In order for an item to be considered hazardous waste, it must be either poisonous, corrosive, explosive, or flammable. To protect the environment, including humans (and especially your dedicated sanitation workers), hazardous items should be disposed of in the safest way possible. Check with your local municipality to learn about disposal restrictions and options, including special e-waste events.
As computer monitors get larger, cheaper, and lighter, upgrades become more tempting—and frequent. But that old monitor you’ll be discarding contains heavy metals that can contaminate landfills. In some communities, it may even be illegal to toss a monitor in the trash. Look for a local recycling center that will take it or, as an alternative, take it to a Best Buy store; in most states, they’ll accept old computer monitors.
Mercury thermometers have been phased out because of the element’s toxicity, but you may still have one in your home. Rather than tossing it in the trash where there’s a chance it could break and release its mercury, check with your local health department, pharmacy, or doctor’s office, some of which will offer a mercury-free thermometer in exchange for your old one.
Some medications, including OxyContin and fentanyl, can result in injury or death if taken by a person other than the one they were prescribed for, so never throw them in the trash where someone could dig them out or a pet could ingest them. Call your local pharmacy or police station to ask if they have a take-back program. If they don’t, check out the FDA’s Flush List to find out which medications you should immediately flush if no take-back options are available.
Found in cellphones, laptops, power tools, and even some toys, rechargeable batteries contain heavy metals such as lead and cadmium as well as a host of chemicals that can pollute the environment and groundwater if they’re buried with other trash. When you’re done with a rechargeable battery, put it in a sealed plastic bag and then call your local trash authority to find out where you should take it for disposal. Keep in mind that Staples stores will usually take rechargeable batteries, as will Home Depot stores in most states.