Region 1: EPA New England

Go Green at Home


Reuse

The old adage "One man's trash is another man's treasure" defines reuse. Reusing items by repairing them, donating them to charity and community groups, or selling them reduces waste. Reusing products, when possible, is even better than recycling because the item does not need to be reprocessed before it can be used again.

Action you can take:
Consider reuse when disposing of household items such as old computers, clothing and appliances. For reuse opportunities, see EPA New England's pamphlet titled Reuse in New England, a resource guide to donation opportunities.

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Recycle

Photo of a recycling center.

Recycling includes collecting recyclable materials that would otherwise be considered garbage, sorting and processing recyclables into raw materials, and manufacturing raw materials into new products. Recyclable materials typically include: paper and paperboard (like newsprint, cardboard, direct mail), glass, metals (such as steel and aluminum), plastics (like bottles, grocery bags), yard waste (such as grass clippings, brush), electronic equipment (like computers, televisions, cell phones) and food wastes. Collecting recyclables varies from community to community; however, there are four primary methods of recycling: curbside, drop-off centers, buy-back centers, and deposit/refund programs.

Action you can take:
Identify your community's recycling program or contact your local department of public works or state environmental agency.

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Recycling electronics (eCycling)

Electronic equipment, sometimes referred to as “e-waste” is an emerging and growing waste stream. E-waste includes electronic products discarded by consumers such as TV and computer monitors, CPUs and computer peripherals (e.g., keyboards, mice), cell phones, and printers/copiers. Check what kind of electronics can be collected in your community and which retailers and manufacturers will take their products back for free or for a fee. E-waste contains natural resources, including metals and plastics that can be reclaimed. In addition, computer monitors and older TV picture tubes contain an average of two to four pounds of lead (depending on their age) and require special handling when disposed. Electronics also can contain other substances of concern, including mercury, cadmium, and brominated flame retardants. When electronics are disposed of improperly, these toxic materials can present problems.

Action you can take:
Extending the life of your electronics or donating your most up-to-date and working electronics can save you money and saves valuable resources. Safely recycling outdated electronics promotes safe management of hazardous components and supports the recovery and reuse of valuable materials.

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Composting

Composting, the controlled biological decomposition of organic matter such as food and yard wastes into humus, a soil-like material, is another form of recycling. It is nature's way of recycling organic wastes into new soil which can be used in vegetable and flower gardens, landscaping and many other applications. Composting can be done in your backyard in a compost pile or bin or in your home with a worm bin. It is nature's way of recycling organic waste into new soil, which can be used in vegetable and flower gardens, landscaping, and many other applications.

Action you can take:
Collect your yard and food wastes and start your own composting at home. See www.epa.gov/recycle/composting-home and check your state environmental agency's composting site.

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Household hazardous waste

Photo of various batteries.

Discarded household products that contain corrosive, toxic, ignitable, or reactive ingredients are considered to be household hazardous waste. Products, such as paints, cleaners, oils, batteries, pesticides and solvents, which contain potentially hazardous ingredients, require special care at disposal. If mishandled, these products can be dangerous to your health and the environment.

Action you can take:
Never pour household hazardous wastes down the drain, on the ground, into storm sewers, or put them out with the trash.

Action you can take:
Proper disposal opportunities generally include community sponsored household hazardous waste days.

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Pressure treated wood

Photo of a family at a swingset.

Pressure-treated wood is wood that has been treated with a preservative to protect it against dry rot, fungi, molds, termites and other pests. Since the 1970s, the majority of wood used to build outside structures, such as swing and play sets, decks, walkways, fences and picnic tables, was treated with chromated copper arsenate (CCA). CCA is a chemical wood preservative containing chromium, copper and arsenic. Exposure to inorganic arsenic may present certain hazards. Use of CCA for wood products around the home and in children's play areas is no longer allowed as of December 31, 2003. Even though CCA can no longer be used in residential settings, many existing decks and other structures are made of wood treated with CCA. Although EPA's review of CCA is still ongoing, the agency does not believe there is any reason to remove or replace CCA-treated structures, including decks and playground equipment.

Action you can take:
Always wash hands thoroughly after contact with any treated wood, especially prior to eating and drinking. Food should not come into direct contact with any treated wood. Wash play clothes and toys if they have come in contact with any treated wood. If you are concerned, you may want to consider the application of a coating product to pressure-treated wood on a regular basis. Some studies suggest that sealants can reduce the amount of CCA that leaches from treated wood. Treated wood should never be burned in open fires, stoves, fireplaces, or residential boilers. For more information on CCA, see www.cpsc.gov/en/newsroom/news-releases/2005/cpscepa-post-interim-study-on-cca-treated-wood/.

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