When air, water or land becomes polluted, it's often difficult and expensive -- and sometimes impossible -- to clean it up. Preventing pollution is cheaper than either waste management or cleanup. Many household products such as, paint, batteries, hazardous chemicals, compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFL), and even electronics contain toxic elements that can be harmful to the environment, you and your family if not disposed of properly. To ensure a safe and healthy home and environment, follow these tips for disposal and recycling of hazardous household wastes:
Batteries contain lead, mercury, and cadmium. These compounds should not be burned or put in land fills. When burned, these toxic compounds enter the air and food chain. In landfills, they can slowly penetrate ground water.
Chicago now has a city-wide battery collection program where batteries can be dropped off at any Chicago Public Library or Walgreens Drug Store. These locations accept alkaline and rechargeable batteries, but not lead-acid car batteries. Chicago, together with the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA), holds several hazardous household wastes collections annually. These collections accept normal alkaline batteries, rechargeable and car batteries at no charge. For more information on dates and locations of collections visit the IEPA’s website at www.epa.state.il.us/land/hazardous-waste/household-haz-waste/index.html or call City of Chicago Department of Streets and Sanitation at (312) 744-4611. To find a recycling center that accepts batteries in your area, visit www.earth911.org.
Computers, printers, televisions, cellular phones, stereos, fax machines, DVD players and VCRs are all recyclable. Electronics are usually made using hazardous materials such as lead, arsenic, mercury, and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB’s) that should not be dumped in a landfill. Computers alone contain several pounds of lead in each monitor and a variety of other chemicals.
Before throwing out your unwanted electronics, consider giving them to a relative or friend, donating unwanted items to a local charity or recycling them. Many recycling centers in Illinois accept electronics. Some computer manufacturers have created recycling centers for PC’s and have agreements with charities that will accept them. Visit www.epa.state.il.us, www.illinoisrecycles.org/byteback_text.html, www.earth911.org or call the toll-free Environmental Helpline at (888) 372-1996 to search for recycling centers/programs near you.
Paint (non-latex paint)
The IEPA reported that about 25% of the waste it collects at household hazardous waste events is paint. Paint makes up a large portion of hazardous waste that is improperly disposed of. If not properly discarded, waste from paint cans enter
storm drains and flow into rivers and streams, harming aquatic wildlife.
Many paint retailers in Illinois are accepting unwanted paint where it may be reformulated or remixed for reuse. For a list of local retailers accepting paint, visit the IEPA’s Partners for Waste Paint Solutions Program at www.epa.state.il.us/land/citizen-involvement/paint.html or www.epa.state.il.us/land/hazardous-waste for information on the IEPA’s household hazardous waste collection events.