How Can I Safely Dispose of My Waste?

The Environmental Depot in Lewiston and the Riverside Recycling Facility in Portland serve as collection sites for household hazardous waste from all Maine residents. Check their web sites for hours and charges. Many towns offer special one-day collection events for HHW; please contact your Town Office to find out if your town is holding one and how you can participate. Below is information about how you can safely handle and recycle or dispose of common household hazardous wastes.

What is Household Hazardous Waste?

Many common household items contain chemicals that can create environmental hazards if not handled properly. These wastes include: TVs, computer monitors and other electronic devices, waste oil or gasoline, antifreeze, Pool chemicals, fluorescent lights, thermometers and thermostats, batteries, old paint, and pesticides.

What's so hazardous about my TV and computer?

TVs and computer monitors may contain mercury paste and gas along with the leaded glass. The circuit boards in the computer may also have hazardous levels of lead and cadmium. Your local municipal solid waste facility may accept these devices for recycling but check with them first. If not, try viewing the map at Help ME Recycle to find sites near you for recycling and disposal of electronic wastes. By recycling these products, valuable materials can be reclaimed, and the release of toxics into the environment can be reduced.

What about old gas and used oil?

If you don't use all of the gas in your lawn mower or other gas-powered tools, you can buy an additive that will allow you to leave gas in these tools for an extended length of time. You can also add small amounts (no more than 1-2 gallons) of old gas to your automobile gas tank.

Waste oil collection is offered by some towns at their transfer station or landfill. Also, local garages often collect waste oil as a service to their customers; check with your favorite mechanic to see if they will do this for you. 

Old antifreeze is readily processed into clean antifreeze.  Many larger auto service shops have their own machine to create high-quality antifreeze from your used or unwanted antifreeze.

What are mercury-containing wastes?

Mercury is an essential component in fluorescent lamps, and may be found in thermometers and thermostats. If these items are broken or not recycled, they can release harmful levels of mercury into the environment. Many transfer stations and retailers accept used fluorescent lamps for recycling. Consider replacing your fluorescent lightbulbs with  LEDs, and be sure to take your unwanted mercury-containing bulbs to one of the many free collection sites. When you upgrade to a modern thermostat, you can receive a $5 in-store coupon for turning your mercury thermostat in for recycling to your local hardware store, or you can ask your heating contractor to take your old mercury thermostat for recycling and they will receive a $5 reward.

How about batteries?

There are several different kinds of batteries which can cause pollution if not handled properly. When you buy a new automotive lead acid battery, bring your old one to the store where you are buying your battery to avoid paying a $10 ‘core’ fee and your old battery will be recycled. For rechargeable batteries, check to find a free collection site that will accept and recycle your rechargeable batteries (many retailers who sell rechargeable batteries offer this collection service). As far as ‘single use batteries’ are concerned, once these are ‘used up’, they may be safely disposed of in your regular household trash, or you can purchase a recycling box on-line.

My town's solid waste facility won't take paint because it's liquid...what do I do?

If the paint is still usable, you may be able to find a school or non-profit organization that can use the old paint for art or theater productions. Through Maine's paint stewardship program and PaintCare, a paint manufacturer non-profit organization, the option is available for the collection and recycling of latex and oil based paints at various retailers and transfer stations across the state. To learn more and find a collection site near you, visit PaintCare’s Maine Program site. Some restrictions apply, for example, aerosol containers and marine paints are not accepted.

Pesticides and other household chemicals...

To dispose of unwanted pesticides, call the Board of Pesticide Control at 207-287-2731 to find out when they will be holding a collection in your area. You may also be able to dispose of pesticides at household hazardous waste collection programs. If your town is not planning one, you may legally dispose of these items in your regular household trash or store them until your town schedules a collection program. Check the container for any special disposal instructions.