Q. I removed the chlorofluorcarbons (CFCs) from my refrigerator myself so why
isn't it cheaper to recycle it?
A. Some scrap metal recyclers do not take CFC-bearing appliances unless they are
certified as having had the CFCs properly recovered. Other recyclers will charge
the same fee to a person bringing in an appliance without that certification,
regardless of whether it still has CFCs. This policy is meant to discourage
people from venting the ozone-depleting CFCs into the atmosphere in an attempt
to save money.
Q. Why are alkaline batteries not always recyclable?
A. Though it is possible to reclaim some metal from alkaline batteries, these
batteries are not often recycled. Where they have been collected, it has
generally been for disposal as a hazardous material. Mercury has been the
ingredient of most concern in alkaline batteries. As currently manufactured,
however, these batteries contain only a fraction of the mercury they once did.
Many counties have therefore determined that the reduced risk in sending
alkaline batteries to the landfill does not warrant the expense of collecting
them for special disposal or recycling. You might consider switching to
rechargeable nickel-cadmium batteries, which are widely recycled--after being
reused many times.
Q. Rechargeable batteries are not always NICAD or are they?
A. No, they are not. Many cell phone and camcorder batteries, for instance, are
small lead-acid batteries (the same materials used in a car's rechargeable
battery). If you follow proper maintenance, such as recharging batteries only
after their charge has been exhausted, they will last longer. For a wealth of
information on rechargeable household batteries, visit the
Rechargeable Battery Recycling Corporation
Q. Why can't I recycle painted wood?
A. Painted wood is generally not recyclable. The two primary uses for old wood
are as a soil amendment (after the wood is chipped or ground up) or as fuel for
industrial furnaces, etc. If painted wood is burned, toxic fumes are likely to
be emitted to atmosphere. If chips of paint are added to the soil, they can
pollute ground or surface waters, or affect the health of plant life grown in
the soil. Neither situation has any environmental advantage over putting the
painted wood in a modern permitted landfill.
Q. I thought everyone wanted plate glass framed or not for crushing into
A. There are businesses looking for plate glass to be crushed for use in road
building and other paving projects. However, these businesses have no use for
the frames and cannot effectively crush glass that is still in the frames. If
you have wood-framed, unbroken windows, try businesses that deal in second-hand
Q. Where can I dispose of asbestos?
A. First, do not try to remove siding, insulation, shingles, or ceiling tiles if
you suspect they contain asbestos. For advice on how to carry out such a
project, or on how to dispose of asbestos that is not attached to a building,
contact your local air pollution control agency. For a list go to
Q. Why can't I recycle broken glasses with my glass bottles and jars?
A. The combination of ingredients used to make glassware is different from what
goes into container glass for bottles and jars. If these two types of glass are
recycled together, the resulting glass will not be suitable for container glass.
In fact, glassware, ceramics, window panes, or mirrors can pose a threat to
equipment in a glass recycling plant.
Q. Why should I recycle my compact fluorescent lights and fluorescent tubes?
A. Compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) and tubes contain small amounts of mercury (about as much as the ink on the tip of a ball point
pen). Mercury is a toxic metal that accumulates in our bodies and the environment. When mercury-containing lights are broken, mercury
is released into the environment. Use of mercury-containing lights is increasing, because they are energy efficient.
Improperly disposing of CFLs and other mercury-containing lights is against the law in Washington. Instead, you should recycle them.
Find a recycling location near you at
Q. What should I do if a compact fluorescent light or fluorescent tube gets
A. If a light breaks, avoid breathing vapors or touching broken materials. Do not vacuum or sweep up the debris because doing so would
contaminate your vacuum cleaner and the mercury could become airborne.
You can find more information on mercury-containing light bulbs and lamps at
- Open windows to vent vapors for at least 15 minutes.
- Use stiff paper or cardboard to pick up large pieces.
- Use duct tape to pick up small pieces and powder.
- Wipe the area clean with a damp paper towel or wet wipe.
- Place all materials in an air-tight container, such as a plastic bag that is completely sealed with tape.
- Be sure to include the broken light and any items that were used to clean it up.
- Wash your hands.
- Bring the sealed bag or container to a LightRecycle Washington Collection Site for recycling.
For additional EPA guidance, go to:
Q. Why isn't antifreeze good for the sewer system?
A. Though small amounts of antifreeze can be successfully neutralized by sewage
treatment plants, too much antifreeze can overload those systems. You should
never attempt this disposal method without first obtaining the permission of the
sewage treatment plant involved. In any case, recycling the material is a
more environmentally beneficial practice, and antifreeze recycling is available
on a regular basis in most Washington counties.
Q. Why can't I recycle contaminated oil at the usual oil recycling sites?
A. Used oil that contains water, solvents, antifreeze, or any other liquid is
unsuitable for normal recycling processes. Instead, it must be handled as a
fully-regulated hazardous waste. If faced with the expense of hazardous waste
management, the operators of oil recycling sites may choose to stop accepting
oil altogether. You can reduce the chances of contamination by draining your
crankcase oil into a container that you can cover and seal, and by recycling the
oil soon after.
Q. Can't we just dump latex paint; it is water soluble.
A. Latex paints contain various amounts of toxic materials. If improperly
discarded toxic materials are water soluble, that only means they could pollute
ground water more quickly. You might be able to give your unwanted paint to
neighbors, school or community theater troupes, or local volunteers who are
trying to paint over graffiti. Many counties have collection opportunities for
latex paint reuse or disposal. Where none of these options are available,
residents are usually advised to dry out latex paint until it is solid; as it is
then no longer water soluble, residents can dispose of it with their garbage. Of
course, the best way to avoid having to dispose of paint is to use it, and to
buy no more than you can use.
Q. Why can't I get five cents for my empty pop can like they do in Oregon?
A. In Oregon, people pay a five-cent deposit on each can of pop they buy, and if
they return the empty can to the store they get their nickel back and break
even. In Washington, we don't have to pay a deposit when we buy pop at the
store, so we break even right away. And then we can sell our empty pop cans to a
recycler and make a clear profit.
Q. My woodstove is all metal, I took out the brick.
A. Did you take out all other insulation materials? (Did you check on asbestos
advice--see above--first?) If so, you might be able to find a scrap metal dealer
that will take it.
Q. Why won't recyclers take cereal boxes along with cardboard?
A. If a recycler takes cereal boxes at all, they will probably take it along
with mixed waste paper. The "cardboard" from which cereal boxes are made is
really known as chipboard or paperboard. It is not the same grade of paper as
the corrugated cardboard that is used to make shipping and moving boxes. Of
these two types of cardboard, corrugated cardboard has a much higher value as a
recycled raw material. Chipboard has little or no value as a recycled raw
material, and if a recycling company tries to sell a bale of corrugated
cardboard that has chipboard mixed into it, the buyer might refuse not only the
bale in question, but anything else that recycling company tries to bring in
later. If the demand for products made from recycled chipboard increases,
perhaps paper mills will be more willing to take it as a raw material (and pay a
better price). The more attention we consumers give to purchasing recycled
products, the better the chances that the economics of recycling will improve.
Q. Why won't recyclers take No. 1 or 2 unless it's a bottle?
A. Even though plastic bottles and tubs might have the same number inside their
recycling symbols, they are not really made of identical material. Bottles are
produced through one kind of molding process and tubs through another, and these
two processes require different plastic mixtures that melt at different
temperatures. If these plastic containers are recycled together, the result is a
mixture of material that has little value in a second round of manufacturing. If
separated, they each have greater value. Unfortunately, even when plastic tubs
are collected separately, they have relatively little value as a material to
manufacturers. Try to buy things in containers that you can recycle in your
area. (To find if you can recycle a container in your area, search 1800recycle's
on-line database.) If recycling is not possible, perhaps there is a way to reuse
such containers around your home.
Q. Why do plastics have a number on them if they can't be recycled.
A. The numbering system was designed so that plastics could be sorted according
to a few broad categories. Once the system was adopted, recycling companies were
able to identify plastic containers by type. Recycling companies could thus
separate and collect the plastic types that had sufficient market value to cover
the costs of collection and transportation. Since Washington is distant from
most plastic manufacturing markets, there are many types of plastic that simply
cannot be recycled economically in this state.
Q. Why can't I recycle the lids?
A. The lids to plastic bottles are made of different grades of plastic than the
bottle itself. These grades of plastic are not recyclable in Washington, and
mixing lids in with plastic bottles will diminish the value of bottle-grade
plastic collected in that fashion.
Q. Do I have to take the labels off plastic bottles?
A. Generally speaking, you do not need to remove the labels from plastic (or
glass) bottles. Individual recycling companies sometimes impose stricter limits
on what they will accept. Most recycling companies that take plastic bottles in
Washington accept them with the labels still on the bottle.
Q. What about the little ring that stays on the bottle after you open it?
A. Most recycling companies do not care about the plastic ring that's left on
the neck of a bottle after you've removed the top. However, individual recycling
companies sometimes impose stricter limits on what they will accept.
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