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Entries in mercury thermostat recycling (1)

Wednesday
Aug132014

NYC Year-Round Safe Disposal Options For Household Items Containing Harmful Chemicals

In New York State, it’s illegal to throw certain household items into the regular trash because they contain chemicals that are harmful to the environment, wildlife, and human health.

Graphic courtesy of NYCRecycles.

A lot of the items that can’t go into the regular trash include things containing mercury, such as florescent and compact florescent bulbs (CFLs), old fashioned thermostats, and rechargeable batteries.

Alternatively, you might find it interesting to know that you are allowed to throw alkaline batteries into the regular trash.

Standard household alkaline batteries no longer contain mercury – and with the exception of rechargeable and lithium batteries (commonly used for portable equipment) – most batteries pose little risk to the environment if thrown into the trash, says the New York City mayor’s office.

The reason most batteries don’t contain mercury anymore is because it’s a highly dangerous neurotoxin. It can be breathed in or absorbed through the skin, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which adds that mercury can cause severe and potentially fatal damage to the kidneys, the gastrointestinal tract, and other organs.

The NIH also says that even very low exposure to mercury can impair the immune system, and exposure to very small amounts “in concentrated forms can result in devastating neurological damage and death.”

With the heightened awareness of the dangers of mercury and the need to limit public exposure, in the 1990s the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency identified batteries as the largest source of mercury in municipal solid waste streams. As a result of legislation and public pressure, the battery industry has removed mercury from virtually all household batteries, making them safe to throw out into the regular trash.

In contrast, rechargeable batteries which can contain toxic chemicals, including mercury, cadmium, lead, and other heavy metals, are illegal to throw out into the regular trash.

NYS’s Rechargeable Battery Law requires stores that sell rechargeable batteries (or products containing rechargeable batteries) take back up to ten batteries of the same shapes and sizes as they sell, free of charge.

In NYC, another option for disposing of rechargeable and lithium batteries is to take them to any of the city’s Department of Sanitation Household Special Waste Drop-Off Sites located in the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens, and Staten Island.

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