Cleaning green: Disposal techniques to remember when spring cleaning

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With spring in full swing, some Clark County families are gearing up for spring cleaning after a year of COVID-19 quarantines. From garage cleanouts to kitchen reorganization, spring cleaning gives locals an opportunity to start the summer months fresh. 

According to Gretchen Sandau, the single- and multi-family waste reduction educator at Waste Connections, the company sees an uptick in waste disposal during this time of year, likely because of spring cleaning. Sandau said it’s good practice to go through and part ways with items that are no longer needed as long as proper disposal techniques are put in place. 

“Depending on what part of the house they are cleaning in, I would urge people to go into it with eyes of reuse and donations before disposal,” Sandau said.

Many items such as old T-shirts can be donated to a local thrift shop or given away on a local “buy nothing” Facebook group. Sandau said families should be creative to reduce their waste disposal of items that can be reused. Mismatched tupperware containers can be reused as storage containers for bolts, screws and food products, while old rags can be repurposed for mopping. 

Sandau stressed the importance of being safe while cleaning, especially if a person runs into hazardous materials and detritus, like mouse droppings in their garage or attic. According to Sandau, people should wear gloves and masks as they clean. Animal droppings should also be sprayed with water as the moisture helps reduce toxins in the air and reduces the possibility of inhaling contaminants. 

Families should also be wary of items marked as household hazardous waste (HHW), which includes bleach and products with ammonia. Sandau said all HHW products should first be stored in containers with lids and then placed into a plastic bin to limit contamination and spillage. Chemicals which create toxic fumes when mixed such as ammonia and bleach should never be stored together in bins. 

According to Sandau, all of the Waste Connections transfer stations in Clark County offer services for safe disposal of HHW products at certain times of the week. Many of the items must be disposed of in a certain way to avoid chemical runoff into local soils and streams. 

Those looking to dispose of paint can utilize various local paint stores through the PaintCare recycling program. All 20 of the PaintCare recycling sites in Clark County accept up to five gallons of paint from each customer, while some accept more. Those looking to recycle paint are encouraged to call ahead to ensure the type and amount of paint will be accepted. 

Sandau said electronics also must be properly disposed of at Waste Connections disposal sites. It’s illegal to throw away some types of electronics because of the heavy metals used in the products, which cannot be placed in a recycling cart. 

Places to recycle electronics and other HHW can be found online at 1800recycle.wa.gov. Sandau said lithium-ion batteries, like those used in cell phones, should never be “held on to.” Instead, they should be disposed of at transfer stations as soon as possible because they are “really volatile.” Household batteries can be placed in a separate container outside of the blue recycling cart. Sandau said all batteries should be taped on the ends to prevent sparks and lower the possibility of a fire. 

For those looking to avoid harsh chemicals and live a more sustainable lifestyle, the Clark County Master Composter Recyclers are set to host webinars later this month. 

At the Green Cleaning webinar on Wednesday, May 12, participants will learn how to make environmentally-friendly alternatives to cleaning solvents. 

On Wednesday, May 19, the master recyclers are hosting a workshop on “Recycling Done Right,” which teaches participants what can and cannot go into the blue recycling cart. It’ll also discuss the most common “wishcycled” items. 

Both webinars take place from 7 to 8:30 p.m. 

More information can be found online at clarkcountycomposts.org/current-offerings.

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