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When you throw something away, it doesn’t just disappear. It goes to a landfill, where it can sit for hundreds of years, polluting the environment and harming wildlife. Some items are especially harmful to the environment and should never be thrown in the trash. Here are 10 things you should never leave in the trash:
Beware Before You Toss: 10 Valuables You Might Accidentally Trash and Regret Forever!
- Aerosol Cans
- Pesticides and Herbicides
- Fluorescent bulbs
- Motor Oil
- Construction Debris
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Batteries contain harmful chemicals, such as mercury, lead, and cadmium. When batteries are thrown in the trash, these chemicals can leach into the soil and water, polluting the environment and harming wildlife. Never throwing batteries in the trash is essential to protect the environment and your safety. Instead, take them to a hazardous waste disposal facility. Many retailers will accept batteries for recycling. Some communities have battery collection programs. You can use these options instead of trashing them.
Electronics, like batteries, contain lead, mercury, and cadmium. Lead can cause brain damage and learning disabilities in children. Mercury can damage the nervous system and kidneys. Cadmium can cause cancer. These harmful substances can leach into the soil and water when electronics are thrown in the trash. They can also be released into the air when electronics are burned. Recycling electronics is essential to protect the environment and human health. Recycling electronics ensures that these harmful substances are correctly disposed of and do not harm the environment.
The challenge lies not with the aerosol can but with potential remnants within. Residual chemicals or propellants could trigger an explosion in a trash compactor. If you’ve thoroughly emptied the can, recycling might be possible (verify with local recycling or waste agencies). Crucially, refrain from puncturing an aerosol can—whether for disposal or other purposes—as it poses serious risks.
Disposing of paint in the trash poses environmental and safety hazards. Paint contains toxic chemicals that can leach into soil and water, harming ecosystems and human health. Paint can spill when discarded in regular trash, leading to soil contamination, water pollution, and potential health risks for waste handlers. Additionally, paint can create pressure build-up in landfills due to its solvent content, potentially causing cans to burst or leak, further endangering the environment.
Pesticides and Herbicides
Pesticides and herbicides are toxic chemicals that can harm human health and the environment. When thrown in the trash, they can leach into the soil and water, polluting our environment. They can also contaminate our food and water supply and harm wildlife. You can take them to a hazardous waste disposal facility or contact your local waste management company for more information on how to dispose of them safely. Some local hardware stores and nurseries have pesticide disposal programs. Some states have programs that allow you to mail back empty pesticide containers.
Disposing of tires in the regular trash is ill-advised due to environmental and safety concerns. Tires are not biodegradable and can take centuries to break down in landfills, occupying valuable space. When left in landfills, they can trap gases that contribute to greenhouse gas emissions and pose fire risks. Moreover, tires can provide breeding grounds for disease-carrying pests like mosquitoes. Their improper disposal can also lead to illegal dumping, further degrading the environment.
Fluorescent bulbs contain mercury, which is a hazardous material. When fluorescent bulbs are broken, mercury can be released into the environment. Mercury can harm human health and the environment. It can cause neurological damage, kidney damage, and congenital disabilities. It can also pollute the water supply and harm fish and other wildlife. Many retailers will accept fluorescent bulbs for recycling.
Disposing of motor oil in the trash harms the environment and human health. Used motor oil contains harmful contaminants such as heavy metals and carcinogens, which can pollute soil, water bodies, and groundwater if improperly disposed of. Tossing motor oil in regular trash can lead to leaks, contaminating the waste stream and endangering waste handlers. The correct approach is recycling or taking used oil to certified collection centers.
Medicines should never be flushed down the toilet or thrown in the trash. When flushed down the toilet, medicines can contaminate the water supply. When medicines are thrown in the garbage, they can be accidentally ingested by animals or children. They can also be harmful if they come into contact with the skin. When medicines are flushed down the toilet, they can end up in our waterways, harming fish and other wildlife. They can also contaminate our drinking water.
Discarding construction debris in regular trash poses environmental, safety, and efficiency challenges. Construction waste often includes hazardous materials like asbestos, lead, and chemicals that can contaminate landfills, soil, and water sources. Bulky items and materials like concrete, metal, and wood can overwhelm landfill capacity and hinder proper waste compaction. Inappropriate disposal can lead to illegal dumping, exacerbating environmental degradation. Concrete is very tough to dispose of but very easy to recycle.
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