ASK EARTHA: Town Clean-Up and Disposing of Household Hazardous Waste

 In Ask Eartha

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 at the SCRAPHousehold 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, cell phones, chargers, TVs, and tangled cords – are electronic waste or e-waste. Both HHW and e-waste material 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 breakdown or get damaged, which can cause harmful toxins such as mercery 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 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and Saturday 7 a.m. to noon. Check out the full list of accepted and not accepted HHW materials on High Country Conservation Center’s (HC3) 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 HC3’s HHW page.

Purging our closets can result in piles of clothing in varying conditions. While not the necessarily the hazard your other items may be, we should still be consciousness 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 away or selling them, or donate 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 good condition clothes, footwear, and household linens to the SCRAP… For more ways you can donate and recycle your clothing, check out a this article from the Ask Eartha archive.

Town Clean-Up
With projects done and closets clean, grab your friends and move your efforts outdoors. Town Clean-Up is going on May 15th-23rd, 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 clean-up 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.

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

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