Dear Recyclebank: How and where can I dispose of household junk like old paints, televisions, computer monitors and computers. These items are piling up on us, and we would like to get rid of them. –Andy C.
Dear Andy: With Earth Day just around the corner, “tis the season” to finally empty out those closets we’ve had our eye on cleaning for months — you know, the one that has all those old golf clubs, the tube TV from 1990, and an assortment of other space-hogging items that can’t simply be put out in the recycle bin. The good news is that most “big ticket” items — things like televisions, used paint, computer monitors and other obsolete electronics — actually do belong somewhere, just not in your garage, anymore. So let’s spend a little time talking about what to do with them now.
Items such as unused recreation equipment, old toys, functional electronics, and other usable goods that you don’t want any longer, but are otherwise still working, should be donated; not thrown out or recycled. Start by contacting your local thrift store to see if what you have will make acceptable donations. There are many nationwide organizations, such as Goodwill, AMVETs, and the Lupus Foundation of America, that are happy not only to receive your unwanted goods, but also to schedule an at-home pick up for your convenience. There are also many local charities happy to accept donations of this sort. Contact your local church or food pantry to ask for references; chances are they’ll be able to point you to an interested organization.
Obsolete electronics are their own category of waste. Unless you have all components of a unit, the best way to appropriately get rid of your old electronics, or “e-waste” as it is known, is to schedule an e-waste pick up with your city or waste hauler, or to drop your electronics off at collection sites such as those at Best Buy.
Many cities around the country are implementing strict e-waste disposal laws. In 2012, Philadelphia, PA for example, banned the disposal of common household electronics in landfills. If you have name-brand merchandise you want to get rid of, reach out to the company to find out if they are willing to collect your old products — some will offer discounts on newer products.
The final category of waste you’ll likely find during your Spring cleaning is household hazardous waste (HHW). This category includes paints, automotive oils, cleaning agents, and many other surprising things such as prescription medication and art supplies that have ignitable, toxic, reactive or corrosive ingredients, which require special treatment for disposal. Contact your municipality or waste hauler to find out about drop off locations and special collection days for these HHW items. If your municipality doesn’t make special accommodations for HHW, don’t fret; often many local companies are willing to accept your HHW for you. Auto mechanics are generally happy to dispose of old car batteries and antifreeze, while paint and hardware stores may accept paint leftovers.