Household waste can quickly pile up. The best way to approach household waste is to reduce the amount you create. However, it is important to ensure that the waste you do create is disposed in a manner that is environmentally safe and follows local rules and regulations.
Many household items can be reused, resold, refurbished or recycled if they’re still in fair condition. Items like printer paper, clothing or textiles, plastic bags, and electronics (which can contain many types of metals), can be made into new products or repurposed. You can also reuse old or worn-out clothing as cleaning rags. You may consider donating or selling your electronic item if it is still in working order, or selling it for parts.
Proper Disposal Methods
Before you dispose of something as regular garbage, ensure you’re disposing of it correctly. Here are disposal methods you may find useful:
- Compost & Recycling: A large number of items may be included for compost and recycling pickup in your region. Many municipalities in Canada have a green bin program for disposal of biodegradable waste. Items vary by area, but often include food wastes, paper and paper products, aluminum cans, glass, and some plastics.
- Oversized Items: Large items such as beds, couches, and other types of furniture may be picked up at the curb by your municipality during regular waste pickup. Check for any exclusions or limitations for your region on the number of items you can throw away.
- Hazardous Waste: Hazardous waste, such as paint, cleaning products and batteries, is treated differently than other types of waste because of possible chemicals or toxic substances that may be harmful to groundwater or soil. Several programs exist across Canada that specialize in the safe disposal of hazardous waste. To find the program nearest you and for more information on drop-off locations or special event dates, check your municipal, provincial, and territorial government websites.
- Biochemical: Biochemical waste, such as needles, syringes, or unused drugs is considered a biohazard. Needles and syringes must be disposed of in puncture resistant, yellow, labelled containers, and can be dropped off at local hazardous waste facilities. Many needle and syringe containers, along with unused or old prescription drugs, can also be dropped off at your local pharmacy. Proper disposal of these products is important to protect water quality, soil, and ensure the safety of others.
- E-waste: E-waste is electronic waste that includes unwanted electrical equipment and used batteries. E-waste should not be treated as garbage because the items may pose environmental hazards. Electronic equipment contains toxic substances such as mercury, lead, cadmium and arsenic and when burned can produce toxic air pollutants or contaminate soil. Check with your municipal, provincial or territorial government for information on possible e-waste disposal programs.
- Donation: Many household items that are in fair condition may be donated or reused. Clothing and textiles are versatile items and can either be repurposed, recycled, or donated to charities or other non-profit organizations. Some communities have curb-side pickup programs for larger donations that are in fair condition. Check with your municipality and local charities for special events or drop off locations.
Disposal Tips for Common Household Products
Listed below are some common products that you may have in your home. Not every product is mentioned and if you have any questions about the disposal of specific products, it’s best to check with the manufacturer, or your municipal, provincial, and territorial governments for disposal instructions and special programs.
Products such as detergents, solvents, and disinfectants, should not be placed in the trash. You may be able to drop off these products at depots that accept hazardous waste.
Some kitchen disinfectants and even some food products may come in aerosol containers. These containers can use nitrous oxide or carbon dioxide (for food), or isobutene (for foam-based cleaning products) in order to dispense the product. These containers are under pressure and are often flammable. Aerosol containers should be dropped off at a local hazardous waste depot when finished.
Plastic bags, such as those used to carry groceries are typically made from polyethylene and can take hundreds of years to break down in the soil. There are plastic bag drop off depots across Canada, so check locally for depot locations. Plastic bags can also be reused to pack groceries. Reusable cloth or fabric bags can be used to take home groceries and are a great way of avoiding the accumulation of plastic bags. It is important to remember to wash the cloth bags regularly in order to keep them clean.
Kitchen Grease or Cooking Oil:
Some types of kitchen grease or cooking oils can be saved and reused, but don’t pour them down the drain. If you do, fats and oils can damage municipal drain pipes as well as your own. It’s best to save fats and oils in a reusable container, and then dispose of them on municipal pickup day along with the rest of your household garbage. Depending on where you live, you may be able to dispose of fats and oils in municipal compost bins. Check with your municipality to be sure.
Prescription and Non-Prescription Drugs:
Prescription and non-prescription drugs, including vitamins and other supplements can be harmful to water and aquatic life if flushed down the drain. If you have any leftover or expired drugs, they can be dropped off at your local pharmacy for safe disposal. The Health Products Stewardship Association has more information regarding drop-off locations.
Ink cartridges can be recycled through various recycling programs, so it’s best to first check with the manufacturer for details. The plastics used to make cartridges are often recycled to make new products. Many cartridges can also be refilled at stores for repeated use.
Paint & Paint Cans:
In many jurisdictions, leftover paint must be returned to hazardous waste depots. It is often illegal to dispose of it otherwise. Contact the store where your paint was purchased for disposal information. Some paints can be reused and may even be re-tinted to make another colour.
Empty paint cans, including metal and plastic containers, can also be recycled through hazardous waste depots. If the paint is latex and has hardened in the container it may be safe for recycling through the regular recycling pick-up – but make sure to check with your municipality.
Motor Oil and Filters:
Disposing used oils down sewer pipes or drains can cause damage and pollute ground water. The Environmental Protection Act prohibits used oil from being disposed of in landfills in many provinces and territories. Many provinces and territories have recycling regulations that ensure used motor oil and filters are disposed of safely through vehicle service centres or hazardous waste depots.
Lawn and Pool Chemicals:
Lawn and pool chemicals, including fertilizers and pesticides can pollute water and soil if disposed of incorrectly. Health Canada regulates the lawn and pesticide industry through the Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA). Many local depots will accept items. Check with your municipality for locations near you.
Antifreeze contains ethylene or propylene glycol. Any leftover product or empty containers should be sealed and dropped off at hazardous waste depots. It is often recycled into new products.
Do not to throw tires in the trash — they can be recycled through various provincial, territorial, or federal run programs. Recycled tires can be used to make new rubber products and fuel. Many garages will also accept old or worn-out tires, so make sure to check the garage nearest you for drop-off locations.
Light bulbs, including fluorescent, incandescent, tube lighting,compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) and Light-emitting diode (LED) lights need special care when disposed. Because some bulbs contain mercury, they should not simply be thrown away in the trash. Regulations for disposal vary by province and territory, so check locally to find a drop off location.
Rechargeable and single use batteries may contain lead-acid, lithium, nickel-cadmium, silver oxide, or mercury. These toxic substances are harmful to humans and the environment. Some non-profit organizations accept old batteries and other small electronics for safe recycling. You can often return used batteries to the store where they were purchased or at a hazardous waste disposal site run by your municipality.
Here is a list of electronic items that are considered e-waste:
- Audio and video players and recorders (e.g. DVD and VCR players)
- Cell phones
- Computers and related equipment (e.g. keyboard, mice)
- E-Readers and tablets
- Digital watches
- Fax machines
- Pagers and PDAs
- Portable media players (e.g. mp3)
- Small appliances
- Telephones and answering machines
- Video projectors
For more information about how to dispose of these products, please refer to the E-Waste section of the Consumer Handbook.
Many types of food and kitchen waste can be safely composted. Items like plants, soil, fruits and vegetables, tea bags, coffee grounds, and more can be reused in gardens or disposed of in municipal or home compost bins. Other acceptable items include leaves, lawn clippings, and weeds.Check with your municipality for a list of excluded items.
Apartment or condominium residents should check with their building manager to see how these programs are run in their building.
Federal Consumer Affairs Office
Office of Consumer Affairs
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0H5
Provincial and Territorial Consumer Affairs Offices
Service Alberta, Consumer Contact Centre
Edmonton, Alberta T5J 4L4
Consumer Protection BC
Victoria, British Columbia V8W 9J2
Consumer Protection Office, Manitoba Justice
Winnipeg, Manitoba R3C 0B6
Financial and Consumer Services Commission
Fredericton, New Brunswick E3B 1E1
Newfoundland and Labrador
St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador A1B 4J6
Consumer Affairs, Department of Municipal and Community Affairs
Yellowknife, Northwest Territories X1A 2L9
Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations, Public Enquiries
1505 Barrington Street
Halifax, Nova Scotia B3J 3K5
Consumer Affairs, Department of Community and Government Services
Baker Lake, Nunavut X0C 0A0
Consumer Protection Ontario, Ministry of Government and Consumer Services
Toronto, Ontario M3M 1J8
Prince Edward Island
Consumer Services, Department of Justice and Public Safety
PO Box 2000
Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island C1A 7N8
Office de la protection du consommateur
Québec, Quebec G1K 8W4
Consumer Services, Department of Community Services
Whitehorse, Yukon Y1A 2N1