A Look At 30 Things That You Should Never Throw In Your Regular Trash Can

We often dump whatever item we consider “waste” in the garbage bin, without giving any second thoughts if it really belongs there. But the thing is, not every item belongs in the dumpster, and actually needs to be processed before it can be released as “waste” to ensure minimal damage to the environment. E-waste such as old phones, batteries, computer components shouldn’t be discarded in the regular garbage can. Instead, they need to be handed over to the nearest recycling authority for e-waste. Same goes for medical waste as well – it needs to be handled properly before it can be safely disposed of into the environment.

In this article, we have compiled a list of such items that shouldn’t be thrown in the dumpster. We have also added how to take care of them. Without further ado, lets jump straight into the article!


Rechargeable Batteries

It’s very important to check exactly what type of battery you’re throwing in your dustbin. Depending on which country’s citizen you are, you are supposed to send these batteries to relevant facilities for the batteries to be disposed safely. If, for instance, you’re throwing rechargeable batteries, they not only contain cadmium-nickel, but also lead acid that can be hazardous to people, animals and environment as a whole. On the other hand, regular alkaline batteries contain manganese and zinc-carbon, and can be safely disposed in the dumpsters without any risk of environmental degradation. So, the next time you get up to throw away some batteries, check their type and then dispose them, accordingly.



Mercury Thermometers

We all know that mercury isn’t safe. This is precisely why you shouldn’t just throw away the mercury thermometers in the dustbin, as they can cause severe environmental damage. Instead, the EPA recommends that you bring your mercury thermometers to a hazardous waste collection facility or wait for the authorities to announce a waste collection day to send them for the best disposal.



Fluorescent Bulbs

Fluorescent bulbs contain mercury – a metal that is extremely hazardous for living beings and environment. Therefore, you shouldn’t throw away your fluorescent bulbs out in the open. Instead, you can safely surrender them at the local waste collection facility and the professionals will dispose of the waste in the most proper and environment-friendly manner.




Depending upon the type of paint we’re talking about here, it also needs to be safely disposed of. For instance, latex-based paints are harmful and should only be sent to the nearest waste drop-off facilities, which you can locate using Earth911. On the other hand, small quantities of oil-based paints or paint items can be safely disposed of in the regular trash can. This is because small amounts of oil-based paints can find an absorbent and get absorbed in it. However, this isn’t the case if you are looking at a large amount of oil-based paint. It can be harmful for the environment, and should be disposed of only by professionals in a safe way.



Motor Oil

Like all fuels we come across, motor oil is flammable as well. It is, therefore, quite hazardous and shouldn’t be thrown in the garbage bin. If you want to throw away motor oil, you can either give it to the local hazardous waste collection facility, or to the local mechanic shop. Car mechanics can put the motor oil to best use, so you don’t have to worry about it being harmful to the environment, or living beings.



Old laptops

Thanks to the awareness on the issue of e-waste, most people now know that old laptops shouldn’t be thrown out in the garbage can. Your laptop contains a lot of small parts as well, which contain toxic and hazardous substances that can react with the environment when left in open. Instead, they need to go to the proper recycling facility, where the parts are separated and then safely disposed of. Or, if your laptop is still in a working condition, you can go for an exchange deal, wherein you get a new laptop at a discounted rate by giving your old laptop. A win-win for both!



Lighter fluid

Lighter fluid either contains butane or naphtha, both of which are highly flammable liquids. It is quite important not to throw away lighter fluid out in the trash bin, obviously. If you have lighter fluid that needs to be thrown away, simply drive off to the nearest hazardous waste collection facility and give it to them, who then dispose of the liquid in the safest manner to avoid any damage to the environment, or living beings.



Tablets and smartphones

Companies are churning out more and more smartphones and tablets every day, thanks to the ever increasing list of consumers. But often most people don’t know the best way to discard their old smartphones or tablets. Your handheld devices, just like computers, contain toxic elements and simply cannot be thrown away in a regular dustbin. The best way is to surrender them at the nearest hazardous waste recycling facility, where they will be broken down into small parts and recycled for free. Or, if your smartphone is still working, you can trade in for some cash or exchange deal for a new one.




It often happens that we buy a new set of knives and are in no longer need of the old ones. In such a scenario, do not throw away your knives in the trash can! They can be harmful for humans or even animals who might get in contact with them. Instead, sell it to your nearest scrape dealer or if you have a neighborhood thrift store or a kitchen that needs donations, you can give your unwanted knives to them. If none of these options are available to you, you can throw away your knives in the trash can, but only after packing them properly to make sure no one gets hurt while handling the trash.



Unused Medications

We often end up having unused medications that we need to dispose of. However, throwing away medications in the trash bin isn’t the best way to take care of medical waste. Medicines contain a lot of compounds that can not only contaminate the water supply or environment, but also end up in the wrong hands. It is, therefore, crucial to dispose these medicines only during the DEA drug-take-back events, or drug disposal facilities set up by your town authorities. This ensures that the drugs are not a threat to anyone, and are disposed of in a safe manner.




Just like knives, needles are sharp objects and shouldn’t be thrown away in trash cans, as they can cause harm to people who come in contact with them. The ideal way to handle such waste is to get a hazardous waste bin from your doctor and keep the needles and syringes in it. Once you have enough needles in the bin, you can give the box back to the doctor who will get it disposed of safely.



Broken Glass

Broken pieces of glass are another object that shouldn’t be randomly thrown in a trash bin. Being sharp, broken glass can hurt anyone that comes in contact with it. To make sure you are doing it correctly, always wrap up pieces of glass in multiple sheets of newspaper and then tape it all around to ensure nothing falls out. You can then throw it in your trash can.




Mail you receive can easily be recycled and used again, instead of being thrown away as waste. It is, therefore, quite important that you make sure the mails are recycled. However, that is not the only reason you shouldn’t throw your waste in the trash bin. Mails from your credit card company, your doctor or even spam contain confidential information about you and your family and can possibly end up in the wrong hands, who can use it for identity theft! Instead, you can simply shred all your mail and then hand it over to the nearest recycling facility to ensure paper doesn’t go to waste.



Hot Oil

Quite a few times we’re in such a hurry that we end up throwing hot oil in the trash bin. This can cause a lot of mess as hot oil tends to stick more. Or, if you are throwing away hot oil in the drain directly, it can create even worse situations for you. It can not only cause damage to your drainage system including pipes, but also cause sewer backups. Instead, the best way to dispose of oil is to let it cool down, and then throw it into the trash can.




If you end up having extra detergent that you don’t want to use possibly because of an allergy you have or simply can’t tolerate its smell, you can simply let it flow down the drain along with the water. By doing so, you dispose of the detergent safely. On the other hand, throwing it in the trash can be hazardous for the environment, as it contains harmful toxins, which can seep into the soils and cause damage.




Once you have used a matchstick to light up something, don’t simply throw it off in the dustbin. Matchsticks can cause a spark and cause fire if they accidentally rub against any rough item or surface. You wouldn’t want a fire to ruin your kid’s birthday party, right? Well, then you should soak the matches in some water before you throw them in the trash bin, to ensure safe disposal.



Old clothes

Most of us do not give a second thought before throwing away old, unused pieces of clothes in the trash can. However, do you know what actually happens to those clothes? According to the government agencies from around the world, a large chunk of landfills is filled with old clothes, and clothes aren’t exactly biodegradable materials, and end up as pollutants in the environment – causing harm to living beings and nature alike. Thankfully, there are numerous companies that offer free recycling of textiles to ensure no harm is caused to the society. Find one in your neighborhood and give away your old clothes to that facility.



Hair Styling Tools

No electric item should be thrown away in the open, and that holds true for hair styling tools as well. This is because electronic items like hair styling tools contain a number of toxic chemicals and compounds such as lead, cadmium, and chromium – all of which can cause serious damage to both living beings and the environment. The best way to ensure these don’t end up in landfills is by giving away old and unused hair styling tools at your nearest scrap dealer agency to ensure they are recycled properly.



Space Heaters

Most of us use space heaters. However, I can bet most people don’t know where and how to dispose of them. If you’re using a space heater made of entirely plastic, then you can easily dump it in your trash bin. On the other hand, if your space heater is made of metal and contains toxic elements, it should be dropped at the nearest hazardous waste collection facility to ensure it does not cause any harm to the environment. Or, if you have a space heater that is made of metal, but does not contain any kind of toxic material, you can sell it to the nearest scrap dealer who will then recycle the main metal components and dispose the other parts in an environment-friendly manner.



Old Flags

The legal and proper way to take care of old, torn flags is to burn and bury them with full honor. This even has a mention in the US Flag Code, which strictly calls for burning of the flag in the most dignified manner if the flag is not in a condition to be displayed publicly. So, if you have any ripped flags lying around, burn them properly and then bury. They deserve the respect. You can also find multiple tutorials on how to burn a ripped flag in the most dignified manner.



Unwrapped Mattresses

Let’s accept it – most of us are unsure what to do with an old mattress. The thing is, you can easily drop it at the curb and it will be picked up by the garbage collectors, but unless you want to ensure that pests and bugs are spread out to the entire locality, you should consider packing it in plastic before you place it on the curb. In fact, the state of New York can even impose a fine of $100 if you just leave a mattress in public without covering it in plastic properly!



Old Appliances

Any kind of electrical or electronic appliance contains toxic items as well, apart from the usual metals. Therefore, it helps no one if you simply leave it on the curb one fine day, and wait for the garbage collectors to pick it up! The best way to make sure your old appliances are handled properly is to go for replacement deals that allow you to exchange your old item with a new one at a discounted price. Most of the stores would even pick up the item from your house – for free!



Ink Cartridges

If you’ve been throwing away ink cartridges in the regular trash can, please stop doing it from now on. An ink cartridge contains several toxic items that can cause harm to the environment. If you buy ink from Staples, you can easily get it recycled at the store and even get $2 for it! Alternatively, you can also bring your cartridge at a Costco store and get it filled at very low prices, and save yourself some money in the process.



Old Bicycles

Although bicycles do not really contain any kind of toxic items, you shouldn’t just throw them away. In fact, there are numerous options for you to go for. Firstly, you can go to any local scrap dealer and sell it off, as the base metal can be recycled and used for several purposes. Secondly, you can donate your bicycle to charities that help kids from deprived communities by giving them bicycles. Thirdly, some charities even help youth in learning how to build and fix a bicycle, and yours can really come in handy if its broken and not of your use anymore. So, think before you throw away your bicycle in the trash.



Pots and Pans

Although pots and pans that aren’t of any use can be recycled, you can’t get it done at the curbside recycling facility. Instead, you need to take the old and unused pots and pans to the nearest scrap dealer who would recycle them for you. However, you do need to point out if the pans and pots you offered contain a non-stick coating as well. This is because they need to remove the non-stick coating before they can finally be recycled.



Used Tools

Like with bicycles, you can definitely throw away the used tools such as shovels and rakes if you don’t need them anymore. But you will definitely be throwing away some easy money, too! First of all, there are dozens of local stores and even brand stores that would be more than happy to buy your old, used tools and then sell them for a higher price at their store if the tools are worth using. If you feel the tools do not have any utility left, even then you can make some money by selling it to your local scrap dealer who will recycle the metal used in the tools!



Old Swing Sets

If you still have an old swing set in the backyard, throwing it away as waste won’t help anyone. Instead, you can do a lot more with that old swing set. For instance, you can donate it to the nearest charity, school, shelters, parks – anyone would have a use for a working swing set. If it’s not in a working condition, you can sell it to a scrap dealer who can recycle it and you can earn some bucks. In any case, throwing it away in the trash is just not the best way, we believe!



Dead Plants

When you ask most people about what kind of composting they can do at home, they would mostly talk of vegetable peels and stuff. However, what people fail to realize is that you can use the same garden to find things for composting as well, which includes dead plants and dry leaves. So the next time you find dead plants and dry leaves in the garden, don’t throw them away, use them as compost. Also, recycling helps maintain the ecological cycles as well.



Old Books

This is perhaps the last thing that should find a place in the trash! There are literally dozens of options for you to choose from. You can go to your local library and if the books are in a readable condition, they would be more than happy to accept them. Same goes for non-profits, second-hand book stores and many such places where your books can be put to a good use. For instance, an organization called Better World Books accepts donations and most part of the donations are used to fund literacy organizations around the world! So, think before you throw away your precious books in the trash the next time!




According to almost every environmental agency around the world, throwing away of pesticides in the open isn’t exactly what you’ll call an environment-friendly move. In fact, in some countries, this might even attract a penalty! So, before you throw away those mothballs in the trash, think of the environment. Mothballs contain naphthalene and other toxic items that can cause some serious harm to the environment as a whole. So, if you have old mothballs that you’d like to throw away, consider dropping them at the nearest hazardous waste facility to ensure no harm is caused to any living being, or the environment.