Ask Eartha: A guide to sustainable spring cleaning |

Ask Eartha: A guide to sustainable spring cleaning

Eartha Steward
Special to the Daily
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Getty Images/iStockphoto | iStockphoto

Dear Eartha,

I have a bunch of old clothing and shoes that are in bad shape, so I don’t want to donate them to the thrift store. What are my other options? — Sydney, Breckenridge

It’s spring, and that means our closets are full of old battered clothes and shoes, our crawl spaces and garages full of paints and cleaners, our electronics are piling up in whatever space is available and expired medications are falling out of our medicine cabinets. This is the time of year that we can safely recycle of all those materials for free!

In the fall of 2014, Summit County voters passed ballot measure 1A, the Safety First Fund. Besides funding the Summit County Ambulance service and upgrading 9-1-1, the Safety First Fund provided money to improve the county’s water quality. How does this relate to recycling my household cleaners and medications? Well, a lot of that material ends up in our waterways because people flush liquids down the toilet assuming it will be cleaned up somewhere else down the line. While wastewater treatment facilities do a great job of cleaning up the water, the increased levels of hazardous materials in the system creates additional stress on equipment and puts employees at increased risk. If we trash those materials in the landfill or illegally dump them in the great outdoors, it’s more likely that they will make their way into the water system, causing public and wildlife safety issues.

So, the Safety First Fund provides the opportunity for Summit County residents to safely dispose of and recycle hazardous materials for free! Saturday, May 21 at the Summit Stage Bus Barn in Frisco, the county will be collecting electronic waste, household hazardous waste (HHW), textiles and pharmaceuticals for proper disposal. Just queue on up with your car full of materials you’re currently sitting on, and the county will do the rest! If you’re unable to make the event on Saturday, don’t worry. The Summit County Resource Allocation Park accepts these same materials Monday through Friday from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Saturdays from 7:30 a.m. to 12 p.m.

What exactly is HHW? Household hazardous waste items include paints, stains, pesticides, fertilizers, cleansers, solvents, adhesives and mercury thermometers and switches. To properly dispose of them, materials must be in their original containers and/or clearly labeled. HHW items not accepted at the collection event include antifreeze, fluorescent bulbs, gasoline, kerosene, batteries and motor oil (These can be taken directly to the SCRAP Monday through Saturday). Items not accepted at the SCRAP or at the event include explosives, ammunition, infectious waste, propane tanks and radioactive materials.

Electronics are pretty simple and include TVs, computers, tablets, printers, fax machines, phones and accessories. All personal data will be destroyed by a certified electronics recycler, so you can rest assured your information will not be compromised.

Bring your old medications, too. Expired or unused medications that are left in medicine cabinets are highly susceptible to misuse or abuse not to mention the water quality problems associated with flushing. More than 40 percent of Colorado teens say it’s easy to get prescription drugs from their parents’ medicine cabinets. Accepted pharmaceutical items include prescription medications, over-the-counter medications, medication samples, vitamins, prescribed narcotics, medicated lotions and ointments, inhalers, liquid medications in leak-proof containers and unopened transdermal skin patches. No sharps or medical waste, please.

New this year, the county will be accepting textiles. What is a textile? It includes worn-out clothes, shoes, accessories (e.g., hats, handbags, belts), towels, bedding, drapes and linens. Carpet and pillows are not accepted. Of course, we want to donate clothes in good condition to our local thrift stores; however, if your textiles are no longer wearable, this is a great place for them to go to be remade into dog beds, car parts, rags and other products.

Take the time to go through your crawl space, closets, garage and medicine cabinets to collect any old, outdated, overused and defunct material and bring it to the Summit Stage Bus Barn for collection. This is a service free to Summit County residents and greatly increases our public safety, water quality and sanity in our homes. For more information, visit or call the center directly at (970) 668-5703.

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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