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Publix GreenWise Market Magazine
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Publix GreenWise Market Magazine- October 2008

Clean Sweep

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Man with Can

Clean Sweep
Rid your home of dangerous waste without putting the environment at risk. Before launching a weekend of tidying cabinets or cleaning out the garage, stop for a refresher course on disposing of the leftover paint, used motor oil and expired medications you’re likely to unearth. Such items are considered “hazardous household waste,” and you may have more of it than you realize.

Properly disposing of such materials isn’t as simple as tossing them in the trash. Careless disposal can have adverse environmental effects.

“When we put things in the trash, we can think they go away, but there is no ‘away,’” says Marie Steinwachs, director of the Missouri Environmental Assistance Center at the University of Missouri Extension in Columbia. “What is put into the environment will come back to us in water, air or food.”
The best way to handle hazardous household waste is to use less in the first place by not overbuying. Carefully calculate just how much paint will coat a room or how much chemical you really need to spread on the lawn.

Never pour hazardous household products down a sink, toilet or bathtub drain, and never dump them into storm drains or on the ground.

Instead, look for a household hazardous waste collection site in your area or see if there’s a special collection day. To find a program near you, contact your local recycling center or solid waste agency.

You can also check for collection sites with Earth 911, an organization that provides recycling and household hazardous waste information. Visit their website at or call 1-800-CLEANUP (1-800-253-2687).


Home & Garden Products
When it comes to home improvement, cleaning and gardening products, Steinwachs suggests asking yourself, “Do I really need this, or is there a safer alternative?” For example, a plumber’s snake or plunger may do the job of a chemical drain cleaner.

After buying a product, try to use it up. Stuck with leftovers? Offer them to neighbors, local businesses or community organizations. A greenhouse, for example, might welcome leftover pesticides.

Used motor oil
It’s a major source of oil contamination in waterways and can end up polluting our drinking water sources. Fortunately, it can be re-refined and continue its useful life as new oil or as a raw material for the petroleum industry.

“Used motor oil is one of the most widely collected household hazardous waste items,” says Anne Reichman, program director of Earth 911. Many  service stations, lube centers and automotive stores will take it. To find a nearby drop-off location, check with Earth 911.

Expired medications
The old advice was to flush any leftover medicines. Now, for the most part, flushing or pouring medications down the drain is out. The latest recommendation is to turn drugs in to community collection programs or carefully dispose of them in the trash.

To safely toss medications, pour liquids or crushed or dissolved pills and capsules into a sealable plastic bag. Add kitty litter, sawdust or coffee grounds to the bag to make the mixture less appealing to children and pets. Seal the bag and place it in the trash. For more information on disposing of medication properly, visit


Leftover paint
“Paint is the number one thing that people bring to household hazardous waste collection sites,” says Steinwachs. Although latex (water-based) paint poses fewer health and environmental risks than oil-based paint, both types should be disposed of carefully. Read and follow the label instructions, and check with your local hazardous waste coordinator about requirements in your area. In some places, you may be allowed to discard dried latex paint.

Some community sites provide swap tables where paint can be left for others to take. “Be sure to have your paint in the original labeled container,” says Reichman. To find a site near you that accepts paint, check with Earth 911.

Americans use up to six wireless gadgets every day, usually powered by rechargeable batteries. While rechargeables are a good choice, they do contain toxic heavy metals such as cadmium, mercury and lead. That’s why it’s not safe to toss them in the trash. Instead, recycle them through the Rechargeable Battery Recycling Corporation, which has collection boxes for batteries and cell phones at more than 30,000 retail and community locations nationwide. To find a collection site near you, call 1-877-2RECYCLE (1-877-273-2925) or go to

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