Don’t Toss It! 5 Things That Legally Must Be Recycled

The average American generates about 28 pounds of trash each week. According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, about 21 pounds of that is recyclable. While everyone should aim to recycle as much as possible to protect the earth, there are five things that should never be thrown away.

Oil-based Paint 

You should never throw away oil-based paint, as they contain chemicals that can contaminate the soil and waterways. These should be collected and taken to a paint store or designated recycling facility to be properly disposed of. While it is best to recycle them, latex paints can be safely disposed of if you take the lid off and let it solidify before you throw it away. If you have significant amounts of extra paint, however, there is a high likelihood that an artistic friend or neighbor would love to take it off your hands, and unopened containers can be donated.

Mercury-based Products 

By the turn of the century, over 20 states had banned mercury-based thermometers for in-home use. Yet, they are still found in homes everywhere, and it is illegal to throw them away rather than take them in to be recycled. There are many other items in your home that contain mercury, including fluorescent light bulbs, televisions and laptop computers. If you replace your laptop with a newer one, then take the old one to a laptop recycling center while you take other items containing mercury to a household recycling center.

Food Stuff 

In America, about 133 billion pounds of food meant for human consumption is thrown away annually. Residents must get creative in getting rid of foodstuff in some states, however, as it is against the law to put it in the trash. One way to get rid of it is to start a compost heap that can fertilize your yard or garden. You may also want to consider sharing your leftovers with elderly neighbors, or give it away to the homeless.


While you should recycle all types of batteries, lead-acid batteries and nickel-cadmium batteries are particularly bad for the environment. While many believe switching to rechargeable batteries is the answer, the heavy metals used to make them can even harder on the environment when improperly disposed of. Instead, consider using alkaline batteries, which are overall better for the environment, and ensure to recycle all of your batteries responsibly.


About 5 million tons of tire waste is generated annually. Tires can be a big problem when they catch on fire, as can happen in landfills, because of the toxic fumes produced. Instead, take part in your state’s tire recycling programs where tires are used to make playgrounds, tracks and other recreational facilities. Alternatively, you can repurpose them into flower beds, tire swings and other landscaping elements.

While you can always help by recycling as much as possible, it is especially important that you never put these five things into the trash. When you work alongside your neighbors to see that more things are recycled, then we are being good stewards of the earth. Laws and restrictions are nothing more than incentives, and regardless of whether they are in place or not, taking care of the world we live in should be a priority to everyone.

 – Meghan Belnap 

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Written by Greenlichen

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