If you’ve taken advantage of the recent warm weather to clean out your garage, attic or basement, or if you’ve recently completed a home remodeling project, chances are you’ve ended up with some unusual, or unusually large or awkward, waste.
Thankfully, there are plenty of opportunities to keep your curb free of the items the garbage hauler just won’t take. Many items can be donated, but it’s also important to safely dispose of potentially hazardous materials, and you might not even know certain items are hazardous, of course.
If you’re still confused and not knowing what to do with certain castoffs, here’s some help. Our question was ARE YOU STUCK WITH … ? and our answers are the best we can find. The good news is the most common answer is no.
1. PAINT? No. Those cans filled with colors from the kitchen renovation your wife had you finish three years ago can be safely put out with your household trash.
William Feher, solid-waste division supervisor with the Dallas Area Municipal Authority, recommends opening the paint can and mixing in cat litter or an oil-drying compound and allowing the paint to dry completely and placing it next to your garbage bags or cans.
“Underneath Department of Environmental Protection guidelines, some paints are considered hazardous waste. However, if you’re a homeowner, it’s considered household hazardous waste,” Feher said.
Beth DeNardi, recycling coordinator for Luzerne County, said cat litter or sand can be used to dry out paint. Luzerne County officials suggest placing no more than two paint cans next to your trash bags for each scheduled pickup. Paint cans must not be hidden in regular garbage bags.
2. LIGHT BULBS? Yes, at least for a while. The Environmental Protection Agency recommends recycling all light bulbs that might contain mercury, including fluorescent bulbs, but recycling opportunities for those long, older tube bulbs, which often come out of drop ceilings, are becoming less available each year, even though they qualify as hazardous waste.
Household waste is generally excluded from regulation as hazardous waste, Feher said. “Regular household bulbs can go into the garbage,” he added but suggested that residents seek out a municipality-driven spring cleanup or bulk-waste event to get rid of them as safely as possible.
“The county would like to reach out to the municipalities and see if there are any ideas that we can take on collectively to do anything for fluorescent lights,” DeNardi said. Until a solution is put in place, she said, “we suggest calling a Lowe’s or a Home Depot.”
We’ve done that, however, and were told recycling opportunities for tube bulbs were no longer available.
3. AIR CONDITIONERS/REFRIGERATORS? No. Air conditioners and refrigerators still in working order are among the many unwieldy items you might want to consider donating to the Salvation Army.
If your fridge or AC is roasted, toasted and burnt to a crisp, you’re much better off having the Freon removed by a licensed agency. After that’s done, make a local scrap-metal recycling business your next stop.
“Absolutely anything made out of metal can be brought to us,” said John Allan, president of Allan Industries, a metal-only recycling center on Allan Road and Route 309 in Wilkes-Barre Township.
Common items taken to scrap-metal recycling centers include aluminum cans and siding, copper, brass, stainless steel and more. After 63 years in business, Allan Industries has handled some unusual recycling requests, including part of an airplane removed from a crash site, towers for telephone wires and interstate road signs and poles.
Aside from saving space in a landfill, scrappers can earn a bit of income. Allan said the going rate for aluminum is 60 cents per pound. Copper and brass go for an average of $2.60 and $2 per pound, respectively.
4. FURNITURE? No. The Salvation Army also lists a wide number of furniture items that can be donated to its Family Stores. Proceeds from the sale of those items benefits the Salvation Army’s Adult Rehabilitation Centers.
Items from single to king-size beds, futons, couches, armoires, coffee tables, desks, filing cabinets, recliners, high chairs and more are acceptable, according to the organization’s donation guide.
If you can’t get it to a donation site yourself, call 1-800-SA-TRUCK to schedule a time when the Salvation Army can pick up your items.
Donated items should be in good condition. If you wouldn’t let your own mother sit on that old couch from your dorm room, why should you expect anyone else to?
Another option for unwanted furniture is a local theater. Certain theaters often will take furnishings for sets. Calling around is your best bet.
5. COUNTERTOPS AND OTHER HOME-IMPROVEMENT CASTAWAYS? No. If you’ve just wrapped up a remodeling project and are looking to unload used cabinets, doors and more that are still in good condition, be sure to connect with the ReStore.
An arm of Wyoming Valley Habitat for Humanity, the ReStore, 421 W. Main St., Nanticoke, is a recycling center for certain building materials.
“All of the material that we get is donated, and we sell it to the general public at a reduced rate,” said Karen Evans Kaufer, executive director of the local Habitat branch. Some of those items are donations that were not used in new construction projects and may even include donations of brand-new materials offered to Habitat for Humanity from area hardware shops, Kaufer said.
“There are lots of unique treasures there. The merchandise changes every day depending on our donations,” Kaufman said.
Common items include molding, light fixtures, cabinets, windows and doors, Kaufman said.
Donations are accepted at the ReStore shop itself.
Profits go directly toward building projects for Wyoming Valley Habitat for Humanity’s partner families. Eligible families in need must reside in Luzerne County for at least one year, earn 30 to 60 percent of the median income of the county based on the size of your family and must complete 300 hours of “sweat equity,” essentially time completed to help build their future home.
For more information, call the ReStore at (570) 258-0998 or get details on volunteer and family partner opportunities at (570) 820-8002.
What if the items are not in good condition? A Dumpster or Bagster may be a better option. (See the related box.)
6. ELECTRONICS? No. Upgrading your tech? Don’t dump it on the curb. According to new rules in Pennsylvania, careless disposal of electronic waste could land you in trouble.
Desktop and laptop computers, monitors, televisions and other related components cannot be placed with traditional municipal waste, according to new regulations that went into effect on Jan. 24.
The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection says consumers might find opportunities to recycle old phone, computers and televisions at local retailers. If they don’t, the state’s Covered Device Recycling Act requires many retailers to offer information on how and where to recycle such devices.
Counties in Northeastern Pennsylvania also have organized large e-cycling days, including two events conducted by Luzerne County. Today, recyclable electronics can be brought to the Butler Township Fire Hall, 14 W. Butler Drive, Drums, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Another e-cycling collection is set for 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. June 15 at Hanover Area Junior-Senior High School, 1600 Sans Souci Parkway, Hanover Township.
For more information, call 1-800-821-7654 or visit www.luzernecounty.org.
A number of electronic devices, including CD and DVD players or computers, also can be donated to the Salvation Army.
7. MAJOR APPLIANCES? No. That hulking mass of metal you used to call a water heater can fetch a few dollars instead of taking up space in the basement. Allan Industries pays roughly 8 cents per pound for all major appliances. That turns an approximately 150-pound water heater into a quick $12, Allan said.
Scrapping your appliances is a great way to get rid of a dead device, but donation is also an option. Consider sending your old microwave, dishwasher or toaster to its second (or even third) home through the Salvation Army.
8. RECREATIONAL EQUIPMENT? No. Is it time to say goodbye to that pair of skis forever hanging in the back of the garage and the treadmill with a layer of dust on it thicker than the layer of icing on the last cupcake you ate?
Thankfully, the Salvation Army accepts such exercise-related equipment, according to its donation list. Just make sure you take all of your clothes off the treadmill before you donate it.
For metal barbells, weight benches and more, another trip to the scrap yard may be in order.
9. CARPETING? Maybe. Carpeting is considered municipal bulk waste. Some municipalities require bulk-item stickers for large items, such as rolled carpet and more. Be sure to check with your waste-removal agency for the best practices.
10. AND EVEN THE KITCHEN SINK? No. A large ceramic sink likely would be considered a bulk item that could go to a landfill, Feher advised, and a cast-iron sink would be accepted by a scrap-metal recycler.
“What we suggest is to call the municipality you live in because what works in one town might not work in another,” DeNardi advised as a general rule of thumb.