Submitted by Mike Zook:

Even eco-crusaders—those who valiantly turn off their TV upon leaving the room, make sure all the lights are out before they go to bed, and meticulously sort through their rubbish to find anything that can be recycled—may dispose of harmful materials carelessly. In our electronic world, we deal with toxic substances more often than we realize, and we frequently dispose of these substances without a second thought. 

Here are some harmful materials that you can find in almost every American home, as well as a list of appropriate ways to dispose of those items.


There are two harmful components to standard batteries: First, the battery itself contains toxic metals (both mercury and cadmium are often used). Second, if the battery leaks, its fluid can toxify the air and local water supply near the landfill. In other words: Don’t just throw your batteries away! You can properly recycle your batteries by doing the following:

  • Check with your local recycling organizations. While most do not accept batteries regularly, some run special programs that allow you to hand over your batteries on specific days of the year (a “hazardous waste drop-off day”). 
  • Talk to representatives at local automotive stores. Since these companies do a large amount of battery recycling already, they are often able to recycle household batteries on your behalf. 
  • Use a web-based or local service to recycle your rechargeable batteries. Call2Recycle, RadioShack, and Staples all have programs as of 2012. 
  • Use a “battery box” recycling service such as Big Green Box or You should only do this if you have a fairly large number of batteries.

If you’re looking to “save up” your batteries for future recycling, be sure to store your dead batteries inside of resealable plastic bags. This substantially reduces the risk of damage from a battery leak.

CRT computer monitors and TVs.

“CRT” stands for “cathode ray tube,” and each of those tubes contain at least five different toxic substances. To properly dispose of your CRT display system:

  • Donate the monitor. If the monitor is still in working condition, take it to your local Salvation Army (or other thrift shop), freecycle it, or give it to a friend. 
  • Call your local Best Buy. As of 2012, select Best Buy locations will recycle up to three of your electronic items daily. 
  • Contact the original device manufacturer. Some companies have a device recovery program. 
  • Research web-based and local electronics recycling groups. Most of these companies can recycle your monitor for a small fee (typically $5 to $20).

The cathode ray tubes are the only really toxic part of the monitor, but the tubes must be handled with care. Unless you’re an expert, do not attempt to remove the tubes from the monitor.

Printer cartridges.

In its concentrated form, your printer’s ink is a powerful form of chemical waste. It can be toxic to animals and environments alike. To dispose of a printer cartridge, you can:

  • Contact the original cartridge vendor. Many have a recycling program. 
  • Search for charitable organizations. For example, lets you contribute to public education by donating your used cartridges. 
  • Visit a local university. Many universities have a cartridge recycling program. 
  •  Visit your local Best Buy. Best Buy locations with a toner kiosk accept toner cartridges for in-store recycling.

If you’ve tried handling your toner cartridge, you may already be aware that the ink can easily spill and smudge. Put the cartridge in a re-sealable plastic bag to avoid the mess and the hazard.

These three items are found in almost every home, and yet only a small portion of people are aware of the toxic contents. Spread word of the proper disposal of these items and be sure you take the necessary steps to avoid polluting your environment. If you’re uncertain whether or not an item you are disposing of contains toxic elements, conducting a simple Google search is a fast and easy way to arm yourself with the knowledge you need to help protect the environment.

About the Author: About the Author: Mike Zook writes for a containment solutions company. In his free time, he works on reducing his home’s carbon footprint.