Five Recycling Mysteries Solved!

batterisWondering what to do with your stash of old batteries or the cans of unneeded paint taking up space in your garage? You know you shouldn’t throw them out, but it really is time to get rid of them.

Resist the temptation to toss them in the trash anyway. The reason: They (and everything on the list below) contain toxic chemicals capable of contaminating the environment if not disposed of properly.Unlike items that are picked up at the curb, you’ll have to make a special effort to unload these ones responsibly. But, with a little advance planning and some good info, you’ll see that it’s really quite simple to dispose of these seemingly mysterious items. Here’s how:

  • Batteries. Recycling rechargeable batteries is fairly easy. Home Depot, Staples, Radio Shack, Best Buy, and other retailers take them back free of charge. There are fewer options for single-use batteries, but look for bins at your local Whole Foods Market, Ikea, or library. Otherwise, your best bet is the local household hazardous waste drop-off site. Where is it and what are your closest drop-off options? Search here for answers.
  • CFLs. These energy-efficient bulbs are becoming easier to get rid of. Just drop old bulbs off at any Home Depot or Ikea for free recycling. Or ask about CFL recycling at your local Ace Hardware or home improvement store. You can search for other nearby solutions.
  • Electronics. Every retailer that takes back rechargeable batteries also accepts mobile phones, as do most wireless providers. For computers, cameras, televisions, and others it’s worthwhile do a little homework because some stores charge fees depending on item and brand. Check out Best Buy, Staples, and Office Depot to see what’s the best fit. Some places, like Radio Shack, have trade-in programs where you can receive store credit for your old gadgets.
  • Motor Oil. In case you need some motivation, consider this factoid from Earth911: Every gallon of used motor oil that’s improperly disposed of can contaminate one million gallons of drinking water. Bring it to Wal-Mart, Autozone, Jiffy Lube, or search online for more convenient choices.
  • Paint. It’s among the harder items in this group to dispose of, but it’s worth it and totally doable. If the paint is still in good shape, consider donating it. As of now, there aren’t any retailers that accept used paint so you’ll need to make a special trip. Search Earth911 for a comprehensive list of options.

Environmental journalist Lori Bongiorno shares green-living tips and product reviews with Yahoo! Green’s users. Send Lori a question or suggestion for potential use in a future column. Her book, Green Greener Greenest: A Practical Guide to Making Eco-smart Choices a Part of Your Life is available on Amazon.com.