Properly Disposing of Trash
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Trash is all around us.
You may not know much about disposing of trash except when you set the trash can outside once every week to have the garbage truck take it away. Some may even have the mindset of out of sight, out of mind. However, as the world is turning towards sustainability, the need to properly dispose of trash is ever-pressing and becoming increasingly important.
Once the garbage goes away on the truck, many people don’t think about it again and think it’s someone else’s problem. It is up to the landfill and government to get rid of it at that point, but every person is still responsible for knowing how to dispose of their belongings properly. In 2018 alone in the United States, nearly 300 million tons of waste ended up in landfills.
Simply dumping everything into one bin is doing humans and the environment no good. The waste ends up infiltrating every part of human life and the environment. Any wasted material means a waste of energy and resources to manufacture new items, furthering climate change.
Various materials take different amounts of time to decompose, too. A banana peel may disintegrate in a few weeks, but plastic can take hundreds of years to decompose completely. Properly disposing of trash through sorting and understanding the materials can help mitigate the effects of trash, making the environment and you healthier.
Here’s how you can dispose of various materials in your home.
Don’t throw away that aluminum can just yet. Materials like aluminum cans, plastics, paper, glass and cardboard can all be recycled. Almost every trash service in residential areas will provide you with a recycling bin if you ask for one. They’ll pick up the recycling when they come for your household trash. Even some states, like California, will reimburse you for your recyclables.
When you recycle, you’re eliminating some of the waste that would otherwise end up in the landfill. Companies will renew the material and create a new product out of it. This eliminates the need to find new materials and energy to create products.
Another way to properly dispose of trash is to compost. Compost includes biodegradable materials, untreated paper products, leftover parts from fruits and vegetables, like seeds, rinds and peels, leftover food, and matches. You can create your compost bin or pile it in your backyard. If you don’t have a yard, there are options for an indoor composting bin.
Regularly adding to your compost and turning it every so often will result in a fertilizer. You can use it for your plants and garden to give them nutrients to grow. This limits food waste that ends up in landfills.
Once you’ve sorted through recyclable materials and compost, most other items will be part of your general trash. Items that aren’t recyclable or compostable and any personal protective equipment can go into a garbage bag in a trash can. When you put trash in your home’s trash can or take garbage bags outside, be sure to seal them with a lid so animals cannot access them.
If you have trash service, then the community will provide you with an outdoor trash can. In more rural areas, you may have to take your trash to the local dump. Some dumps charge per pound of waste, which should incentivize you to compost and recycle.
Hazardous Waste and E-Waste
Sometimes, you may have materials that would be hazardous to dispose of in your local landfill with the regular trash. Hazardous waste includes paint cans, chemical-based products, used oil, household cleaning products and fluorescent light bulbs. Take these products to a local company that can properly dispose of them. Many recycling companies will accept these products and dispose of them so they won’t harm the environment.
E-waste includes electronics and appliances that don’t work anymore or that you don’t use anymore. Electronic waste has many deadly chemicals, so you should take them to a company that accepts them, donate them or sell them. If deposited in a landfill, it will leach when water passes through it, and then the water carries those harmful chemicals.
Reusables and Donations
Finally, there are some items that you may not want that can be reused or donated. For example, you may not want plastic shopping bags accumulating in your home, but you can reuse them for other grocery trips.
Items that are still in good condition can go to a donation center. Other people may see your trash as treasure. The more times an item is recirculated, the fewer new ones will have to be made, which takes more energy and nonrenewable sources.
Reduce Your Waste
Overall, you should try to reduce your waste. The fewer items that end up in the landfill, the better. Purchase products that have little to no packaging. Reuse items as many times as possible. Compost food waste. Recycle everything you can. By reducing your waste, you’re reducing your impact on the environment.
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About the author
Steve is the Managing Editor of Environment.co and regularly contributes articles related to wildlife, biodiversity, and recycling. His passions include wildlife photography and bird watching.