It should come as no surprise that when hazardous chemicals are dumped into landfills or waterways, it’s pretty damaging to the environment and our health.
But this doesn’t mean that certain chemicals, or the containers they come in, can’t be recycled. Whether empty, containing some leftover residue or half-full, bottles containing chemicals must be properly disposed of so as not to cause harm to the environment or your sewage pipes.
Read disposal instructions and research your council’s recycling rules
Before you make any decisions, be sure to take a look at the bottle’s instructions on proper disposal. Generally, you might find that it’s best to empty a bottle before you recycle it. If it’s a household cleaning product, like laundry detergent or dish soap, it’s probably fine to dispose of it down the drain with running water. As Grist recommends, if it’s safe to go down the sink, give the container a rinse or two.
On the other hand, if you read words like “danger,” “warning” or “toxic” on a container’s label, it’s unlikely you can empty it down the drain safely — think chemicals like pesticides, antifreeze or gasoline. Other chemicals like grease and oil can also clog your sewer pipes, so again, pay attention to the instructions as provided. Instead, consult local shops that might accept and reuse your leftovers.
After reviewing your product’s instructions, you should also do an online search or contact your council recycling program to find out rules on your particular product. Your program might spell out what’s required of you to dispose of a bottle that’s been in contact with chemicals.
Finally, once your bottle is emptied, look at the recycling number. If it’s a plastic bottle with a resin code between one and four, your program will likely accept them. Anything higher and you might have to be a little more resourceful.
And going forward, as Grist recommends, avoid using any corrosive or highly toxic chemicals if you can.