How to Reduce the Toxicity of Trash

3 steps to save the environment by polluting with less trash

The amount of trash you throw away can be reduced by reusing, recycling and composting. But as for the trash that you still have to throw in the landfill, you can take steps to reduce the toxicity of it. By using fewer toxic chemicals, donating or recycling certain electronic items and properly disposing of all other hazardous substances at designated collection sites, you can make the trash you toss less harmful to the environment.

Step 1: Buy fewer toxic chemicals

Throwing less toxic waste into the trash begins with purchasing less toxic materials. Look for natural cleaning products made with plant oils instead of man-made chemicals. Use natural compost, which you can make at home, in your yard or garden instead of chemical fertilizers. Purchasing rechargeable batteries greatly reduces the amount of battery acid chemicals that get dumped into landfills. And water-based paints are much better for the environment than oil-based ones.

Step 2: Donate or recycle electronics

Electronic devices have high levels of toxins in them, so it's very important that they're disposed of in an ecologically-friendly way. Companies like Verizon Wireless will accept old cell phones and cell phone batteries and will either dispose of them properly or refurbish them. Proceeds from refurbished phones go to charity, and the hazardous materials inside the phones and batteries won't wind up in landfills.

The EPA says more and more computer manufacturers and television manufacturers are offering similar tak- back programs or recycling services. Many charities will accept old computers, since they can also be refurbished and re-used, or sold for parts.

Step 3: Use hazardous waste collection sites

In case you weren't aware: disposing of hazardous waste needs to be done in a safe and ecologically sound manner, or else you risk contaminating the environment or, worse, your health. Pouring chemicals down the drain, for example, can contaminate water sources. Disposing of hazardous materials in your yard may contaminate streams and rivers after the rain washes them away. Burning harmful materials can create toxic gases, the inhalation of which may be fatal.

Certain cities have permanent locations that accept hazardous wastes year round. If your city doesn't have a permanent collection site, chances are there are special days when harmful substances are collected. Be sure to keep the hazardous substance in its original container until the designated collection day. Some communities offer centers where harmful chemicals can be re-used. For example, if you have left-over paint, leave it at the hazardous materials site so someone else can use it. Some local automotive service stations will take used motor oil and recycle it for you.

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