Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Out with the old as 2013 comes to an end

The dawning of a new year presents an opportune time to consider what we can let go of and how to dispose of these items with minimal negative impact.

Waste Hierarchy

Curbside recyclables
Wisconsin’s recycling law bans certain materials from being thrown away in landfills or incinerators. Many types of paper and containers can be co-mingled for curbside recycling in our community (including newspapers, magazines, cardboard, office paper, junk mail, computer paper, phone books, envelopes, colored paper, file folders, soda carriers, and cereal boxes, bundled in paper bags or cardboard cartons; and glass bottles and jars, aluminum cans and clean foil, tin food cans, and number 1-7 plastic bottles and plastic food type containers co-mingled in clear plastic bags).
Other items that must be recycled are tires, vehicle batteries, household appliances, and motor oil. More recently, the list of banned items has been extended to electronic wastes and oil filters. Yard wastes like grass clippings and leaves must also be recycled.
Grocery bags
A number of grocery stores recycle plastic bags.  Some offer $0.05 discounts for re-using paper 
bags or bringing in your own reusable bags.   (Many communities in California have gone as far as passing checkout bag ordinances to reduce litter and waste, as well as contamination in recycling and composting programs, in turn reducing costs to San Francisco taxpayers. A ten cent charge per checkout bag has been shown to reduce the number of disposable bags used by nearly 70-90%.)
Light bulbs
Many fluorescent bulbs contain hazardous wastes such as mercury at toxic levels. While Wisconsin law does not regulate the disposal of fluorescent bulbs from households, these bulbs should be properly disposed to avoid contaminating the environment and harming human health. Select local hardware and battery stores and waste disposal sites accept compact fluorescent light (CFL) and/or tube fluorescent bulbs.
When a fluorescent bulb breaks in your home, some mercury is released as mercury vapor. After cleaning up all visible pieces of glass and residue, seal in two plastic bags and put it into the outside trash, or other protected outside location, for the next scheduled trash collection.
If every home in America replaced just one incandescent light bulb with an ENERGY STAR qualified CFL, in one year it would save enough energy to light more than 3 million homes. That would prevent the release of greenhouse gas emissions equal to about 800,000 cars.
The materials in dry cell batteries (mercury, lithium, silver cadmium, lead and acids) have the potential to be hazardous wastes if released into the environment when batteries are burned or landfilled. Metals such as silver, cadmium, nickel and lead are also valuable metals that can be recovered for reuse.Reduce waste at the source by buying rechargeable batteries whenever possible. When your rechargeable batteries come to the end of their lifespan, they can also be recycled. Alkaline batteries may be put in the trash, but some battery retailers or other recycling locations may accept alkaline batteries for a small fee.
Major appliances
Major appliances including air conditioners, washers and dryers, freezers, dishwashers, ovens, refrigerators, dehumidifiers, water heaters and microwave ovens (unless the capacitor has been removed) were banned from Wisconsin landfills as of 1991.  The best alternative for safely disposing of an old appliance is to make arrangements with the selling vendor to take care of the old appliance for you. The local waste hauler may be called to pick up NON-FREON appliances, for a pick up charge.
Old or broken microwave ovens require special treatment because some microwave capacitors contain PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls), which can cause adverse health affects if improperly handled or disposed.
Refrigerators and air conditioners contain freon refrigerants such as chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). These chemical refrigerants destroy the earth’s ozone layer, which protect life on earth from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays.
Private citizens are required by state law to recycle electronics. Televisions and other electronics contain valuable, reusable materials. Plastics, glass, scrap metal (including copper and gold), and many other materials can be extracted from old TVs and used to make new products.
Televisions contain harmful materials, including lead, chromium, mercury, and polybrominated flame retardants. If landfilled or incinerated, these chemicals can be released into groundwater, surface water, or the air where they pose a risk to human and environmental health.
Inkjet cartridges
Office supply stores often accept used inkjet cartridges.
Polystyrene foam packing peanuts
If unable to reuse foam packing peanuts, they can be taken to some packaging businesses.  Scientists estimate it takes 2,000 years for styrofoam to decompose in a landfill.
Pharmaceuticals and related compounds have been widely found in wastewater effluent and in surface waters and, in limited cases, groundwater. Researchers are now investigating how some pharmaceuticals and personal care products may harm aquatic life. Additionally, pharmaceuticals are involved in accidental poisonings, medication errors, drug abuse and drug abuse-related crime. Leftover medications (in their original containers) that can be dropped off at Safe Drug Drop locations including select police departments in NE WI.
Used oil and oil filters
Effective January 1, 2011, Wisconsin Act 86 banned oil filters and oil absorbents from landfill disposal.  Wisconsinites previously threw away 9 million oil filters a year with 187,000 gallons of oil in those filters, and 1.6 million gallons of oil in absorbents. Recycling them saves 4.5 million pounds of steel and considerable amounts of crude oil. Recycling just two gallons of used oil can generate enough electricity to run the average household for almost 24 hours. Used oil brought to a collection site can be used as an energy source or re-refined for use as a recycled oil product.  Used, drained, oil filters and oil can be recycled at select auto, salvage or recycling centers.
Propane tanks
Propane tanks  contain a flammable material, so disposal in the trash is not recommended.  Most metal recyclers don’t want them due to the danger of explosion. They are not accepted by the Calumet County Clean Sweep. Tank manufacturers recommend that consumers return
unusable propane tanks to a local propane gas distributor. Consumers may want to consider alternatives to small non-refillable propane tanks due to particular difficulty in disposal.
Hazardous waste

Hazardous wastes are products whose labels include the words: caution, poison, combustive, danger, warning, flammable and corrosive.  Unwanted, unused, or damaged products with these words on the label that are stored in your business, barn, garage, basement, kitchen, storage room, or craft/hobby room can be brought to one of Calumet County’s clean sweep sites. Acceptable materials include, but are not limited to: solvents, pesticides and herbicides (including DDT and chlordane), rodent baits, lead and oil based paints, kitchen and bathroom cleaners, bug sprays and auto products such as old gasoline, transmission fluid and antifreeze.  Since the late 1990′s, Calumet County has operated Clean Sweep programs for the disposal of hazardous wastes from farms, businesses, and households. Participation by residents and agribusinesses is free, while businesses pay a reduced fee.  Programs for urban Calumet County residents are held in April (usually the weekend closest to Earth Day on April 22) in Menasha and Appleton.  Programs in the more rural parts of the county are held the weekend following Mother’s Day, usually in the Town of Harrison and a city.
Clothing and household items
Goodwill Industries, St. Vincent DePaul, and Fox Valley Thrift Store accetp donations of clothing, books, and household items for resale to support their programs.
Many libraries have Friends groups that encourage the tax-deductible donations of books, music, and related items  library's at any time.  Proceeds from the Friends book sales provide additional support to library operations.
New and used home improvement materials
Individual and businesses can donate items as appliances, cabinetry, furniture, doors, flooring, hardware, HVAC, lighting and electrical, lumber, masonry, paint, plumbing, and windows. Through the donation process, tons of materials are diverted from the landfill each year. The Habitat ReStore sells the new and used home improvement materials to the public at discounted prices to benefit the mission of the Greater Fox Cities Area Habitat for Humanity.
Canned and packaged shelf-stable food
Local food pantries publish lists foods in greatest demand. Grow a Row for St. Joe’s is a program designed to encourage the community to grow and donate fresh produce for  St. Joe’s clients. The donations helps give the families of the food program greater nutritional choices. 
Yard debris
In 1993 Wisconsin banned leaves, grass clippings, garden debris, and twigs, brush and branches (6” in diameter or smaller) from going to landfills or incinerators. (Note: stumps, roots or shrubs with intact root ball can still be landfilled or sent to incinerators which burn solid waste to recover energy.) Each year over 300,000 tons of yard materials no longer go to landfills or incinerators in Wisconsin.  Many communities provide collection for yard materials, but the most economical way to handle these materials is to compost them at home. Home composting improves yard and garden soil resulting in potential savings on soil amendments.  State air quality and fire control rules restrict backyard burning and many communities prohibit it entirely.

A listing of locations that accept different categories of recyclables in the Fox Cities area:


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