Get Rid of It the Right Way


Some of us—and count your blessings if this situation does not apply to you—hang onto used-up and no-longer-functioning stuff because it contains chemicals (that might be toxic), metals or wires (that might be salvageable) or other components (that might be recyclable) because we don’t know how to properly dispose of whatever it is.

We would throw it in the trash and forget about it were we not inclined to feel a twinge of guilt for possibly wasting Earth’s limited resources, polluting the environment or acting a bit entitled or lazy. So whatever it is gathers dust in a closet, is something we might trip over in the attic, or is embarrassingly out for all to see on a window ledge or atop some piece of furniture or large appliance.

We strongly suspect there is a responsible way to get rid of whatever it is, although we are wary that doing so might require some time and effort. (Lazy alert!)

If only there were a simple way to find out what to do with this guilt-inducing stuff. A magical source of instant information.

Well . . .

The city of Sacramento and Sacramento County are ready to grant you your wish. By visiting their recycling and solid waste webpages, you can say what problematical trash you have, and they can tell you exactly what to do with it.

On the city utilities site, the Waste Wizard takes questions 24/7. “Type the name of an item and we’ll tell you how to recycle or dispose of it,” the wizard instructs. Well, how about Styrofoam? The immediate answer is: “Put this item in your garbage container.”

Fluorescent light bulbs? “This item is a household hazardous waste.” Three drop-off locations are suggested, their street addresses (supplemented with a one-click “Directions” link) specified, in Sacramento, North Highlands and Elk Grove.

Mattresses? “This item is accepted for Household Junk Pickup.” A phone number is listed and website link provided to make an appointment.

The county offers a very similar ask-and-answer feature, titled “How do I get rid of . . . .” I entered “ink cartridges” and was told, “Drop off this item for recycling. Always call ahead.” The same three government-run waste-collection sites listed by the city pop up, as do a couple of others (in Sacramento and Roseville) and some private businesses.

What about bleach? Those same five government-run drop-off sites.

Empty aerosol spray cans? “Put this item loose in your recycling cart. No bags!”

Which reminds me. Back to the city’s Waste Wizard I go to ask about a nagging item:

Plastic bags. The answer:

“Tip: Some retailers take plastic bags for recycling. Take reusable shopping bags to stores.” With the additional insight: “Why do our facilities not accept plastic bags? Plastic bags regularly get loose from the recyclables and stuck in the sorting machinery. They also travel in the air throughout the facilities and contaminate other recycling. They need to be disposed of properly in the garbage or at a local recycler. Never bag recyclables in a plastic bag.”

Oh no. I have been guilty of doing the wrong thing with plastic bags. But ultimately, thanks to these very helpful recycling and solid waste websites, I overcame my laziness and found out the proper thing to do.