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The Recyclist: Clean out the garage (and grab breakfast)

March 12, 2010 |  7:14 am
Paint

Let's talk for a moment about what not to put into the recycling bin (or the garbage can, for that matter).

Batteries. Fluorescent light bulbs. Pesticides. A burned out computer. A broken printer. Cans of paint. An old TV. Motor oil. Microwaves. That dusty VCR in the spare bedroom. Cellphones. Paint thinners. Heavy-duty chemical cleaners. Irons. Fertilizers. Hypodermic needles. Antifreeze. Unused medications. Old gauges -- such as a blood-pressure gauge, thermostats and the like.

These are just a few examples of so-called "universal waste," "e-wastes" and "sharps wastes" -- all come under the category of household hazardous wastes. And although it might not look it to the casual eye, many of these items contain corrosive chemicals, or mercury, and are highly toxic to the environment when spilled or broken open, and also could harm refuse workers.

In other words, these objects constitute your own personal hazmat -- and need to be, as Mom might say, "properly disposed of."

Here's the good news: This doesn't have to be a hassle. In fact, I can tell you from experience that it's super easy, especially if you live in Los Angeles. What's more, I'm going to throw in breakfast, too. Here are three, free ways to safely reduce the toxic clutter in your garage:

On Saturday, March 27, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., there will be a household wastes roundup at Veteran's Stadium in Long Beach, a short drive from the 405 / 710 / 91 freeways. You pull up, you dispose, you drive off. Seriously, it's that quick and easy. This is in my neck of the woods, so I suggest you make it worth your while with breakfast at either Jongewaard's Bake N Broil in Long Beach or Heritage Family Pantry in nearby Lakewood. (These are old-school breakfast joints that don't have websites, but you can see by these Yelp reviews why I put on the feed bag at each, weekly. Yes there will be a line. Table turnover, though, is pretty quick.)

What's that? You can't make it March 27? Two other options:

-- Here's a list of permanent hazardous waste drop-off points in Los Angeles, Sun Valley, Playa del Rey and San Pedro. Call first to make sure they accept what you've got, and that they will be open. I used the San Pedro site and was prepared for a long line and a bureaucratic hassle. Nonewhatsoever. If you go to San Pedro, reward yourself with breakfast at the Gaffey Street Diner, which might be familiar to fans of "Diners, Drive-ins and Dives" on the Food Network. Or drive a bit more and go to one of my all-time favorite places, the Original Pancake House in Redondo Beach. (Yes, I realize Redondo Beach is 13 miles from San Pedro, but that is well within the gravitational pull of the Pancake House for me.) Lines will be an issue, especially at the Pancake House, so plan accordingly.

-- You can also wait until a roundup comes (practically) to your front door: Check out this list of upcoming hazardous waste pickups that, sooner or later, will be coming to your area. (If you do not live in the Los Angeles area, check in with the refuse and recycling department at your city hall.) I do not know where you live, so I cannot recommend breakfast joints.

Finally, you might want to sign up here for e-mail alerts about when hazardous waste pickup will be coming to your area in the future. Let's face it, we'll aIways have more junk. I suggest designating a place in your garage, or a box in your closet, where you can carefully store stuff (no kids or pets allowed!) between drop-offs or pickups. Carefully stow light bulbs and similarly fragile items to prevent them from being accidentally broken.  

If you still have questions about what qualifies as waste requiring this kid-glove treatment, here is an excellent list to highlight some of the troublesome items. On the upper left of the page you will also find links and more detailed 'splainers about sharps waste regarding many medical supplies, e-waste regarding unwanted electronic devices, universal waste such as light bulbs, batteries and the like.

Waste disposal is a bit of a hassle, but I think you will be pleasantly surprised at how well organized Los Angeles is in this respect. And anyone who cares about recycling Styrofoam really should also care about tossing out toxic chemicals.

Have you tried disposing of hazardous waste in the area? Was your experience different? Please let me know if you try the hazardous waste roundup March 27, or any of my breakfast spots, and tell me what you think. And if you have any other tips for dealing with household hazardous waste, let me know that, too. Most important: I am always keen to hear breakfast recommendations!

-- Rene Lynch
On Twitter @renelynch

Photo credit: Do not throw this stuff in your garbage can or recycling bin. Brian Vander Brug / Los Angeles Times

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