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Don’t toss those batteries: common household goods that can be recycled

You’ve got your kitchen recycling program on lock. You’ve memorized the kinds of plastics your service accepts.

You can break down a cardboard container in five seconds flat. You’re considering starting a side business manufacturing fully recyclable pizza boxes. You’re basically recycling royalty.

It’s when it comes to the other parts of your home that things get tricky. Items like light bulbs, batteries, and electronics do best when recycled, but it’s not always as simple as pitching them in the bin and calling it a day.

You might have to go out of your way to get these products to the proper facility. But it’s worth it when you consider that you may be saving literally tons of garbage from our landfills and keeping toxic chemicals out of our soil and water to boot!

Here’s how to responsibly dispose of several common household items.

Ink Cartridges

According to waste management providers, North America chucks more than 350 million printer cartridges a year—in other words, about one million a day.

Needless to say, that looks pretty bad for our collective recycling record. And as if that wasn’t enough, some cartridges contain toxic chemicals that can leach out into waterways too.

All of that waste can be avoided, though. Retailers like Best Buy, Staples, Cosco and Office Depot all have cartridge recycling programs and will accept used items in-store or through the mail. Some even reward customers that bring back cartridges with cash or credits!

Your printer manufacturer may have their own program too—both HP and Epson accept spent cartridges, and will even pay for the shipping. That’s a pretty sweet deal for just a tiny bit of effort!

Household Batteries

Not only is it environmentally irresponsible to throw batteries in the trash, in some states, it’s actually illegal. Small alkaline batteries—the kind you use for remote controls and flashlights—may be made with heavy metals like nickel, lead and mercury.

Newer batteries largely rely on less harmful alternatives, but you’re still better off recycling. After all, many of the extracted materials in batteries can be used for completely new products.

Place your batteries in a plastic ziplock bag and take them to a nearby hazardous waste facility or recycling center. Not sure how to find one of those? Use Earth 911’s search tool to locate the closest facility to you.


These days it seems like you have to buy a new device every two or three years if you want to keep up with technology. Not only is that tough on your budget, it’s pretty bad for the environment, too. Discarded electronics, or e-waste, as it’s called, is a huge problem—literally.

In fact, the US generated about 3.4 million tons of discarded electronics in 2012, and less than a third of that was recycled. Like those older batteries, computers and other electronic devices often contain chemicals like lead, cadmium, mercury and chromium. These substances break down into the soil and can pollute rivers and water supplies—so they’re a lot better off in safer hands.

If the device or appliance contains still works, reset it back to the factory settings and donate it to a resale center like Goodwill. Not working? Some retailers offer their own recycling programs—for instance, Best Buy accepts many different kinds of used electronics and appliances. Staples offers a similar program for computing equipment and cell phones and even lets you trade old devices for new ones. Now there’s some incentive for you!

Light Bulbs

Just changed the light bulbs in your home? Step away from that trash can! CFLs and fluorescent bulbs contain small amounts of mercury, meaning they can’t go to the dump like any other light bulb.

Luckily, Best Buy, Lowes, Home Depot and other home good retailers accept used CFLs in-store. You may also want to consider replacing existing bulbs with LEDs—these days there are even LED replacements for fluorescent bulbs!

LEDs do not contain mercury (although they should still be disposed of at a recycling center), and they last significantly longer than older bulbs, which means less to throw away. Once you get some of these in your home, you can officially reclaim your recycling cache!