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Deciding what belongs in the trash and what should be recycled can be a bit of a puzzle. The line isn’t always easy to see, and many of us may not be as vigilant about what we toss in the bin.

Although we are mindful of separating recyclables, we often lump everything else together without much thought, not realizing that some items require special disposal. Some of these items can pose risks to people, pets, and the environment, making it essential to handle them appropriately.

Here, we highlight 12 things you should never throw away and suggest what you can do with them instead.

Books

old books
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If you’re a book lover facing a stack of books to part with, there’s an environmentally responsible way to get rid of it. Instead of tossing them in the trash and contributing to greenhouse gas emissions that harm the planet, you can recycle them by donating them to a local library, charity, thrift store or sell them online. If the books are torn, missing pages, or unreadable, you can recycle them through a curbside recycling program.

16 Responsible Ways to Get Rid of Old Books

Medical Waste

first aid kit
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Improper disposal of medication, needles, plastic syringes, and prescription containers can have serious consequences, including contaminating the water supply, harming local wildlife or falling into the wrong hands. Medical waste, often considered biohazardous, cannot be recycled and should never be tossed in the trash.

Many municipalities provide designated disposal locations for controlled substances year-round, so it’s a good idea to start by checking with them. Alternatively, you can reach out to your doctor, pharmacy, or local hospital to explore safe disposal options.

Mail

mail and envelopes
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For security and safety reasons alone, it’s important to never to discard your mail in the trash. Your mail often contains personal sensitive data that you may want to protect from identity theft. Therefore, it’s advisable to shred your mail before placing it in the recycling bin.

Paint

old paint and paintbrush
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If you have paint leftover from a home improvement project, it’s important that you properly dispose of it. Proper paint disposal depends on the type of paint you’re dealing with. Never dispose of oil-based paints or stains in your regular garbage but water-based paint can be discarded normally once it’s dry or absorbed with materials like kitty litter or sand. For guidance on disposing of other types of paint, it’s best to contact your local waste management.

Specialty Furniture Paints Give You The Ability To Transform Your Furniture

Old Technology

cell phone next to coffee
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Never dispose of laptops, cell phones, or tablets in the trash, as they may contain hazardous chemicals and sensitive data. Retailers such as Staples offer convenient solutions for disposing of your unused old computers, cell phones, or tablets. Depending on their condition, you can either recycle them or trade them in for cash.

Fluorescent Light Bulbs

light bulbs
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Never toss your fluorescent lightbulbs into the trash. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) warns that these bulbs contain mercury, which can have significant environmental repercussions if released. Instead, locate a recycling service for your old fluorescent bulbs. When these bulbs are recycled correctly, their components, such as glass and metal, can be effectively repurposed, preventing any harm to the environment.

Batteries

batteries
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Never dispose of batteries in the trash. Incorrect disposal of batteries can be dangerous. Batteries present a significant fire hazard when placed in the garbage, as they can get punctured or crushed, potentially leading to fires or explosions. Proper disposal of batteries as e-waste or hazardous waste is essential to ensure they are handled safely and prevent such incidents. Furthermore, batteries may contain hazardous chemicals and if it is not disposed of correctly, these chemicals can leach into the soil and contaminate groundwater.

Old Clothes

ripped jeans
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Most unwanted clothes ultimately find their way to landfills, and because these clothing piles don’t biodegrade, they add to environmental pollution. Fortunately, there are companies that offer eco-friendly clothing recycling services.

Ink Cartridges

ink cartridge
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A good number of big office supply retailers provide a way for you to recycle your used printer ink cartridges. However, there are certain conditions to keep in mind, often related to where and when you bought the cartridges. Just reach out to your local office supply store for more information and don’t just put them in the trash.

Appliances

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Most appliances won’t even fit inside your standard trash cans, but even if they could, it’s essential not to dispose of them there. This is because certain components within appliances can be environmentally harmful. For instance, the freon in a broken refrigerator harms the ozone layer.

Tires

old tires
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Tires are large and occupy significant landfill space. In certain areas, it’s even against the law to dispose of tires in the regular trash. Opting for tire recycling is a responsible choice that helps prevent harmful emissions and safeguards the environment. Many car dealers and tire shops offer tire recycling services, often for a fee.

Motor Oil

motor oil
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Dumping motor oil into regular trash is a bad idea because it extremely hazardous and harmful to our ecosystem. Pouring it down drains or sewers can clog or harm pipes. Fortunately, many auto parts or repair shops that sell motor oil often accept used oil for recycling.

15 Tips on How to Declutter Your Home

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Although clutter can accumulate quickly and easily between you and your life, decluttering can spark immense joy and accomplishment. Here are 15 tips to help you tackle the task of decluttering your home.

15 Tips to Help You Declutter Your Home

Here’s 16 Responsible Ways to Get Rid of Old Books

assortment of books
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Books have the power to transport us, stimulate our minds, and offer meaningful insights.  While books hold value and significance in our lives, for many book lovers, letting go of cherished books can be a sentimental journey. If you’re a book lover facing a stack of books to part with, there’s an environmentally responsible way to handle it. Here are ten responsible and eco-friendly ways to recycle and repurpose your old reading materials, giving new life to the pages and minimizing paper waste.

Don’t Trash Those Old Books. Here’s 10 Responsible Ways to Get Rid of Them

12 Surprising Items in Your Kitchen that Need to Hit the Trash Immediately

kitchen countertop with cutting board and muddler
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The kitchen holds a special place in our homes, serving as a hub for cooking, meals, and gatherings. However, even though it’s the center of our daily lives, it’s easy for clutter, disarray, and items that have outstayed their welcome to accumulate in this space. Check out the 12 items in your kitchen that should be thrown away immediately.

12 Surprising Items in Your Kitchen that Need to Hit the Trash Immediately

25 Online Thrift Stores for the Best Second-Hand Shopping

upscale thrift store
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Thrift shopping has expanded beyond department stores, garage sales, and consignment shops. Many thrift stores now offer a convenient way to shop their items online.  From retro dresses and vintage accessories to timeless denim and statement stand-out pieces, here are some of the best online thrift stores to help keep your wardrobe fresh and unique.

25 Online Thrift Stores for the Best Second Hand Shopping

15 Best Places to Sell Used Furniture Online

furniture-in-living-space
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Selling your used furniture online is a smart move to both earn money from your old belongings and minimize your environmental impact. Selling your used furniture is a practical step towards sustainability, all while boosting your finances. Whether you’re aiming to declutter your space or explore a side gig, here are the top online platforms to list your old furniture and tap into its hidden value.

15 Best Places to Sell Used Furniture Online

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Tamara White is the creator and founder of The Thrifty Apartment, a home decor and DIY blog that focuses on affordable and budget-friendly home decorating ideas and projects. Tamara documents her home improvement journey, love of thrifting, tips for space optimization, and creating beautiful spaces.

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