Ask Eartha: It’s time for spring cleaning |

Ask Eartha: It’s time for spring cleaning

A pile of trash bags await collection in Frisco during the countywide cleanup day in May 2014.
Summit Daily file

Dear Eartha,
I’ve been cleaning out my house, and I’ve got a bunch of old paint and two computers. There’s usually a recycling event in spring. What’s going on with that?

As you know, times are anything but usual right now, and gatherings are not currently allowed. That means the annual spring recycling event is postponed; however, Summit County hopes to reschedule the event in fall.

So, what’s a local to do with paint, motor oil and electronic waste? Hold on to that stuff for now during the safer-at-home period. Once physical distancing requirements change, you can take these items to the Summit County Resource Allocation Park. When that time comes, it will still be free for residents to drop off electronic waste, motor oil and other household hazardous waste.

Proper disposal is key

You might be thinking, “Can’t I just trash this stuff?” Nope. Not only is it against the law to throw electronics and hazardous waste in the trash, it’s dangerous. Old electronics might contain lead, mercury or other toxins that can cause serious harm to humans. Once the structure of that old computer monitor becomes compromised, those toxins can be released. I bet you can imagine the fate of a computer monitor in a garbage truck.

Other household hazardous waste can present a fire danger. That might be obvious with things like gasoline or motor oil, but products like aerosol cans can be an issue, too. Whether they contain paint, cleaning solutions or plain old hairspray, tossed aerosol cans might not be completely empty. The last dregs of liquid or propellent can explode when crushed in the back of a garbage truck or at the landfill.

Cleaning out your bathroom cabinet? You might be tempted to pour seemingly harmless items — say, that ancient bottle of gifted lotion — down the drain. But the fact is that many personal care products are filled with chemicals and other ingredients that cause trouble in our waterways.

Next time you gift a bottle of lotion, or purchase your own, consider the ingredients and where they ultimately end up. I use the Think Dirty app — a quick barcode scan lets me know how clean or dirty the ingredients are in my soap, shampoo, lotion and more.

To protect our health, the health of sanitation workers and the health of the environment, take the time to dispose of these items the right way, which means hanging on to them a little longer.

Drug takeback is still available

For many of us, life is extra stressful right now, and it’s more important than ever to ensure that medications don’t end up in the wrong hands.  Although the recycling event is postponed, several locations around the county are still accepting old, unused or unwanted medications.  

The Summit County Justice Center in Breckenridge is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week for drug takeback. Prescription Alternatives in Frisco has a drop-off box available during its normal business hours, and the Dillon Police Department accepts drug takeback by appointment through the nonemergency dispatch number: 970-668-8600.

Furniture and clothing

I know a lot of you are getting rid of old furniture and clothing, too. Many resellers and thrift stores are not currently accepting donations, and clothing recycling is temporarily unavailable at the Summit County Resource Allocation Park. However, ReSaddled Thrift Store is accepting donations by appointment. Wherever you hope to donate, just be sure to do your homework and call ahead.  

Town cleanup week

While you’re in the cleaning mindset, put on your good citizen hat and get outside to help clean up the community, too. Typically hosted in conjunction with the spring recycling event, this year’s town cleanup day has been transformed into a physical distancing town cleanup week.

The towns of Blue River, Breckenridge, Dillon, Frisco and Silverthorne will provide bags, safety vests and gloves. All you need to do is pick up trash. All five communities are offering participants a chance to win gift cards from local businesses. To get entered, you’ll need to post a cleanup picture on Instagram. has links to specific information for each town.

I look forward to seeing everyone rocking their safety vests and posting their trashiest photos online. Because even though we’re physically apart, we can still come together to keep our communities clean and beautiful places to live.

Ask Eartha Steward is written by the staff at the High Country Conservation Center, a nonprofit organization dedicated to waste reduction and resource conservation. Submit questions to Eartha at

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