green cleaning sponge on top of pair of orange cleaning gloves

Rid your home of dangerous chemicals

icons of bug spray, motor oil, 9-volt battery and paintThe can of bug spray on the shelf… the toilet cleaner and drain opener in the cabinet… the old gas, lawn chemicals and paint stored in the garage… these products are all considered hazardous because the chemicals they contain pose a threat to human health and the environment.

Hazardous waste generated at your home is called Household Hazardous Waste (HHW). HHW is any flammable, toxic, corrosive or reactive product labeled “Danger”, “Warning”, or “Caution”, and none of these should be tossed into the regular trash.

Even when used as directed, many household chemicals can endanger health and safety and pose risks to children, pets, communities, wildlife and the environment.

Fortunately, there are convenient ways to safely dispose of your HHW. And for many of these products, there are safe alternatives that are readily available, easy to use, and often cheaper than their more dangerous counterparts.

Safe disposal

Missouri residents who live in Cass, Clay, Platte, Jackson and Ray counties, have access to proper HHW disposal through the Regional Household Hazardous Waste Program. Residents who live in participating communities can dispose of HHW for no cost at one of two HHW facilities or numerous HHW collection events. Missouri residents who don’t live in participating communities can dispose of HHW for a fee at Summit Waste Systems in Lee’s Summit, Missouri.

Kansas residents who live in Johnson, Leavenworth, Miami, or Wyandotte counties can take their HHW to the HHW facility in their county for free.

Please note that these services are for residents only. Any hazardous waste not generated by a resident is classified as business hazardous waste by the states of Kansas and Missouri. This includes businesses, industry, manufacturing, rental property owners, nonprofits, governments, schools, churches, etc. It is illegal for these entities to take their hazardous waste to a residential collection facility or collection event. For more information, visit Business Hazardous Waste.

icons of baking soda, ecofriendly spray bottle, lemon wedge and spray bottleSafe alternatives

There are many safe alternatives to household chemicals. Baking soda, or Borax (a naturally occurring mineral) work well as mild, abrasive cleaners as alternatives to chlorine or silica-based scouring products. White vinegar is an all-purpose cleaner. It can be used on hard surfaces or glass as an alternative to ammonia-based cleaners and other corrosive products. Lemons are highly acidic, which makes them a strong cleaning agent. Plus, they provide a refreshing and clean scent.

For more information, including a list of recipes, visit Safe Alternatives.

Paints

Conventional paints contain several toxic chemicals: volatile organic compounds (VOCs), fungicides, biocides, and chemical pigments. When purchasing paint look for low VOC, low biocides and natural pigments.

Calculate the amount of paint you need for a project before buying to reduce the chance of running out before finishing the job, or having paint left over.

For more information on recycling, visit RecycleSpot.org.

Image of female blowing a dandelion gone to seed, with blowing seeds morphing into recycling symbols/chasing arrows. Photo by Robert Couse-Baker, CC 2.0.

When NOT to recycle

Have you ever put something in the recycling bin that you’re not sure about?

  • If you don’t know if it’s recyclable, but hope it is…
  • If it has a recycling symbol or label on it, so you assume it must be okay…
  • If you’re pretty sure it’s not recyclable, but hope that somewhere down the line someone will be able to recycle it…

…You might be a wishful recycler! You may have the best of intentions, but improper recycling can hurt more than it helps. Take time to learn what CAN be recycled in your area.

If it has a symbol, is it always recyclable?

In a word, no. Just because something has a recycling symbol on it, or says “recycle,” “recyclable,” or “recycled content” does not mean you can definitely recycle it in our metro area.

ChasingArrowQuestionMarkArtboard 1_RSblog-350pxThe numbers you see inside the recycling symbol on plastic bottles are resin codes developed by the plastics industry to help them properly sort plastics for recycling. In the Kansas City metro area, for example, milk jugs (#2) and yogurt containers (#5) are recyclable. However, Styrofoam takeout boxes (#6) and antifreeze bottles (#2) are not. Contact your hauler to find out which types of plastic can be thrown in the bin.

Some items that say they’re “recyclable” may be in other parts of the country, but it might not be true in our area if there is no local end market for reuse, too little value in the material, or both.

“Made from recycled content” doesn’t always mean an item can be recycled again. For example, you may find a ballpoint pen that says it’s “made from recycled bottles.” That’s great— buying recycled is essential to closing the recycling loop — but it doesn’t mean you can recycle the pen.

The unintended consequences of wishful recycling

When you put an item in your recycling bin that isn’t accepted by your curbside program or drop-off facility, you’re merely relocating your trash: now someone at the recycling facility will have to throw that item away. You may also inadvertently contaminate other recyclables in the bin, which can lower their value or negate it entirely.

How? Let’s say you throw a glass pickle jar in your curbside recycling bin, even though your program does not accept glass. As the glass gets crushed in the recycling truck, glass shards and dust contaminate all the other recyclables they touch, lowering their value. Or, let’s say you throw a half-full can of paint thinner in the bin because it comes in a metal can, and your program accepts metal cans. Once that can is crushed in the recycling truck, the paint thinner could contaminate enough of the recyclables that the whole load has to go to the landfill.

What’s the solution?

So, what can you do to avoid “wishful recycling”? Only put items in your recycling bin that your program accepts. To find this information:

  • Contact your hauler or check the label attached to the top of your recycling bin.
  • For plastics, check out our Plastics Recycling page which clearly explains the type of plastics that are and are not recyclable in the Kansas City metro area.
  • Give us a call: (816) 474-8326.

For more information on recycling, visit RecycleSpot.org.

Spring into recycling

Spring has sprung, which probably means you’re itching to get outdoors to clean and landscape your yard. This year, make it extra clean and green by recycling.

Mulch it over

SpringIntoRecycInstead of bagging your grass clippings and leaves, mulch them instead. Mulching provides a natural lawn fertilizer, helps prevent weed growth, conserves water, and protects waterways from stormwater-runoff pollution.

If mulching isn’t an option, you can take your lawn and garden waste to a community collection center. Some yard waste drop-off facilities also offer mulch or compost at low cost. Search RecycleSpot to find a center near you.

A number of communities also offer curbside yard waste collection in addition to regular trash and recycling services.

Search by community in RecycleSpot to see if your city is one of them (and call to verify). If you don’t have municipal leaf and brush curbside collection, there are private companies that also manage lawn refuse. RecycleSpot includes a list of many providers — contact them to find out about costs and procedures.

Spring is a great time to install a compost bin in your backyard. In addition to making a great natural fertilizer, composting is a great way to reduce the 20-30 percent of your household trash that is made up of food waste and lawn and garden waste.

They lurk in your garage

Dangerous lawn and garden chemicals put the health and safety of your family and the environment at risk. Safely dispose of hazardous chemicals through a household hazardous waste program. These programs also take paint, automotive fluids, cleaners, bug sprays, batteries, fluorescent light tubes, compact fluorescent bulbs and other household products labeled danger, warning, or caution.

Pots and trays and bags, oh my!

When you’re done landscaping, recycle your plastic planting pots, trays and landscaping product bags (packaging for mulch, topsoil and other soil amendments). After a quick rinse, pots and trays can be recycled in your curbside bin or be taken to area recycling centers. After a thorough rinse (i.e., they’re 100-percent clean and dry) landscaping product bags can be recycled with plastic bags at your local grocery or “big box” store.

For more information on recycling, visit RecycleSpot, Kansas City metro area’s one-stop spot for recycling, reuse and waste reduction information.

When the lights go out: how to recycle and dispose properly

bulb-87565_1920Many of us have replaced our standard incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent or LED light bulbs. But what do you do with the old bulbs when they burn out? Properly disposing or recycling light bulbs can increase your safety, save energy and help the environment.

Fluorescent bulbs

Both fluorescent tubes and compact fluorescent (“squiggly”) bulbs are hazardous and require special handling. Both types can be recycled through local household hazardous waste programs and at Batteries Plus. Compact fluorescent lights can also be recycled at Home Depot, Lowe’s or other hardware stores. Always call stores first to make sure they participate in recycling programs.

What if bulbs are broken?

The hazardous component of fluorescent light bulbs is the small amount of mercury sealed within the glass tubing. When a fluorescent bulb breaks, some of this mercury is released as mercury vapor. Keep yourself and sanitation workers safe by following proper cleanup procedures.

Incandescent, halogen and LED bulbs

Unfortunately, there are no options to recycle incandescent, halogen and LED (light-emitting diode) light bulbs in the Kansas City metro. Since these types of bulbs do not contain any hazardous materials they can be thrown away in your regular trash. For safety’s sake, place burned out bulbs back in their original packaging or in a plastic bag before throwing them away.

For more information, visit RecycleSpot.org or call (816) 474-8326.

Recycle empty pressurized gas cylinders

Propane tank 20lbWhen your outdoor grill, camping stove or helium tank runs out of gas, what do you do with the empty tank? You can recycle these pressurized gas cylinders, but they require special handling.

Gas Grill Tanks
Outdoor gas grills use propane tanks. When yours runs out of gas, you can exchange it for a full tank at services such as Blue Rhino or Amerigas. Each has locations throughout the metro area, and charges a fee to exchange or buy a new tank. If you want to recycle your old tank without getting a refill, you can either drop it off at one of these tank exchange locations or take it to a scrap metal dealer that accepts pressurized tanks.

Camping Tanks
Camp stoves and lanterns also use propane tanks. Empty tanks are accepted by household hazardous waste facilities and scrap metal dealers. Be sure to call first!

Disposable Helium Tanks
People purchase disposable helium tanks to fill up balloons for special occasions. The companies that sell them generally don’t take them back. Properly prepare the tank for recycling by watching this video, then take it to a scrap metal dealer.

Other Tanks
Pressurized industrial, medical and specialty gas tanks are most often taken back by the company that sells them. Contact the company you purchased yours from to find out about return options.

Always call first!
Always call scrap metal dealers and household hazardous waste facilities first. HHW facilities have size limits and scrap metal dealers have preparation requirements.

For more information, visit RecycleSpot.org or call 816-474-8326.

Stay sharp about glass recycling

shard-8292_1280_webEven if glass is not collected in your standard curbside recycling program, there are many options for recycling and reusing all types of glass in the metro area.

Food and Beverage Containers
Recycle brown, clear, green and blue food and beverage containers in the large, purple Ripple Glass bins located throughout the metro area. If you prefer curbside pickup, both Atlas Glass and KC Curbside Glass provide service throughout the metro area to both residents and businesses for a monthly fee.

Glassware
Donate undamaged dishware, vases, decorative glassware and mirrors to thrift stores. Antique glassware can be sold at antique stores and online.

Sheet Glass

Donate mirrors, glass shelving and various types of glass windows to Habitat for Humanity ReStores. Glass panes or unframed glass can only be accepted if it is new and in its original packaging. For more information on acceptable materials, check ReStore’s donation criteria list.

Fluorescent light bulbs
Fluorescent tubes and compact bulbs (the squiggly ones) have mercury in them, which requires special handling. Both can be recycled through local household hazardous waste programs. Compact fluorescent bulbs can also be recycled at Home Depot and Lowe’s.

Broken glass
With the exception of food and beverage containers, if the glass you want to get rid of is broken, it is not recyclable. Call your trash hauler for pickup of large pieces of broken glass — such as windows, table tops, mirrors, etc. — and verify preparation requirements. A fee may apply. All small, broken glass items and burnt out light bulbs (excluding fluorescent bulbs mentioned above) can be disposed of in the trash. Keep the safety of your sanitation workers in mind and prepare items properly for disposal.

For more information, visit RecycleSpot.org or call 816-474-8326.

Bring good things to life — again — when you recycle your old appliances

Refrigerated-Appliance-BoxModern life would be very different without appliances:  they wash, they dry, they heat, they cool, they slice, they dice, they make julienne fries! But when they stop working and are beyond repair, it’s time to recycle them.  But where?

Large Appliances

The easiest way to recycle large appliances such as washers and refrigerators is to have them removed by the company delivering your new appliance.  They will recycle your old appliance and are required by law to properly dispose of refrigerants.  If you’re installing the new appliance yourself, consider taking the old, nonfunctioning one to a scrap metal dealer, a used appliance dealer, landfill or transfer station. Johnson County, Lee’s Summit, and Courtney Ridge landfills have appliance recycling services. Several transfer stations (a site where recyclables and refuse are collected and sorted in preparation for processing or landfill) have appliance recycling services as well. Always call first.

If your old appliance still works, there may be no need to recycle it. Contact a used appliance dealer or Habitat ReStore (one of our SWMD grantees) to find out if it can be reused.

Small Appliances

Non-working small appliances like hair dryers, microwaves and coffee makers are accepted by a few electronic-waste recyclers such as The Surplus Exchange, Vintage Tech Recyclers, and Computer Recycle USA. If you’re just upgrading and the old one still works, you can also donate it to your local thrift store.

For more information on recycling appliances, visit RecycleSpot.org and search for the appliance you wish to recycle.