where you can drop off these items safely. And if you do choose to toss leftover products, be sure to properly dispose of their containers in a recycling bin. 


6. Medications


Proper medication disposal is often overlooked when it comes to household waste management. Flushing medications down the toilet can introduce harmful chemicals into water systems, finding their way into rivers, lakes, and groundwater and potentially affecting aquatic life and human drinking water. 


Proper disposal: When disposing of old medications, it’s important to follow the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) guidelines on the drug label. You could also inquire at your local pharmacy about safe medication disposal options. 


7. Paint


Paint contains harmful chemicals that can be dangerous for humans and the environment, contaminating water sources and harming wildlife. It’s always best to donate this product whenever possible. 


But can you throw paint in the trash? Many latex paints can safely be thrown away if hardened with cat litter or paint hardener before disposal. Spray paint must also be emptied and dried before recycling the aerosol can. Oil-based paints, however, are often the most hazardous and should always be disposed of according to your local guidelines.


Proper disposal: Paint disposal regulations vary widely by location. Check for local paint recycling programs or hazardous waste disposal sites in your area. And if the paint is still usable, consider donating it to community centers, schools, or artistic organizations.


8. Pillows


Can you throw pillows in the trash? Yes, but we do not recommend it. Pillows don’t biodegrade easily and can take up significant landfill space. Instead, consider repurposing them as pet bedding or donating them to animal shelters. 


Proper disposal: Some recycling facilities accept pillows made from specific materials, while many charities may repurpose them for those in need. Consider these options before tossing them in the trash.


9. Tires


Tires are often not accepted in regular household trash due to their non-biodegradable nature and potential fire hazards. Fortunately, there are often plenty of locations that will accept your old tires to give them new life as other products like asphalt, playground elements, and more. 


Proper disposal: Many auto shops or tire retailers offer tire recycling programs. Some local waste facilities also host tire collection events or bulky trash collection to help residents properly dispose of old tires.


10. Motor Oil


Pouring used vehicle fluids like motor oil down the drain, gutter, or anywhere else it shouldn’t go can contaminate soil and water, harming animals and local communities in the process. Plus, disposing of motor oil improperly can lead to some serious repercussions. Many states have strict laws, hefty fines, and jail time associated with the act. 


Proper disposal: Most auto stores and mainstream car shops will properly dispose of your oil for you. If this is not an option, consider disposing of your motor oil at a local participating recycling facility. 


11. Fluorescent Lightbulbs


Compact fluorescent bulbs (CFLs) are great for energy-saving, but they also contain a not-so-cool secret — mercury. Mercury is a highly toxic metal; if disposed of incorrectly, it can contaminate and negatively impact the environment and water sources. 


According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), virtually all fluorescent bulb components are recyclable. And many cities have strict regulations regarding their disposal, so you want to ensure you’re doing it correctly. 


Proper disposal: Contact your local waste collection agency. They can tell you what recycling or disposal options are available in your state or locality. Many hardware stores and other retailers even take them back for proper recycling.


Responsible Living with CORT Furniture Rental


Next time you’re moving or decluttering your home, check local regulations and explore eco-friendly alternatives like recycling centers, charity organizations, and furniture rental services. With CORT Furniture Rental, you can furnish your entire home with beautiful furniture and best of all, you don’t have to wonder what to do with it when you move! 

All you have to do is create a furniture subscription package and pick a delivery date. Our movers will deliver and install your furniture and housewares. Then, you can move in your personal belongings and enjoy your newly furnished space! When you no longer need the furniture, schedule a pickup, and we’ll remove it for you. Start browsing furniture online or in a local CORT Showroom today!

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