What Do I Do With .... ?
A Resident's Management Guide
For Those Not-So-Common Household Items
"One person's trash is another person's treasure."
~ Unknown There are many ways to reuse or recycle items that are no longer of use to us in our homes. As residents of Connecticut, reusing or recycling these items can reduce the amount and toxicity of the garbage that is disposed in our state. Some alternatives to disposal that you should think about include:
Fix it! Can your item be repaired? If so, you will not have anything to dispose of, and you could save on replacement costs. Give it away! If the item you have is still usable, chances are that there is someone else that could use it. Before throwing it away, check with friends, relatives, and neighbors to see if they would like to have it. Consider listing items on an Internet site such as FreeCycle, and Craigslist, or in free classified ads and circulars. Or, just put it on your curb on a nice day with a sign on it saying "free." Donate it! Many charities are happy to take items such as consumer electronics, furniture, rugs, etc. Before throwing these kinds of items away, check with your local Goodwill, Salvation Army, church, reuse store, or other charities to see what items they may be willing to take. Some organizations will even schedule free pickups of donated items. Sell it! Hold a tag sale, or take your item(s) to a local flea market (look in your local newspaper for times and locations in your area). Or, list your item on an Internet site like eBay, Craigslist, or other similar sites. You might be surprised to find that that an old item you think is a piece of junk is just what some collector is looking for!
None of these ideas work for your item? Then read on for assistance on proper disposal or recycling:Aerosol Cans
Animal Waste/Pet Waste
Ash (Wood, Charcoal, Coal)
Automobiles / Vehicles
Books and Textbooks
Bottles & Cans
Carbon Monoxide Detectors
Carpets & Rugs
Clean Brick, Rock, Ceramics, Concrete, or Asphalt
Clean Wood (Brush, Stumps, Logs)
Clothing, Shoes and Other Textiles
Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFL's)
Construction and Demolition Debris
Consumer Electronics (E-waste)
Cork (From Wine Bottles)
Fats, Oils & Grease (FOG)
Fluorescent Light Bulbs
Gasoline and Other Old Fuels
Grease & Vegetable Oils
Holiday String Lighting
Household Hazardous Waste
Medical Supplies & Equipment
Motor Oil & Filters
Nursery Pots and Trays (horticultural)
Oversized Items (Mattresses, Furniture, Rugs, etc.)
Packing Peanuts (Styrofoam Pellets)
Pet Waste (Feces)
Plastic Bags/Plastic Film
Plastic Bottle Caps
Plastic Containers #3 thru #7
Prescription Medicine and Over-the-Counter (OTC) Products
Rugs & Carpets
Shoes & Sneakers
Thermometers & Thermostats
Underground Storage Tanks
Video Cassettes (VHS), CD's, DVD's, Old Film
Water Filters for Drinking Water Pitchers and Faucets
Wrappers (Snack, Chip, Candy & Cookie)
Aerosol cans are pressurized canisters that house everything from cleaning supplies and air fresheners to hygiene products and paints. The contents of the can determine whether it is recyclable or a hazardous material. If the can contains paints or toxic materials, the can itself (including its contents) needs to be disposed of at a household hazardous waste collection event or facility. Check the schedule for an event near you.
Some communities are starting to collect non-hazardous aerosol cans (from deodorant, air fresheners, etc.) with bottles and cans for recycling. However, not all communities do so. Please contact your local municipal recycling coordinator to find out.
Air conditioners are appliances that may contain ozone depleting substances, including refrigerants and/or insulating foams that can be released if disposed of improperly. Older air conditioners may contain a harmful refrigerant called Freon. Air conditioners may also contain other toxic chemicals, such as mercury.
It is important to find an appliance recycling program or technician to remove the refrigerant. Do not attempt to remove refrigerant or compressors yourself. Improperly handled refrigerant may result in physical harm. Contact your local municipal recycling coordinatorto learn how to properly dispose of your air conditioner. Some utility companies offer rebate programs when you upgrade to a more energy efficient air cooling system. Contact your local utility company to see if they will accept your old air conditioner for proper disposal.
Do not put ammunition in the trash! People who want to dispose of old or excess ammunition should call their local police/public safety department or state police to surrender the ammunition. It will either be used by the department or disposed of properly.
Antifreeze can pollute groundwater, surface water and drinking water supplies if dumped, spilled or leaked, and is harmful to pets, marine and aquatic life. Many cities and towns collect used antifreeze at their local transfer station. Call your local recycling coordinator or Department of Public Works to see if they will accept your used antifreeze. If not, you may be able to bring your used antifreeze to a household hazardous waste collection event or facility. Check the schedule for an event near you. DEEP also has special guidance on the management of used antifreeze for Auto Centers and Marinas.
Many of the appliances we use every day contain man-made chemicals that destroy the ozone layer -- our planets natural protection against the sun's harmful ultra-violet radiation. Refrigerators, window and car air conditioners, and dehumidifiers rely on refrigerants that contain ozone-depleting chemicals called chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs), under various trade names that contain the word "Freon."
If not disposed of properly, these common household items can release these refrigerants into the atmosphere.
For proper disposal:
- Speak with your municipal recycling contact person to learn how to dispose of appliances safely in your community.
- Ask your local home appliance retailers about their refrigerator and home appliance collection programs or about the availability of refrigerant-recovery services. Sometimes, the store from which you buy a new large appliance will take back the old one.
- Contact your local utility company about appliance recycling programs.
- If the appliance is still in good working order, consider donating it to a local charity or family in need.
- EPA’s Responsible Appliance Disposal Program provides additional information about proper disposal of appliances and a list of partnering utilities, retail stores and manufacturers that collect used refrigerators, freezers, window air conditioning units and dehumidifiers for proper recovery and disposal.
Commonly used paints, like oil, acrylic and watercolor, may contain toxic heavy metals such as cadmium, chromium, and lead. First consider if the art supplies can still be used for their intended purpose. Consider donating reusable art supplies to art schools or creative art reuse centers. If the supplies are old and not reusable, determine if they contain toxic materials.
Toxic and hazardous materials including oil paints or solvents (such as turpentine or mineral spirits) should be brought to a household hazardous waste collection or facility. Check the schedule for an event near you.
To learn more about art supplies and ideas for safer alternatives check out the following links:
- Best Management Practices for Fine Art Painting Studios
- What Can Be Hazardous About Arts and Crafts?
Asbestos-containing materials ("ACM") in good condition should be left alone. There is no danger unless fibers are released and inhaled into the lungs. Check material regularly if you suspect it may contain asbestos. Don't touch it, but look for signs of wear or damage such as tears, abrasions or water damage. If the material is damaged or becomes damaged, the Connecticut Department of Public Health (DPH) recommends that a licensed asbestos contractor be contacted to abate the material. Abatement activities may involve repair, enclosure, encapsulation or removal of the material.
Connecticut law does not allow any person to discard more than 1 cubic foot of ACM in the trash at any one time. Contact a hauler to transport the ACM to an approved disposal site. Currently, the only facility accepting ACM in Connecticut is the RED Technologies, LLC facility in Portland, CT.
For further details on asbestos including general information and lists of licensed asbestos consultants and abatement contractors, see the DPH's Asbestos Program Website. See also DEEP's webpage on Construction & Demolition -- Health & Safety Requirements You Should Know About.
Wood ash and ash from the fireplace (assuming you didn't burn treated or painted wood) can be used in your compost pile (very small amount), used in the winter to help gain traction against ice and snow, as an insect repellant (sprinkle small amounts around the perimeter of your garden to deter slugs and snails), spot remover on wood furniture (make a paste with water, rub over rings left by water glasses, follow up with furniture polish) or applied to your soil if you need to raise the pH. Treated or painted/stained wood should not be burned, as it emits toxins into the air and results in contaminated ash.
Spreading the ashes over your lawn and garden may or may not be the best means of disposal. Wood ash is somewhat beneficial to the soil because it contains essential plant nutrients. Depending on the type of wood, the ash may contain five to eight percent potash, one percent phosphate and trace amounts of micro-nutrients such as iron, manganese, boron, copper and zinc. See the University of Connecticut webpage on the use of wood ash in gardens.
If you heat your home with coal, you are creating coal ash. Coal ash should not be used on any plant crop that you plan to eat. Do not place coal ash in your compost or your vegetable garden. This ash should be put in a bag and disposed of with your trash. Be aware that coals from ash can be "live" and continue to burn for as long as 4-6 weeks after they have been removed from the stove.
Ash from charcoal grills, where you have used charcoal briquettes with or without lighter fluid should not be used in your compost or garden. This ash should be put in a bag and disposed of with your trash.
What about ash from manufactured logs and pellets? Usually manufactured logs and pellets are made from wood waste, sawdust and waxes. Make sure you know if the these products contain natural adhesives (natural waxes and oils) vs. petroleum based products. Ash from logs and pellets with petroleum based products or unknown ingredients should not be applied to your garden, soil or compost. If you are not sure, contact the manufacturer directly, or throw it out in the trash.
Any number of junk yards and salvage companies will take your old vehicles for recycling or parts. But why not consider donating your vehicle to charity? You will be helping a cause and also receiving a tax deduction for your gift. There are hundreds of charities that participate in vehicle donation programs, and many take not only cars, but also trucks, boats, RV's, motorcycles, etc. If you have a favorite charity, try calling them directly first to see if they are interested in your vehicle. Many of them work with companies that will tow your donated vehicle for free. If you want to search for charities, both in CT and beyond, visit some of the organizations that manage these donation programs on behalf of the charities. These include, but are not limited to:
- Wheels for Wishes
- Cars to Cure Breast Cancer
- Kars 4 Kids
- Donate for Charity
Another resource is Infoline 2-1-1, an integrated system of help via the telephone accessed toll-free from anywhere in Connecticut by simply dialing 2-1-1. It operates 24 hours a day, 365 days a year and does have information about vehicle donation.
There are many different types of batteries, and the environmental concerns and disposal options may vary for each. Please read through the following sections carefully to determine the type of battery you have and how to properly dispose of it. In addition, Call2Recycle offers 10 easy habits that will extend the life of your phone or tablet batteries. For more information, see the DEEP's Household Batteries and Rechargeable Batteries web pages.
Automotive Batteries (Lead-Acid Batteries)
Lead-acid batteries may not be disposed of in the trash, buried, or thrown in wetlands or waterways. These batteries contain a corrosive and toxic electrolyte that is very harmful to the environment. Connecticut law requires consumers to return their lead-acid auto batteries for recycling, and requires retailers of these batteries to accept a used battery for each battery they sell. Retail stores that sell batteries are required to accept up to three batteries from a customer that is not purchasing a new battery. In addition, some towns accept lead-acid auto batteries at their local transfer station. To find out if this service is available in your area, call your local recycling coordinator
Rechargeable batteries (learn more) are commonly found in cordless phones, power tools, portable electronics and cell phones. They include nickel-cadmium, nickel metal hydride, small sealed lead-acid and lithium ion batteries. All rechargeable batteries can be recycled at participating retail collection points including most Radio Shack and Wal-Mart Stores. For information on where to recycle nickel cadmium batteries in your area, call 1-877-2-RECYCLE or online at Call2Recycle to find a local drop-off site.
Non-Rechargeable Household Batteries (Alkaline and Zinc Carbon Batteries)
If you have non-rechargeable AAA, AA, C or D batteries, then they are most likely alkaline and zinc carbon batteries (learn more). These batteries are not hazardous and can be disposed in the regular trash. However, if recycling is available, please recycle them. Most community household hazardous waste (HHW) collection events will not accept alkaline and zinc carbon batteries. To find out if your local recycling or HHW program accepts them, call your local recycling coordinator, or check the DEEP's HHW web page for the schedule. Also, INMETCO, a metals reclamation facility in Pennsylvania, recycles alkaline and zinc carbon batteries. Call 724-758-2800 for more information.
Watch or Button Batteries (Silver Oxide Batteries)
Silver oxide batteries are hazardous when put in the regular trash. Many jewelry and watch stores will recycle the silver oxide battery when you bring your watch in to have the battery replaced. If not, please bring your silver oxide batteries to your next household hazardous waste (HHW) collection. To find out about HHW services in your area, call your local recycling coordinator, or check the DEEP's HHW web page for the schedule.
Camera and Portable Electronic Device Batteries (Lithium Batteries)
There are lithium batteries that are button-size, as well as those that look like regular household batteries. The latter type will say "lithium" on the battery. Button lithium batteries are commonly found in cameras and other portable electronic devices, such as PDA's, watches, thermometers, calculators and in remote car locks. Any type of lithium battery should not be put in the trash. Please bring lithium batteries to a household hazardous waste (HHW) collection. To find out about HHW services in your area, call your local recycling coordinator, or check the DEEP's HHW web page for the schedule.
Commonly used in hearing aids, the best management option is to bring such batteries to a household hazardous waste (HHW) collection. To find out about HHW services in your area, call your local recycling coordinator, or check the DEEP's HHW web page for the schedule. There is currently limited recycling of zinc-air batteries available. INMETCO, a metals reclamation facility in Pennsylvania may recycle them. Call 724-758-2800 for more information.
Boat shrink wrap is made of low-density polyethylene (LDPE), which can be recycled and used in the manufacture of new products such as plastic bags, composite lumber (decking, railings, docks, benches, etc.), lawn edging, and plastic banners among others.
Reusable boat covers are the environmentally preferred choice to disposable covers. However, you may be able to recycle boat shrink wrap through your marina, boat yard or yacht club. Check with your boating facility to see if they are participating in a recycling program. The Clean Marina Guidebook offers best management practices for boat shrink wrap.
Reuse is environmentally preferable to recycling. Offer books to your local library, senior center, school libraries, friends, thrift stores, swap shops, and charities. Discover Books collects unwanted books, and either resells them or redistributes them to literacy programs (the rest are recycled). Textbooks can be a challenge to reuse because they get outdated. However, Green Textbooks, and Textbook Recycling both specialize in textbook reuse and/or recycling. Other book recycling resources include the International Book Project, Books for Africa, First Book, Bridge to Asia, and Better World Books. You can also contact your local recycling coordinator to see if your town collects books through their recycling program.
State law requires all towns in Connecticut to provide for the recycling of glass and metal food and beverage containers, and plastic containers with resin codes #1 and #2. Each Connecticut town has a recycling ordinance in place to address proper handling of these and other recyclables. Check with your town or city hall for the proper handling of bottles and cans. At a minimum, containers should be rinsed before being placed in the appropriate recycling receptacle. 5-cent deposit cans and bottles covered under the CT Bottle Bill may be returned to the store for redemption, or consider donating nickel-deposit containers to local civic organization fund-raisers.
See "Plastic Bottle Caps."
Most car seats expire after 6 years from the date of manufacture. In addition the older seats not having the latest in safety standards, materials wear down over time, including the rigid plastic frame, which become less safe to use. Seats are labeled with a date of manufacture and expiration date. If you cannot find it, call the manufacturer and ask them. If you have an expired car seat, the fabric cover & padding can usually be separated from the plastic frame for washing, so both the textile and rigid plastic parts of the seat should be recyclable. Some municipal recycling programs will accept the textile portion and the rigid plastic material separately for recycling. Call your municipal recycling coordinator to find out.
Carbon monoxide detectors generally do not contain radioactive materials and can be disposed of in your residential trash, after removing and safely disposing of any batteries (see the battery section to confirm proper disposal). Unfortunately the detectors are not acceptable in your curbside recycling programs and should not be placed in recycling.
Refer to your user’s manual to see if the manufacturer has a take-back program. If you do not know when your carbon monoxide detector(s) were last replaced, it is probably time for new ones, they generally last 5-7 years.
Carbon monoxide (CO) is an odorless, colorless gas created by fuels that burn incompletely in poor or low ventilated areas. Carbon monoxide poisoning is the number one cause of poisoning death in America. All homes in Connecticut are required, by law, since 2014, to have carbon monoxide and smoke detectors. It is recommended to have interconnected carbon monoxide detectors which will simultaneously go off when a high level of CO is detected. A long exposure to low levels of CO, or a high level exposure over a short period of time can lead to carbon monoxide poisoning. Extremely high levels of carbon monoxide can lead to incapacitation and loss of consciousness within minutes, which may result in death. A low level of CO poisoning can be confused with flu symptoms and may include nausea and headaches. If your carbon monoxide detector goes off, get to fresh air immediately and remain out of the home until you are told it is safe to return.
Learn more about carbon monoxide and air quality in Connecticut. To learn about the health effects, and find videos, fact sheets and CT legislation on carbon monoxide from CT Department of Public Health.
If your carpets and rugs are in good reusable condition, consider donating them to a local non-profit thrift shop or a building materials reuse center. Currently there are no companies in CT that accept carpets or rugs for recycling. Old, dirty and used carpets are considered "bulky waste" in some communities and "municipal solid waste" in others. Contact your local municipal recycling coordinator or department of public works to learn how your community disposes of old used carpets.
Certain components of old cellular phones such as printed wiring boards, batteries and liquid crystal displays can pose a threat to the environment if improperly disposed of. If your cellular phone is in working condition, you may want to donate it to a growing number of programs that provide free phones to the elderly or potential victims of domestic violence. Call your town hall to find out if your town either sponsors such a program or is aware of a non-profit in your area that does so. When purchasing a new phone ask your cellular service provider if they will take your old phone for recycling.
Cell phones and used cell phone batteries can be recycled through the Call2Recycle Program. Participating retail outlets include Wal-Mart, Radio Shack, Circuit City and Home Depot. To learn more or to find a location to recycle your phone or battery, you may also call 1-877-2-RECYCLE (1-877-273-2925).
Clean brick, rock, ceramics, concrete, and asphalt paving fragments, which are virtually inert and pose neither a fire threat nor a pollution threat to ground or surface water, are considered clean fill and do not require disposal in a solid waste facility. There are some aggregate recycling facilities in Connecticut. If these materials are contaminated, they must be treated as bulky waste and should be disposed of at a permitted solid waste disposal facility.
Brush, stumps and logs should preferably be recycled into wood mulch or firewood. If you do not have or cannot rent the equipment to do this yourself, check with your local town or city hall to see if they accept clean wood at the recycling center or transfer station. When hiring a contractor to do land clearing, be sure to include removal of materials in the contract, unless you want the wood for your own use. There are several private wood recycling facilities and services in Connecticut. If disposal is the only option, land-clearing debris is considered bulky waste, and may be disposed of at any permitted solid waste disposal facility that accepts bulky waste, such as at a resource recovery facility (RRF), solid waste landfill, or transfer station. You may not bury land-clearing debris on site, or at another location that is not a permitted solid waste disposal area.
Hazardous chemicals can often be found in these common household products: drain cleaners, floor-care products, oven cleaners, window sprays, bathroom cleaners, furniture and metal polishes, pesticides, and laundry products. When you shop for cleaning products, you can usually avoid these chemicals by reading the labels. Those labeled "Danger" or "Poison" are typically the most hazardous and should be avoided. Others are labeled "Caution" or " Warning" because they are skin or eye irritants and they may or may not be hazardous. Always read the instructions for proper use.
Unwanted or leftover hazardous products should not be disposed of in the trash, flushed down the toilet or sink drains, nor should they be poured into storm drains or onto the ground. If you have any hazardous products in your home that you need to dispose of, bring them to a local household hazardous waste collection. See the section below on "household hazardous waste" for more information.
Most cleaning products have environmentally friendly alternatives that are effective and much safer for people, pets, and the natural world. Some are available in stores, and these products will typically have all their ingredients listed. You can also choose to make your own cleaners, which are just as effective and usually much less expensive. For some alternatives, see Household Alternatives for Reducing Toxic Products in Your Home.
Textile recycling is more than just clothes! Besides clothing, such as shirts, pants, dresses and shorts -- textiles include bedding, backpacks, curtains, towels, stuffed animals, gloves, belts, ties, purses, handbags, shoes, slippers, undergarments and even holey socks! Many organizations will accept textiles that you may consider unwearable, like holey socks or ripped t-shirts, and recycle them to make other products such as wiping rags, car seat and pillow stuffing, and household insulation. Visit our Textiles Reuse & Recycling web page for more information - Don't judge - Just donate!
Planning before your construction or remodeling project begins can reduce waste and increase the ability to divert materials for reuse and recycling! Connecticut has a number of reuse centers for building materials that accept leftover or unused construction materials. Many materials can also be recycled including unused/scrap wallboard/gypsum board, CLEAN wood scraps (free from paint, not old furniture wood), asphalt shingles, pallets, and corrugated cardboard. Work with your hauler to create a successful waste diversion program. Wood or wallboard that has paint or other contaminants should be disposed in the trash.
During demolition or deconstruction, it is important to recognize that building waste may be contaminated with asbestos, lead-based paint, or other materials that may require special disposal. Before starting a demolition project, be sure to have the structure inspected by qualified professionals for the presence of asbestos, lead-based paint, mercury-containing lighting and equipment, and other hazardous materials, and ensure that these are removed, as necessary, to allow the remaining waste to be disposed of as regular construction and demolition (C&D) waste. For more information on the environmental issues involved with demolition, see Renovation & Demolition: Environmental, Health & Safety Requirements You Should Know About.
Deconstruction activities work to recover cabinetry, decorative molding, doors, windows, flooring, and more before demolition. Although this takes some planning, it can save money by avoiding disposal costs and items can be sold, or donated to a community building materials reuse center.
If you are a contractor visit our page on Information Resources for Contractors in the Construction Trades.
If you are a homeowner, learn more about green building techniques.
Consumer electronics include items such as computers, monitors, televisions, IPods, PDA's, pagers, VCRs, radios, telephones and other small electronic devices. Items that are in good working order can be donated to charities such as Goodwill Industries, Salvation Army, or can be offered on FreeCycle or Craigslist. Items that are no longer useful should be recycled at a local electronics collection.
There are several options for recycling consumer electronics. Some municipalities offer drop-off locations at their recycling center or transfer station. Other towns participate in regional one-day collections. Check with your local recycling coordinator for more information. Staple’s and Best Buy stores offer recycling of computers, peripherals and other electronics, no matter where you purchased them. Manufacturers, such as Dell, HP,and Leapfrog all have consumer take-back recycling programs. The Electronics TakeBack Coalition maintains a website that lists all the take-back programs in the US.
An electronics recycling law took effect in Connecticut in the fall of 2010. Under this law, each municipality is required to provide its residents with a free, convenient and accessible collection point for recycling televisions, computers, monitors and printers. For more information, go to the DEEP's e-waste page.
Corks can be reused in craft and art projects – consider donating to schools, daycare centers or art studios. You can also use them as mulch in the garden, or grind them up and use in potting soil or as drainage medium in plant pots. Efforts to collect corks for recycling are increasing – although there are no known projects in Connecticut.
Yemm & Hart, a company in Missouri is collecting wine cork stoppers (no plastic) with the goal of converting them into a useful self sustaining product. For more information contact Yemm & Hart Ltd. on-line or by phone at 573-783-5434.
Another option is ReCORK, a project collecting natural corks (no plastic) with a recycling market based in Portugal. ReCORK America, located in California, lists Public Drop-off Locations in New Jersey, New York, Maine, and Pennsylvania, or you can ship directly to them.
Cork ReHarvest, a program of the non-profit Cork Forest Conservation Alliance, partners with grocery stores, wine and bottle shops, winery tasting rooms, food and beverage and hospitality industries to collect cork at restaurants, hotels, wine bars, convention and performing arts centers. Drop-off locations in CT and surrounding states are listed.
TerraCycle, located in New Jersey, collects plastic wine corks and can be contacted on line or by phone at 609-393-4252. TerraCycle pays you for shipping and for each item you send. They also sell products made from the corks and an assortment of items they buy directly from the public.
The environmental impact of crayons isn’t so pretty. Crayons are made of paraffin, a petroleum-based wax, pigment, and sometimes fragrance and sparkles for the fancier ones. Crayola estimates that the average child wears down 730 crayons by age ten. So what can an environmentally conscious parent or teacher do about this waste? A little creative recycling!
Contact Crayons for Cancer which supports Family Funds and Treasure Chests on the Oncology floors at the Connecticut Children's Medical Center, Hasbro Children's Hospital (Providence, RI) and The Minneapolis Children's Hospital; or send them to the National Crayon Recycle Program. Learn about more re-use ideas in DEEP's P2View article.
Report dead wild animals found on your own property to your local animal control officer. Generally, dead animals on local roadways (roadkill) are removed by the municipal public works department or animal control officer. Check with your Municipal Town Hall and/or Transfer Station for your town’s procedures. To report dead animals found on state roads, contact the CT Department of Transportation using the drop-down menu on their comment form. Do not attempt to remove the animal yourself.
Small dead pets may be buried in your yard, disposed of by your veterinarian, cremated, or secured in a black plastic garbage bag and thrown in the garbage. Some communities prohibit burying animals in the back yard, and/or have specific guidance on choosing a suitable burial location, so please check with your local health department or animal control officer about local ordinances.
Dehumidifiers should not be disposed of with your regular trash. They use refrigerants that contain ozone-depleting chemicals called chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs), found under various trade names that contain the word "Freon." Certain Freon types have been phased out, but newer model dehumidifiers still contain gases that are hazardous to the environment and must be disposed of properly.
To learn how to dispose of dehumidifiers safely in your community, contact your municipal recycling coordinator. Many towns accept dehumidifiers at the local transfer station or other collection location and may charge a fee. Certain communities also offer curbside pick-up of appliances. You may also be directed to a scheduled Household Hazardous Waste Collection.
See Consumer Electronics.
Lions Clubs in Connecticut coordinate eyeglass recycling activities. The used eyeglasses are cleaned and classified by prescription and distributed to children and adults in developing nations. You may donate used prescription or nonprescription glasses or sunglasses. Both plastic and metal frames are accepted.
Lions-sponsored collection boxes may be found at Pearl Vision, Lens Crafters, Target Optical, Sears Optical and Sunglass Hut Stores in addition to libraries, schools, community centers, places of worship, train stations, coffee shops, video stores, optometrists' offices and other high traffic areas. Contact your local Lions Club for information about where to donate glasses in or near your community.
If you would like more information about donating used eyeglasses, or if your organization or school would like to start an eyeglass collection campaign, contact the Health and Children’s Services Department, Lions Clubs International, via email or phone: 630-571-5466, ext. 318.
All fire extinguishers are under pressure and should not be put in the regular trash. There are three varieties of fire extinguishers manufactured in the past decade: water filled, gas filled and chemical filled extinguishers. Water filled and gas (CO2) filled extinguishers are inert, and are not harmful. The dry chemical variety can cause irritation, so extra care should be taken with these units. Many of today's units are rechargeable. For a small fee you can have your fire extinguisher emptied, checked and re-filled.
Some communities accept fire extinguishers at the town transfer station, or local fire department. Other communities collect extinguishers at household hazardous waste collection events. Please contact your local municipal recycling coordinator to learn how to dispose of fire extinguishers in your town.
If you have unexploded fireworks, they should not be thrown in the trash, since this could pose a serious injury, fire or explosion hazard. Instead, you should call your local fire marshal or police department and they will see to it that the fireworks are disposed of safely.
Monofilament fishing line can be very harmful to aquatic species and boaters. Because this fishing line does not decompose, it will stay in lakes, ponds or oceans. Fish and other species can become entangled and this will often lead to death. Fishing line can also become wrapped around boat propellers causing mechanical damage.
A better option is to recycle fishing line pieces and keep it out our waterways. Fishing line can be recycled at certain recycling locations in Connecticut, such as in designated state parks, boat launches, and wildlife management areas.
If there isn’t a convenient location for you to recycle fishing line in your community, consider starting your own recycling program at your favorite fishing site. Start by talking to your local marina, tackle shop, or fishing supply store to see if they’d be interested in starting a recycling program. The Berkley Conservation Institute makes it easy for retailers, groups, and individuals to create their own recycling collection programs for fishing line. To participate as a retailer you can request a recycling collection bin and it will be shipped at no charge. As individuals, you can mail it directly to Berkley.
A resource for and an example of a fishing line recycling program may be found in the Florida Fish & Wildlife Commission's Monofilament Recovery and Recycling Program.
Currently, there are no curbside collection programs or centrally located compost facilities in Connecticut that accept residential food scraps for recycling. You can, however, consider starting your own compost bin for your organic materials. View DEEP's home composting brochure, video (free download), and fact sheet on line. The VHS video entitled "Home Composting – Turning Your Spoils to Soil" is available at your local library. Or, you may purchase it for $8.00 at the DEEP Bookstore. A good on-line resource for purchasing compost bins and tools is The Composting Network. Check with your town or city hall to see if they offer compost bins through a special truckload sale.
Consider donating usable food to your local food pantry or community kitchen.
Avoid putting food scraps down the garbage disposal. It shortens the life of septic systems and needs to be treated and disposed of at landfills or incinerators if it goes down the city sewer system. See the Ask Eartha article in the Spring 2006 edition of DEEP’s "P2View" for a more in-depth discussion on this topic.
Food scraps that cannot be composted or otherwise reused or recycled may be put in the regular trash.
The best way to deal with old or unwanted fuel from cars and trucks, recreational vehicles, lawn care equipment, space heaters, or heating oil storage tanks is not generate it in the first place. If possible, don’t store motorized vehicles or equipment with fuel in them for long periods of time. For example, run your lawnmower dry on the last day that you mow your lawn in the fall, and store it in your garage to prevent water from getting in the tank. Plan ahead when you are buying fuel. For example, don’t fill up your five-gallon gasoline can just before mowing the lawn for the last time in the fall, to avoid having old gas left over in the spring. If you must store fuel for an extended period of time, add a fuel stabilizer to help keep it fresh and usable. Fuel stabilizers can be purchased at most auto parts stores.
If you have fuel that you don't need and it is in good usable condition, try to give it away to someone else who will use it.
If all else fails, you will have to dispose of your old or excess fuel. Check with your local service station or fuel retailer to see if they will accept it. If not, see if your local household hazardous waste collection will accept these fuels or contact your local municipal recycling coordinator.
Grass clippings are banned from disposal at landfills and incinerators. Leave them on the lawn where they will decompose and act as a natural organic fertilizer. View the DEEP's "Don't Trash Grass!" brochure, video (free download), or fact sheet on-line. A 15 minute VHS video of the same title is available in your local library or may be purchased at the DEEP Bookstore for $8.00. You may also check with your local town or city hall to see if they accept grass clippings in their organics recycling program.
At home, you should never put grease, oils or fats down your drain. When you do this, you can clog drains, sewers, or septic systems, especially during cold weather when the grease will harden quickly. Instead, dispose of waste oils and fats in your regular trash. Hot oil should be allowed to cool. Place in a can or container before putting it into trash.
Businesses should never put grease, oils or fats down the drain/sewer or in the trash. DEEP issued a new general permit in 2005 to prevent the discharge of fats, oils and grease (FOG) from food preparation establishments to the sanitary sewer system. Learn more about FOG disposal and a FOG Model Program for businesses. Business must containerize high-quality grease and vegetable oils (e.g., from fryolators) and have them picked up by a rendering company or biodiesel producer.
In addition to recycling your batteries from hearing aids, you can also recycle the hearing aids themselves – regardless of how old they are or what kind of model including cochlear implants and analog hearing aids. Hearing aids will be refurbished or pieces will be used for parts. Hearing aids are collected by the Starkey Hearing Foundation "Hear Now" Program.
Household Hazardous Wastes (HHW) are household-generated wastes or unused products that are hazardous in nature, but are not regulated as hazardous waste, since they are generated in households. Included are such items as old stains, paints, and paint related products, pesticides, pool chemicals, drain cleaners, mercury-containing products such as thermostats and thermometers, and degreasers and other household and car care products.
The best method of managing HHW is to prevent its generation in the first place. When purchasing household and car care products, select the least toxic item needed to do the job, and buy only the minimum amount necessary.
To discard any leftover or unused material, it should be taken to your local Hazardous Household Waste collection center or one-day collection event. For information on dates and times in your area, call your town or city hall and ask to speak to your recycling coordinator, or visit the DEEP’s household hazardous waste web page. If you can wait for the next collection, store the contents in a dry place and keep them sealed in their original containers. If you have any questions about storing materials that are potentially flammable or explosive, call your fire or police department.
If you must discard the materials prior to the next scheduled event, first try to use-up the product for its intended purpose. Ask you friends, neighbors and family if they have any use for the product. If not, you may legally discard them in your regular trash pickup, provided:
- You have read the label and complied with any disposal directions;
- Liquids have either been allowed to evaporate (if water based) or absorbed (if non-water based) on an absorbent material such as vermiculite, cat litter or sawdust so that there are no free-draining liquids);
- The remaining residue has been packaged to prevent leakage while the material is being transported to the disposal facility.
State law requires that towns provide for leaf recycling and that leaves be kept separate from other recyclables and garbage. Some towns collect leaves curbside during the fall, and some have residential drop-off areas. Others ask residents to compost them at home. Check with your town or city hall for specific leaf collection information, as each town varies in their collection schedules and collection methods (bagged, raked to curb, drop-off, etc.). Leaves are perfect for home composting. There are almost 100 large-scale leaf composting sites in Connecticut.
Fluorescent BulbsFluorescent bulbs come in various shapes and sizes. Some are the traditional, 2-, 4-, or 8-foot-long "tube" type bulb. Others include the newer "compact" fluorescent lights (CFLs) that screw in like a regular incandescent bulb. All of them contain varying amounts of the toxic metal mercury, and should not be disposed of in the regular trash.
CFLs are accepted at household hazardous waste collections. Refer to the schedule of household hazardous waste collections for a location near you. Some municipalities offer recycling of CFLs and other fluorescent lamps at their transfer stations or other drop sites. Check with your local recycling coordinator or Department of Public Works for more information.
In 2008, The Home Depot began a collection program for compact fluorescent lights (CFLs). Residents can bring any brand of CFL, regardless of where it was purchased, to any Connecticut Home Depot store. IKEA stores also accept CFLs for recycling.
Incandescent bulbs include traditional screw-in line bulbs, and come in various sizes and shapes (e.g., round bulbs, and cone-shaped flood and spot lights). They include traditional tungsten-element light bulbs, as well as the newer halogen lamps. All of these types of bulbs may be disposed of in the regular trash. If you use these lamps, though, you should consider switching over to fluorescent bulbs -- or, even better, the newer LED lamps -- since they can provide dramatic energy savings, which in return reduces air pollution emissions from electrical generation plants.
Both incandescent and LED holiday lights are recyclable. By recycling your broken and outdated lights, you’ll keep the toxins in the electric cables out of the incinerator. Check with your local municipal recycling coordinator to see if they collect Christmas lights for recycling.
Home Depot and Whole Foods Market have coordinated seasonal trade-in or recycling collection programs at different locations and may offer discount coupons in exchange. These programs usually run for only a week or two sometime between October and December.
Other options include mailing your broken or obsolete lights to a number of retailers, including Christmas Light Source in Fort Worth, Texas and Five Star Holiday Décor in Springville, UT, which sell your old lights to raise funds for the Toys for Tots program. HolidayLEDs.com in Jackson, Missouri recycles your old holiday lights and offers a 15% discount on your next purchase of LED lights.
Whether you subscribe to Vogue, People or The New Yorker, these published periodicals can pile up on our tables, floors and dressers. You can avoid the clutter altogether by borrowing magazines from your local library and then returning them once you’re finished reading. Though, if you must have them delivered, consider sharing recent issues with friends, libraries, or hospitals. Nature magazines with photos of animals and beautiful scenery can be donated to schools and daycare centers after you’ve finished reading them. Once you’ve exhausted re-use opportunities, all magazines should be recycled!
The disposal of expired marine flares, also known visual distress signals (VDS), is strictly regulated by the US EPA and US DOT because of their chemical make-up and flammable characteristics. The DEEP Boating Division is NO LONGER able to collect expired marine flares, but does arrange disposal opportunities from time to time. DEEP and the US Coast Guard also hold periodic Flare Day Events, which allow you the opportunity to dispose of expired marine flares and to learn the proper way to use the flares before you need them in an emergency situation. For information about the disposal of marine flares or Flare Day Events, contact the DEEP's Boating Division 860-447-4371.
A special voluntary program is in place for recycling mattresses. The Mattress Recycling Council has developed a fact sheet for CT municipalities and created a locator tool, www.byebyemattress.com, where residents can find a drop off location for their used mattresses. Please note that since this program is voluntary on behalf of municipalities, some towns may not be participating. If you do not get results when using the locator tool, please contact your local recycling coordinator to find out where to bring your used mattress for recycling or disposal. For more information please visit our Mattress Recycling web page.
Biomedical waste ("BMW") must be packaged, labeled, and marked as required by state regulations. Generators and permitted BMW transporters must deliver the waste to a permitted "BMW treatment facility" to store, treat, or dispose the waste. The methods of treatment / disposal are as follows:
- Chemotherapy waste – by incineration;
- Pathological waste (i.e. human tissue, organs, body parts) – by incineration;
- Infectious waste (i.e. body fluids or items dripping with body fluids, discarded sharps, BMW generated from research, etc.) – either by incineration, discharge to a sanitary sewer, treatment by steam sterilization or other alternative treatment technology.
BMW may be treated in accordance with methods specified in the regulations. If treated, BMW must be rendered unrecognizable in order to be disposed as municipal solid waste.
Please see Prescription Medications and Over-the-Counter Products for guidance on proper disposal of these items.
Medical supplies and equipment include home medical equipment and unused, unexpired surplus medical supplies, and medical and nursing textbooks. Programs that reuse or recycle medical supplies do not include the disposal of pharmaceuticals, opened sterile packages, or hazardous waste.
There is a recent movement to distribute these resources to underserved areas in the U.S. and internationally. In Connecticut, different organizations accept used medical equipment, repair them, and sell and/or donate them to persons in need. Chariots for Hope accepts used wheelchairs, and New England Assistive Technology Center at Oak Hill, as well as the Hospital for Special Care accepts not only used wheelchairs, but other medical eqipment such as tub benches, canes, rollator walkers, ramps and raised toilet seats. Recovered Medical Equipment for the Developing World (REMEDY) accepts all medical supplies such as gloves, sutures, drapes, gowns and many other items, prepared but not used during a medical procedure, for the purpose of global aid.
Mercury fever thermometers are easy to identify since they have a distinct, grayish-silver liquid in the bulb. If the liquid in the thermometer is red, it is alcohol, not mercury, and may be disposed of in the regular trash.
Each mercury fever thermometer contains about ½ gram of liquid mercury. Mercury thermometers should not be thrown in the trash. Mercury thermometers are accepted at household hazardous waste (HHW) collections. Contact your town recycling coordinator or check the DEEP website for a schedule of HHW collection days.
Traditional circular thermostats contain a sealed glass "tilt switch" that contains several grams of liquid mercury. These thermostats should not be placed in the regular trash. By law, as of July 1, 2014, all mercury thermostats will be prohibited from being disposed as solid waste. Instead, place the thermostat in a secure container (e.g. a leftover plastic food container), and take it to a local household hazardous waste collection center or one-day collection event. To find out about collections in your area, call your town or cityhall and ask to speak to your recycling coordinator, or visit the DEEP’s household hazardous waste web page.
See above under "Light Bulbs".
Pressure Measuring Devices
Devices used to measure pressure, such as barometers, manometers, sphygmomanometers (blood pressure cuffs), and vacuum gauges often contain large amounts of mercury and should not be disposed of in the trash. The mercury is typically visible as a bright silver liquid. Take these items to a local household hazardous waste collection center or one-day collection event. To find out about collections in your area, call your town or city hall and ask to speak to your recycling coordinator, or visit the DEEP’s household hazardous waste web page.
Electrical switches and relays
Some chest freezers, pre-1972 washing machines, sump pumps, electric space heaters, clothes irons, silent light switches, and automatic car hood and trunk lights contain mercury switches or relays. These devices typically contain up to 3½ grams of liquid mercury, and should not be disposed of in the regular trash.
If you need to dispose of an item that you suspect may have one of these sensors, check with your recycling coordinator at your local town or city hall and find out if they collect "white goods" at your transfer station or landfill. If they do, then the mercury switch or relay, and any other hazardous components may be removed prior to recycling the appliance as a scrap metal.
Pilot light sensors
Some gas appliances such as stoves, ovens, clothes dryers, water heaters, furnaces and space heaters have a pilot light sensor that contains mercury. If you have an old appliance that you suspect may have one of these sensors, check with your recycling coordinator at your local town or city hall and find out if they collect "white goods" at your transfer station or landfill. If they do, then the pilot sensor and any other hazardous components may be removed prior to recycling the appliance as a scrap metal.
If you have one or more pilot light sensors to dispose of, call your town or city hall and talk to your recycling coordinator about household hazardous waste collection services in your area, or visit the DEEP’s household hazardous waste web page.
Household "do-it-yourselfers" often generate used oil and filters from the maintenance of cars, trucks, lawn and garden equipment, and recreational vehicles. Connecticut law requires every town in the State to provide its residents with a way to properly dispose of the used oil generated by their residents. Most towns meet this requirement by providing an oil collection tank at the town transfer station or recycling facility for their residents to use. Some Household Hazardous Waste Collection may also accept used motor oil. In addition to collecting "do-it-yourselfer" (DIY) oil, many towns also collect used oil filters. Check with the recycling coordinator at your town or city hall for information on the services available in your area.
If your town does not accept used oil or filters, check with a local service station or an Auto Parts Store to see if they will accept it. Used oil may never be disposed of in the trash. Filters may be disposed of in the trash, but should be punctured and drained for 24 hours first. Be sure to collect the oil that drains from the filter, and place it in the same container as your used oil.
You should never do any of the following:
- Never mix DIY oil with antifreeze, other vehicle fluids, or hazardous waste;
- Never burn DIY oil in residential boilers or space heaters;
- Never pour DIY oil into sewers or storm drains;
- Never dump DIY oil on the ground, use it for weed control, or to keep dust down.
For more information, see the DEEP’s "Do-it-Yourselfer" Used Oil Fact Sheet and EPA's Guidance document about preventing PCB contamination issues.
The best option for the environment is to reuse nursery pots and trays. Sanitize them first in a solution of 1 part chlorine bleach to 10 parts water in order to kill any plant pathogens. If you have more pots than you can reuse, offer them to your local garden club or post them on FreeCycle. Some nursery and garden centers will take them back, but call ahead to confirm. At this time, they should not be put in the recycling bin.
One local nursery supplier, Griffin Greenhouse & Nursery Supplies, has begun a plastic pot and tray recycling pilot program in CT for their clients. Their clients (local nurseries and garden centers) can become collection points for certain types of used pots & trays. Griffin will then recycle them with a manufacturer of plastic products, Myers Industries. Ask your local garden center if they are participating, and if not, encourage them to do so by giving them this brochure. The more nurseries that become Griffin clients and who participate in the program, the more options consumers will have for recycling pots. Griffin will not accept pots and trays directly from consumers, just their clients who purchase nursery supplies from them.
On occasion, homeowners may have items that are too large to fit in their regular trash container, or that are too large for trash collectors to lift or place in the hauling vehicle.
Although procedures vary from town to town, most towns have disposal services for these items. Some towns will collect these items curbside, although you may have to call ahead for a pickup. In other towns, pickups are scheduled on certain days. Some towns require that you bring such items to the local transfer station. Check with the recycling coordinator at your town or city hall for information on the services available in your area.
See also Mattresses.
Packing peanuts is the common name for polystyrene loose fill. If saving packing peanuts at home for reuse in a future project isn’t for you, there are several other options. Shipping companies (e.g. UPS Store, The Handle With Care Packaging Store, and PakMail) will often accept clean packing peanuts back for reuse or recycling.
The EPS Industry Alliance promotes the reuse of polystyrene loose fill. They offer drop off centers around the country, including multiple locations in Connecticut. Use their drop-off location finder, or call them at 1-800-828-2214.
Sonoco, 29 Park Street, Putnam, CT (860) 928-7795 - This location will accept packing peanuts and regular Styrofoam (e.g. the solid, molded pieces of Styrofoam that comes with products like tools and appliances) as long as it is not contaminated. They will not accept used Styrofoam food or beverage containers.
Lastly, Dart Container, a manufacturer of Styrofoam containers, will accept packing peanuts from the public. Although none of their locations are currently located in Connecticut, the Town of Greenwich has directly partnered with Dart Container, so Greenwich residents may recycle packing peanuts and regular Styrofoam at their local transfer station.
Many homes built prior to 1978 have lead-based paint on interior or exterior surfaces. Great care must be taken when removing paint to prevent this material from being released inside the home, or to the environment. For information on the proper removal of lead-based paint, see Renovation & Demolition: Environmental, Health & Safety Requirements You Should Know About. Additional information may be found on the Connecticut Department of Public Health's Lead Program website.
Lead-based paint wastes generated by homeowners are considered "Household Hazardous Waste" and should be taken to a local Household Hazardous Waste collection center or one-day collection event. For information on household hazardous waste services in your area, call your local recycling coordinator, or check the DEEP's household hazardous waste web page.
Latex and Oil-Based
As of July 1, 2013, thanks to a program established by paint manufacturers, there are three options for residents to dispose of oil-based and latex paint:
- Household Hazardous Waste Collections - HHW programs have always accepted oil-based paint and will continue to do so. However, some are now choosing to accept latex paint as well. Please contact your town recycling coordinator or public works department or HHW program for more information.
- Municipal Transfer Stations – Some municipal transfer stations will accept latex and oil-based paint for town residents. Check with your municipal recycling contact to see if your town will accept paint.
- Participating Retailers – There are paint retailers that will accept oil and latex paint of any brand at their stores. PaintCare maintains a webpage to locate a participating retailer near you. View this 40-second humorous video informing CT residents how they can recycle their unwanted leftover paint for free.
Dispose of pesticides at your local Household Hazardous Waste collection center or one-day collection event. For information on household hazardous waste services in your area, call your local recycling coordinator, or check the household hazardous waste collection schedule.
It is recommended that you do not put dog and cat feces in your home compost pile because it may contain parasites, bacteria, pathogens and viruses that are harmful to humans. These may or may not be destroyed by composting. Put dog and cat feces in a plastic bag and set it out with the trash. Did you know that your dog’s waste can be a health risk and source of water pollution? Learn more from these resources:
- Give a Bark for a Clean State Park (P2View Article, CT DEEP)
- NonPoint Source Pollution Education: Managing Pet Waste (MA DEP)
- Scoop the Poop (TAPP-Think About Personal Pollution)
According to the Product Stewardship Institute (PSI), 660,000 tons of phone books end up in landfills and incinerators across the country because people do not recycle them. And a report from EPA found that not publishing a phone book reduces greenhouse gages by about 3 times as much as recycling (compared to landfilling). CT state law (specifically, CGS Section 22a-256ee) requires phone book companies to retrieve at least 30% of the directories they distribute in CT.
YellowpagesOptOut.com, a consumer choice program that the Local Search Association and the Association of Directory Publishers has launched, provides an easy and secure option for Connecticut residents to control the number of yellow pages telephone directories they receive or stop directory delivery entirely. It is the only industry-approved online site where consumers can connect directly with phone book publishers to share information about their delivery choices. If those directories are just collecting dust, you may want to just say no to yellow.
In Connecticut, each town or community has its own recycling program guidelines. Contact your local recycling coordinator to learn if your recycling program includes telephone books. If not, see if your local school coordinates phone book recycling drives. Some phone companies collect old phone books either by working with towns, or on their own. Look for recycling drop-boxes at municipal recycling centers and in major parking lots for about a month after new phone books have been distributed in your area. Or, consider other practical uses including using pages for fire starters in a wood-burning fireplace or outdoor fire pit. Balled up or shredded phonebook pages also make nice packaging filler in place of problematic polystyrene "peanuts." Phonebook pages can also be shredded and used as mulch to keep weeds down in your garden. The paper is biodegradable and will eventually return back to the soil.
If you live in New London, Middlesex, or Windham Counties, you can take your phone books to collection locations provided by the Berry Company, publisher of the new Frontier Local Shopping Guide. For more information about these collections, see the"Think Yellow, Go Green" Program Flyer."
The dry and wet photographic chemicals used in the development of film and photos in home darkrooms often contain hazardous ingredients. Please read directions carefully on how to use these chemicals properly. Always read the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) for a specific chemical before use. MSDSs are available through photo-chemical suppliers, or on the Internet. When working with any chemical, you must assume responsibility for its safe use and proper disposal.
Disposal of used or unused portions of photo chemicals should be through a household hazardous waste (HHW) collection. Check the household hazardous waste collection schedule for an event near you. For more information about HHW collections, contact your local municipal recycling coordinator.
To learn more about proper handling of photographic chemicals and equipment, see the EPA Fact Sheet, Scientific, Photographic, and Control Equipment Industry: Doing What It Takes to Be WasteWise.
To reduce the number of plastic bags you bring home, use reusable bags. If you already have a large number of plastic bags at home, consider reusing them the next time you go shopping or recycle them only at a participating retail store, municipal recycling center and a private recycler.
Plastic bags are made out of "film" or flexible sheets of plastic. Plastic film is typically defined as any plastic less than 10 mil thick. The majority of plastic films are made from polyethylene resin and are readily recyclable if the material is clean and dry. Participating retailers will accept plastic bags and plastic film, such as shopping, bread or newspaper bags, bubble wrap, packaging pillows, dry cleaner films, and plastic packaging wrapped around cases of bottled water, paper towels, toilet paper and other commodities.
Since plastic bags and plastic films will cause time consuming and expensive jams in the processing equipment at the Intermediate Processing Centers/Material Recovery Facilities, never use plastic bags to contain your designated recyclable items or place plastic films in a single stream recycling bin located either curbside or at your local transfer station. Empty, clean and dry plastic bags and plastic film can be recycled only at a participating retail store, municipal recycling center or a private recycler.
Plastic bottle caps can be harmful to the environment if not properly recycled, but many Connecticut recycling facilities differ on their bottle cap policies. Most threaded (or screw-top) plastic bottle caps, typically from soda and shampoo bottles, squeeze bottles with flip-top lids, peanut butter containers, and laundry detergent bottles, are made from polypropylene plastic #5. Some recycling facilities can’t afford or aren’t equipped to process #5 plastics, so they ask that you remove caps from bottles and throw them away before recycling the bottles. However, many recycling programs are beginning to accept bottle caps.
Which towns recycle bottle caps?To find out what recycling facility/authority your town’s recyclables go to, and what the recycling criteria are for your town, contact your local municipal recycling coordinator.
If you already know which recycling facility/authority takes recycling from your town, look here for its policies:
- Bristol Resource Recovery Facility Operating Committee (BRRFOC), with Tunxis Recycling
- Connecticut Materials Innovation and Resource Authority (CTMIRA)
- Housatonic Resources Recovery Authority (HRRA)
- Town of Wallingford, through Covanta
- Willimantic Paper Waste Co., Inc.
If you live in a town that is NOT participating in the above referenced facilities/authorities, contact your local municipal recycling coordinator for more information.
Your recycling program doesn’t accept plastic bottle caps?
The Aveda Recycle Caps program accepts all rigid plastic caps and lids for collection at Aveda stores and participating salons and schools. Aveda recycles the caps in the U.S. and turns them into new packaging for their products.
Preserve®, along with several other companies, created the "Gimme 5" program, which collects all #5 plastics for recycling, including plastic bottle caps. Mail in your #5 plastic caps, or drop them off in Gimme 5 collection bins, found in select Whole Foods Market locations and in other participating stores.
Because additional viable recycling markets for plastic containers #3 through #7 are beginning to emerge, many Connecticut towns now have programs to recycle those types of containers. Check with your municipal recycling contact to see if your municipality has such a program. If your municipality or waste hauler does not provide for recycling plastics 3-7, the remaining options are somewhat limited (i.e. reuse or disposal).
Here’s why markets for plastic containers #3 through #7 are so challenging:
In order for a material to be recycled there must be 1) markets for the material, 2) an infrastructure in place to recycle the material, and 3) enough generated to make the collection viable.
Different types of plastic resins (PET, HDPE, PS, LDPE, etc.) and different types of plastic containers such as bottles, tubs, cups, etc. generally have different properties such as melting temperature, impact resistance, elasticity, strength, etc. and cannot be recycled mixed together. There are some very limited markets for mixed plastics used to manufacture some types of plastic lumber. However, most plastics need to be separated by resin types and type of container in order to be processed to meet market specifications and be used to make new products. There have been great strides made recently in improving technologies for separating the different types of plastic resins and in addition, much of the plastic we collect for recycling is exported where the plastic is further sorted.
The plastic resins are identified by a resin identification code developed by the Society of the Plastics Industry (SPI) and is usually stamped on the bottom of the container. That code is meant to help identify the type of resin used to make the container and is not necessarily an indication of the container’s recyclability. PET (#1) and HDPE (#2) plastic bottles represent as much 96% of all plastic bottle types -- a large enough part of the container stream to make their collection worthwhile -- which in turn makes them the most widely recycled plastic containers both nationally and in CT. This is one reason why those types of plastics are most commonly included in municipal recycling programs.
There is some good news though for residents who want to recycle more plastic. Some manufacturers have started taking responsibility for the packaging products they produce. One example is Preserve®, which has recently partnered with Stonyfield Farm and Whole Foods Markets to start a "Gimme 5" recycling program for #5 plastic containers (such as yogurt cups). As well, some large CT grocery stores and department stores will take back plastic shopping bags for recycling. And, some CT marinas have recycling programs for boat shrink-wrap.
Do not throw prescription medicines or over-the-counter (OTC) products down the sink or toilet. Although using the toilet or sink prevents someone from accidentally taking the medications, disposing of them in this way causes water pollution and has adverse effects on septic systems, sewage treatment plants, fish and other aquatic wildlife.
Consumers have several options to dispose of medicines and OTC products:
- Put them in the trash following these disposal instructions. In CT, most of our trash is burned at Resource Recovery Facilities at high temperatures that destroy these products.
- Chain pharmacies such as CVS, Walgreens and Rite Aid provide disposal envelopes for prescription and OTC products for a small fee. Ask your pharmacist for details and program restrictions.
- The federal government and some towns offer periodic medicine collections where residents can bring prescription medicines, veterinary medicines and OTC products for safe disposal. But they are not regularly scheduled and are sometimes limited to residents of the sponsoring town. (Medicines cannot be brought to Household Hazardous Waste collections.)
- Many towns have installed special drop boxes for permanent disposal of used medications at local police departments. Use this web tool to look for a drop-off location near you.
Read more information on the proper disposal of these products and other medical waste.
Refillable one-pound propane tanks have become available nationwide through Refuel Your Fun. Before purchasing a new propane tank, consider using a tank/cylinder exchange program such as AmeriGas and Blue Rhino now available at many hardware stores, convenience stores, home improvement stores, and large retailers. Many of these exchange programs will accept old tanks with the purchase of a new, full tank. Take note that some of these exchange companies install valves on their tanks that can only be refilled by that company, meaning that you will be locked into their tank-for-tank service, and won't be able to get the tank refilled at your local propane dealer. Learn more about recycling your propane tank.
Observe the following safety precautions in regard to discarding your old tank:
- Do not throw your tank in the trash.
- Propane is very explosive! Do not attempt to puncture or remove the valve from your tank because tanks usually contain small amounts of propane, even if you think they are empty.
- Take tanks to a municipal recycling program, if available.
- Save for disposal at your local household hazardous waste collection. Call your town or city hall and ask for the recycling coordinator to see if these tanks are allowed at your local collection event.
For more information, see DEEP's web page on recycling propane grill tanks.
Railroad ties were traditionally treated with creosote. Creosote is a dark brown to black, gooey material that is made from a wide range of chemicals and is divided into two types; the more common is created when coal is heated to produce coke (a cleaner burning form of coal) or natural gas. This process produces coal tar creosote, coal tar, and coal tar pitch, which are commonly referred to as creosote.
What can you do with old railroad ties?
First, they should not be used for garden beds or landscaping. They should not be burned in fireplaces or boilers. Coal tar creosote may dissolve in water and may move through the soil to the groundwater. Once it is in the groundwater, it may take many years for it to break down. Coal tar creosote can also build up in plants and animals. Exposure can occur through inhalation and/or handling treated wood structures, utility poles or railroad ties. For more information about health related to these materials, go to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (US Department of Health and Human Services) website.
Treated wood of all types can be most responsibly disposed of as follows:
Homeowners engaged in small projects should take treated wood to their local landfill or transfer station and place it in the designated location (i.e., the non-clean wood pile).
Contractors, utilities, and manufacturers should contract directly with a DEEP permitted bulky waste landfill, or send it to an out-of state wood burning facility appropriately equipped and permitted to burn treated wood.
Learn more about Green Building: Proper Use and Disposal of Treated Lumber
Satellite dishes can be reused or recycled quite easily. There are several options for these items including giving them back to the dish companies, donation to a recycling center, selling online, or reuse of the dish for something else. Some satellite companies, such as Dish Network, want the dishes returned for reuse or recycling. If the company won’t take it back there are some recycling centers or transfer stations that will accept large appliances. Contact your local recycling coordinator to see if your town accepts satellite dishes. If you’re feeling creative, learn how to make a bird bath, garden planter, solar cooker or Wi-Fi antenna from your old dish!
Sharps used at home are not regulated as biomedical waste. However, throwing them in the household trash or flushing them down the toilet presents serious risks for both you and others who may come in contact with such items. Improper disposal of sharps can lead to:
- Needle-stick injuries that cause infection and spread disease;
- Injuries to curious children, waste haulers, recycling workers, and animals; or
- Needles washing up on our beaches and riverbanks.
Instead, the DEEP recommends checking with your supplier (i.e. your physician, local hospital, or pharmacy) to see if they are willing to accept properly packaged used sharps. Some companies offer mail-back disposal services to their customers. See DEEP's "Sharps" Brochure for more detail on proper sharps disposal.
To properly dispose of sharps/needles:
- Seal them in rigid, puncture-resistant containers that you can’t see through (i.e. bleach or detergent bottles, coffee cans, etc.);
- Label the containers "Do Not Recycle;" and
- Reinforce containers with heavy-duty tape before throwing them in your household trash.
- Throw loose needles in the trash;
- Flush needles down the toilet;
- Place needles in soda bottles, cans, or glass containers; or
- Put sharps containers in the recycling bin.
Personal and/or confidential papers are often shredded. The question is, can these still be recycled? Overall, the answer is yes.
However, many curbside residential programs will not accept or collect shredded paper because it tangles with the other recyclables and may gum up the sorting equipment used at the recycling facility (gets stuck on screens and/or is viewed as contamination by the automated equipment). Contact your local recycling coordinator to verify if they will accept shredded paper.
The length of a paper fiber determines its value. A longer fiber can be used to make a higher-grade paper and can be recycled more times. When paper is shredded, the lengths of the individual paper fibers are actually being cut shorter, thus reducing the future recycling potential of that fiber. So, only shred paper that absolutely needs to be shredded.
If a recycling company offers paper shredding services for a business, they are recycling the paper, but are most likely collecting it in a way that prevents mixing it with other materials that lead to contamination. If it is collected and goes straight to the market, there isn’t the same concern of it gumming up the equipment that separates recyclables.
The most common type of smoke detector is an ionization detector which contains a small amount of Americium 241, a synthetic isotope which emits both alpha and gamma rays. The ingredient is shielded by a metal chamber within the plastic casing of the detector. This material poses little threat to human health or the environment. That said, the Department encourages finding alternatives to throwing smoke detectors in the trash (see below for suggestions). Unfortunately, these items are not accepted at most household hazardous waste collections. To be sure, call your local recycling coordinator.
There is at least one company, Curie Environmental Services, that accepts any brand of smoke alarm for recycling. For a nominal fee, the company will disassemble the smoke detector and recycle the components instead of disposing of them as hazardous waste. They accept items from residential, commercial, institutional, and government sources. Visit their website for pricing and shipping instructions.
Manufacturers of smoke detectors are not required to accept these items for disposal or recycling, but if you are persistent in your request, most will. Homeowners should contact the manufacturer by phone for instructions on how to mail back used smoke alarms. Do not mail back the smoke alarm without first calling the company or you will run the risk of having the item returned to you! The following is a partial list manufacturers. Look on the smoke detector itself for manufacturer contact information.
- American Sensors (1-800-387-4219), 557 Long Road, Pittsburgh, PA 15235
- Code One/Firex/Maple Chase, No longer made - acquired by Kidde (1-800-880-6788), 2820 Thatcher Road Downers Grove, IL 60515
- First Alert/BRK Brands (1-800-323-9005)
- Life Saver/Kidde/Frynetics, Inc. (1-800-880-6788), 1055 Stevenson Ct. Suite 102 W. Roselle, IL 60172
- Safety's Sake/Funtech (1-800-877-1250), 388 N Elliot Creek Road Amherst, NY 14228
Thermometers and Thermostats
See Mercury-Containing Products.
When purchasing new tires, the old tires can be left at the retail store. However, the retailer will usually charge you a nominal fee to cover their disposal costs. Many municipal recycling facilities accept tires, preferably without rims. There are also private facilities that accept tires.
Many toner and ink cartridges can be refilled and reused at least 6 times. Many retail stores such as Best Buy, Target, Staples, and Office Depotor on-line retailers like Quill.com will either refill your cartridge or provide payment or credits when you recycle cartridges. Some companies such as Hewlett Packard, Epson, and Xerox provide recycling services for their own cartridges. These services often involve ordering a prepaid envelope to mail cartridges directly back to the manufacturer.
Due to their size and potentially hazardous contents, underground storage tanks (USTs) and associated piping should be removed and properly disposed of by competent professionals, in accordance with the requirements of the local fire marshal. All USTs and associated piping must be properly emptied, cleaned, and rendered inert before transportation off-site, and must be hauled to a scrap metal yard or other facility equipped for approved UST disposal. USTs that are not prepared in this manner pose a serious threat of explosion or fire. View more information on USTs.
A number of companies including GreenDisk and the CD Recycling Center recycle VHS tapes, DVDs, CDs or cell phones. Ask them about minimum quantities and the condition of materials they will accept for recycling.
Currently there are no programs in place that collect filters that were connected directly to a faucet or used within a pitcher system. However, some manufacturers have programs, are starting programs, or are being asked to start recycling programs. Take Back the Filter is working to recycle Brita and Pur filters.
Plastic wrappers from chips, candy bars and other snacks are being collected and made into new products including bags and home décor. TerraCycle will accept your wrappers for recycling – and may even pay you! These programs are mostly set up for schools or non-profit organizations to raise funds for themselves or a charitable organization. These businesses also collect other materials including corks, men’s ties and yogurt containers to make bags, pouches and other products from our indulgences.
Most yoga mats are made from PVC (poly vinyl chloride) with others made of plastic, latex and more greener choices including jute, natural rubber and wood pulp. Many of these yoga mats can be reused or recycled. If your mat is still in decent shape, consider donating it to a community center that offers yoga or exercise classes, or contact the nearest yoga studio. Other reuses? Animal shelters will sometimes accept them to use in cages. To recycle mats, contact Recycle Your Mat. You can mail your yoga mat to them, or look for a studio near you.
Disclaimer: The Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) maintains the content on this web site to enhance public access to information and facilitate understanding of waste reduction, reuse and recycling. The DEEP is not recommending these resources over any others and recognizes these represent only a partial listing of resources on this subject.
Content Last Updated June 19, 2020