Proper household waste disposal is important for health, home value, and the environment. You can do your best to create minimal household waste, but it's bound to build up, so it helps to know how to properly dispose of trash of different types.
Different materials require different waste disposal methods. Disposing of electronics is different from disposing of waste from cooking. Check out our guide to proper waste disposal, from how to compost food scraps, to how to dispose of hazardous waste.
How to Dispose of Food Waste
One of the most common types of waste is food waste. There are lots of great ways to dispose of food waste that reduce the harm done to the planet during disposal. You can create a compost pile or use the food scraps to produce animal feed, but when you do these things, make sure that you're not composting or scrapping anything with meats, oils, or dairy products.
Oil is a tricky one to dispose of, and putting it down your disposal or drain is a big no-no. You'll end up with a plumbing problem on your hands when the oil congeals in the pipes. Instead, put oil in a glass jar or tin can that you don't mind throwing away, let it cool down and harden up, and then you can throw the oil away.
If you have coffee grounds or eggshells, before you throw those in the trash, look around and see if you have any house plans that could use a little extra nutrition.
Coffee grounds and eggshells are great for your plants, so instead of sending those household waste items to the trash, mix them in the dirt of your favorite planter. Another pro tip here, if you boil water to hard boil eggs, let that water cool and water your plants with it. It's super nutritious and you're not wasting water.
If you have a garden, consider making use of food waste as compost rather than discarding it. Organic materials such as fruit rind, onion peels, and shredded paper can be collected in a tub before closing the lid, leaving the material to decompose.
This can then be added to the soil you use for gardening to provide nutrients, which will aid the growth and quality of your plants. This type of waste disposal is a form of recycling if you grow fruit and vegetables.
Crushed eggshells can also be added to the compost to reduce the pests that affect your plants. For example, slugs and snails will avoid the eggshells.
Even if you don't have a big garden, you can compost. Bokashi composting, for example, can be quite compact.
If you're not in the market for an expensive composting device, you can purchase cheaper composting bags or composting buckets, but sometimes these get a little stinky, so we recommend keeping them somewhere with good airflow.
Fruits and vegetable scraps are always good compost material, but don't add any meats or fats.
Making Animal Feed
Don’t overlook a pet’s capacity to be an effective waste disposal helper. Set aside vegetable peels and food scraps to feed small animals such as hamsters and rabbits.
Large meat bones will often be greatly received by the family dog, but be careful here. Your four-legged friend can choke on or swallow large pieces of bone and can end up really hurt.
It's important that you don't give your pet bones that have been cooked at all. And, as a general rule, avoid chicken bones regardless of if they are cooked or not. These bones tend to be more brittle and can cause serious damage to your dog's stomach.
If you have livestock, use leftover food to feed your animals if it is appropriate to do so. Animals such as pigs are indiscriminate when it comes to their diet and will tend to eat whatever they are given. Goats love to chow down on donated food scraps, and they're fun to feed, which is why we love bringing our food scraps over to the neighbor's goat.
Before you feed a goat or a pig, ask the owner about the diet. You might be surprised by what you can and cannot bring for the animal. We often bring our old leftovers to feed the neighborhood goat.
How to Dispose of Electronic Waste
When it comes to disposing of electronics and electronic household waste, there are certain things that you should never throw away. Those things are old televisions, computers, DVDs, CDs, cell phones, and printers.
These items are terrible for the planet and do damage in landfills. If you want to properly dispose of this type of household waste, you’re going to want to donate these old items to certified electronic recyclers.
There are dozens of e-waste companies that will take your items and appropriately dispose of them, the most popular being Best Buy. Best Buy allows for electronic waste recycling at every store nationwide, all you need to do is call in ahead of time and see what specific steps you need to take to bring in your old items.
How to Dispose of Home Building Waste
A significant amount of waste disposal can be required when it comes to refurbishing a home or replacing furniture. Rather than discarding furniture, cut it up into more manageable pieces and use of as firewood. Even if you don’t make use of a wood-burning stove, you are likely to find it easy to find others that do.
Burning items for heat or fuel would also be suitable for other items that do not contain any toxic materials. Toxic materials that you don't want to burn would include furniture that has some sort of plastic or polyester in it. Plastics and polyester can often be found in material or batting used to create couches or chairs.
You also don't want to burn any wood that has been chemically treated. Burning those chemicals is bad for the atmosphere and bad for your lungs.
If burning these items doesn't appeal to you, consider selling the old furniture or extra wood online. Selling these products helps reduce waste in more ways than one. You can also donate unused building materials or items removed from a flipped home to Habitat for Humanity Restore—a thrift store that takes everything from old tools to a stack of unused tiles.
How to Dispose of Medical Waste
If you have old medications to dispose of, especially any old narcotics, it is critical that you dispose of these medications in a safe and legal way. The easiest and most effective way to dispose of old pills (or some medical equipment like inhalers) is to take them to local pharmacies, or police and fire stations.
As much as possible, it's always a good idea to recycle as much as possible.
If your local community doesn't collect recyclable materials, do some research to find out whether there is a recycling center close by and what materials they accept.
Setting up separate receptacles for each type of material will make things easier.
Some things that seem recyclable actually aren't. Most plastic bags, for example, have to be processed as trash.
Before automatically discarding items, think about whether it would be possible to wash and reuse them.
For example, plastic tubs, such as those that contained butter or ice cream, can become effective storage containers for a range of small items, such as nails or screws. Scrap paper that would otherwise be thrown away can be used for notes and lists that are required around the house.
If you want to put on your DIY hat and get crafty, you can really turn trash into treasure. We've made new paper out of scraps of old paper, planters out of old bottles, cans, and candle jars, we've crafted a rug out of old polyester t-shirts, and we've even managed to decorate a few fancy parties with lots of upcycled decor.