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Ask Eartha: Disposing of household hazardous waste

Lisa Hueneke
Ask Eartha
Community members participate in the annual countywide town cleanup in 2018.
Photo from town of Frisco

Dear Eartha, I did so many house and closet cleaning projects during lockdown. Now I am overrun with paint, electronics and clothing — I just don’t know what to do! Are these all trash? Isn’t there usually an annual recycling event I can take these items to?

Finished home projects and cleaner closets always feel great! But knowing what to do with all the stuff leftover from your efforts can be hard. Usually, the annual recycling event hosted by High Country Conservation Center and Summit County government is just the time to drop off these items. The recycling event isn’t happening this May, but look out for a rescheduled event date to be announced soon. So, what can you do with those items in the meantime?

Household Hazardous Waste

Paints, fertilizers, motor oil and aerosols are considered household hazardous waste (HHW in industry lingo). Our once-favorite gadgets and all the things that came with them — computers, cellphones, chargers, TVs, and tangled cords — are electronic waste or e-waste. Both household hazardous waste and e-waste materials need to be properly disposed of. In fact, it’s illegal to throw these materials in the trash or dump them at the drop-off recycling centers. These items can contain combustible materials, making them potential fire hazards. With a below-average snowpack and a forecast for a drier summer ahead, we especially don’t want to increase our fire risk. Electronics are also a hazard when they break down or get damaged, which can cause harmful toxins such as mercury and lead to leak-out.



You can understand how important it is to not trash these materials, so let’s all do our part! Summit County residents can bring these items year-round for free to the Summit County Resource Allocation Park (SCRAP) Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and Saturday from 7 a.m. to noon. Check out the full list of accepted and not accepted household hazardous waste materials on High Country Conservation Center’s website.

Prescription Medication Drop-off

If you’re home cleaning included bathroom cabinets, you likely have old or expired medications or prescriptions you no longer want. These can present their own kind of hazard by ending up in others’ hands or being flushed down the toilet where they could find their way into our waterways. There are three take-back locations around the county where you can bring your unwanted medications to be safely disposed of. Locations and more information on this take-back program can also be found on the center’s household hazardous waste webpage.



Clothing

Purging our closets can result in piles of clothing in varying conditions. While not necessarily the hazard your other items may be, we should still be conscientious of where our old clothing goes. Stained or ripped clothing should be thrown away. Better yet, find a way to repair or reuse it, such as turning T-shirts into rags or using old sheets as a drop cloth for other projects. For wearable items in good condition, try giving them away, selling them or donating to local thrift stores (make sure you double check what’s accepted first, and be respectful to not drop off unwanted items). You can also take clothes, footwear and household linens that are in good condition to the SCRAP. For more ways you can donate and recycle your clothing, check out this article from the Ask Eartha archive.

Town Cleanup

With projects done and closets clean, grab your friends and move your efforts outdoors. Town cleanup is going until May 23, giving you a full week to get out there and make our communities beautiful for summer. The towns of Blue River, Breckenridge, Dillon, Frisco and Silverthorne are providing the bags and gloves you need to safely pick up trash. Visit HighCountryConservation.org/calendar for links to specific information for each town. And be sure to share your best cleanup photo on Instagram and tag your town’s account to be entered to win some great prizes.

An Eartha tip: A great way to avoid excess household waste — whether electronics or clothing — is to simply buy less in the first place. In the meantime, I look forward to seeing everyone at the next recycling event! And remember, you can feel even better about checking off your project to-do list when you take the important last step to dispose of unwanted items responsibly.


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