Photo: New Year's resolve: clean up your trash habits

Garbage day and blue bin recycling programs are one thing, but what do you do with empty paint cans, used batteries and that old computer monitor? (Credit: Lawrence Sinclair via Flickr)

I can't possibly be the only one who notices a drastic difference on garbage day post-holiday hoopla. It looks different than any other time of year. Sure there are snow drifts and shrivelled-up Christmas trees, but the sheer volume of trash is hard to ignore.

January is not known as trash season, though your garbage collector might disagree. Instead, it's traditionally a time of year when we make promises and pledges or New Year's resolutions — to be better and to do better.

It felt only natural (to me) that these two phenomenon collide, making perfect fodder for my first blog post of 2011. It's about disposal people, and 2011 is the year to clean up!

If your garage (or basement or crawl space) is like mine, it's overflowing with a variety of "what the heck do I do with this stuff?" You know — items that aren't safe for the landfill and those rejected by your curbside recycling program. (Speaking of curbside collection, watch my new Blue Bin Do's and Don'ts video to be the best recycler you can be!)

Over my holiday break, I took some time to do a little holiday hangover cleaning. But I had help, thanks to a few fabulous resources:

Earth 911

Use their search engine by entering your postal code (or Zip) and the product you're trying to dispose of — like paints, computer monitors, metal clothes hangers, and more!


This company specializing in recycling batteries (e.g., AA, lithium ion) and cell phones. Again, just enter your postal code (or Zip) to find a drop-off location near you.

Product Care

If you live in one of the seven Canadian provinces they cover (B.C., Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, or Newfoundland), search this site by province or product (like pesticides, CFLs, small appliances, or flammables).

These are only a few leads, but chances are your city's website has some of the best tips and advice when it comes to disposal of tricky items. Also, see if your province has a recycling council (e.g., British Columbia, Ontario) or a hotline. There are also private companies that take stuff your Blue Bin program won't (and often for free).

What resources have you found helpful when trying to safely get rid of the impossible?

Lindsay Coulter, Queen of Green

January 6, 2011

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Feb 26, 2015
6:59 AM

Interesting article! Thanks a lot for this unique information! Keep going! Covent Garden Carpet Cleaners Ltd.

Jul 19, 2014
9:59 PM

We should not simply throw the bags into trash. Or we can’t keep them in storage as they may turn into dangerous. Now due to the help of recycling procedure paper, plastic bottles and electronic gadgets can turn into useful things.

We have to think something unique and act beyond the straight line. We are responsible for what we are consuming every day. Probably we should start looking at making our consumables in such a way that they can be reuse. The more people know the reallocation procedure of trash services black foot

Nov 22, 2013
11:10 PM

Manitoba gives no incentive for people to recycle their stuff. They only give back .10 cents for beer only and nothing else. What a joke while they get to tax you on the enviroment levy for every drink you buy in the stores and when those blue bins are placed the people end up giving up their hard earned money to the government who takes all of these recyclable stuff and make money double whammy on the people. Enviroment levy and once again when they mulch or reproduce the recyclables and sell it off by the pound or weight to other countries they make a bundle especially if it is alunium products. Right out of your wallet into lining the government’s wallet. They make the people do the work and then rape them of the money.

How about doing what BC is doing give them incentive to take back their recyclables and pay them for it makes more sense. I have seen how Vancouver does it and with that many people in one province they bring back their recyclables and get paid for it, recycling joints in BC are like packed day in and day out. Those blue bins and other green bins what a waste of time better just to dump it right into the dumpster instead of wasting your time and effort to seperate the recycles for nothing more than the government pulling the wools over your eyes.

At least people got smart and started to recycle them into inventive ideas and make money off of it and I have seen innovative ways the people are using their recyclables and selling it for a profit instead of using blue and green bins imposed on them by the government. Why do all the work for the Manitoba government while they sneak pass by the people with horrid taxes and levies and not get a cent out of it. The blue bin and green bins can and should be recycled away instead for the incentives for people to recycle. The more people know they will get something back to recycle the more people will recycle . Common sense 101.

Aug 01, 2012
12:30 AM

thanks I got the information which I was searching from past 2 days it really helped me a lot Spring cleaning

Aug 12, 2011
12:21 AM

You cannot simply throw them in the trash or keep them in storage for it can be a bio-hazard. Paper, plastic as well as old electronic gadgets can now be turned into something useful or entertaining thanks to those who have made efforts in helping us deal with what most of us consider as trash already.

Jun 07, 2011
4:38 AM

Trashbags must be allocated properly. Some people don’t do these so there would be a mess.

Mar 16, 2011
2:16 PM

Brilliant, just what I needed to know, thank you!

Jan 20, 2011
3:49 PM

Ah the holidays. Yes the time of year to deal with all the packaging and recyclables, not to mention the old possessions displaced by the new gifts we’ve just received. It’s a cornucopia of excessive wasting.

If we were to follow the 3 R’s, I suspect we might not be in the predicament of “where to take the rest of the stuff to”. But since most communities really just have a one “R” policy, “Recycling’, the other 2 “R’s, Reduce and Reuse “never seem to be very relevant.

Somehow, placing a few recyclable things in the blue box at the curb gives the impression “we are doing our part” for the planet. But where does that stuff in the Blue Box go to? And how does any Blue Box program encourage reduce? Seems the easier it is to throw stuff away, the more stuff we throw away???

As for Reuse, the third “R”, I know of few community recycling programs anywhere that has that built into their community recycling programs. Oh sure, there are some very dedicated non profit volunteer groups and folks picking up the slack. But should we not be looking at keeping stuff out of the landfill? Would it not make more sense to develop community “3-R” programs that incorporates “Reduce and Reuse” with the same zeal that curbside gets? What about resurrecting the repair industry?

But those who love wasting have an answer for that. Incinerators! Yup, burning garbage to make some power is the new idea snake oil salesmen are selling now. Then everything can be chucked. There won’t be any need to reduce, nor reuse. It is burned to make “energy”. Then Public Relations firms help sell this environmental ponzie scheme as Waste To Energy or Renewable Energy. Then the manufactures must use new natural resources and energy to remake the stuff incinerated. It’s an escalating slippery slope!

Some communities have made the shift though, so there is hope. A community consisting mostly of senior citizens in Kamikatsu Japan have taken recycling, reuse and reduce to a whole new level.

In Berkley California, Urban Ore mine the waste stream before anything is landfilled So there are proven sustainable examples of what raising the bar looks like. If we can have a coffee shop every 2 blocks, why could we not have efficient “reverse retail” outlets conveniently located everywhere (like coffee shops) to take all the items that can’t go into a blue box program?

In Gibsons BC (the home of The Beachcombers) we have created a One-Stop-Drop” depot. We take everything. And if organics are removed before everything is contaminated, we mine our streams of recyclables and disposables into specific categories, creating clean wood, metal, dry wall etc… feed stocks for recycling, as well as all the usual recyclables. We also have 2000 sq.ft. of space for our Zero Waste Reuse Store. as we mine our waste and recycling streams.

On Earth Day 2009, we launched a Styrofoam recycling program. The first in BC to do so. Meat trays, food containers, egg cartons and packaging Styrofoam all gets recycled here. Almost 10,000 large garbage bags full since we started. That’s about 7 tons not in our landfill. Then the recycled Styrofoam is sold to make crown moldings and high end picture frames, which when no longer needed, becomes recyclable.

The point here is that we have to think and act beyond the Blue Box. Maybe even be responsible for what we consume and what we discard. Cheap wasting is possible because of cheap oil which is subsidizing cheap transportation of waste and recyclables which makes stuff “go away”. We have to remember, that there is no AWAY”. Maybe we should start looking at making our consumables in such a way that they encourage reuse? Maybe even refillable glass bottles to replace throw away plastic bottles? Maybe even bring back water fountains? This ain’t rocket science.

Excellent Blogg Queen of Green!


Jan 13, 2011
5:49 PM

It would seem that a lot of our garbage-dump managers need a lesson on disposing of paint cans and other such items.I live north of Winnipeg Manitoba,and when a friend took her paint cans to our local dump,she was told {quite rudley} to take her paint cans home and “BURY THEM ON HER PROPERTY} Now what kind of “Garbage Management” is that?????

Jan 13, 2011
4:41 PM

I have always been involved with the 3 R, When I worked at the U.B.C. Hospital in the 80and90 we were one of the first hospitals to get involved to start up a recycling program It sure has grown since then!!! In the 70ties I took small trailers of all kinds of paper to the recycling plant made enough money for the down payment for our first house!!! I prefer to take my stuff to places that I know handle things properly If some one comes to to door how do I know if they don’t just dump it in the woods !!!! Too much of that goes on !

Jan 13, 2011
9:57 AM

Jenny, Disposal is a good question and one I get often. You can see the answer I gave a Toronto Metro reader in my weekly column here.

I’ve also answered this question on our FAQ page about cosmetics.

Best of luck and congrats on reducing your exposure to toxic chemicals! Now, wouldn’t it be nice if we didn’t have to shop defensively, Queen of Green

Jan 11, 2011
7:21 PM

Garbage is my pet project! I’ve been exploring the benefits of disposing of disposables on my blog too, the Non-Disposable Earth Project at I’ve reduced my garbage down to one grocery bag a week at most. It feels so good!

Jan 11, 2011
4:57 PM

Lindsay, what do we do with half-used bottles of shampoo, soap, and other cosmetics that we don’t want to use anymore because they have some of the Dirty Dozen in them? I hate to just pour them down the sink, but shelters don’t seem want them either (and if I don’t want to use them, I don’t feel right giving them away…)

Jan 07, 2011
10:29 AM

Dear Lindsay, Going garbage-less is our family new year’s resolution and we are recounting our journey at: We are looking forward to slowly creating a more sustainable lifestyle. Sincerely, Tara

Jan 06, 2011
2:49 PM

Lindsay, that is EXACTLY what I did to start the new year. The volume of paper I recycled was astounding. But I felt guilty for throwing out things I was certain I couldn’t recycle and that will languish in the landfill long after I’m gone. I don’t want these pieces of plastic, even if I can find some crafty use for them. Someone will have to deal with them eventually, and I’d rather they get recycled. Where I knew items could be reused, like empty pens that just need refills, I brought to the office freebee stack and they were snapped up quickly. But I’m frustrated how much plasic we encounter all the time that, even if it is labelled with a number, can’t be thrown in the blue bin. At the Clean Bin Project film screening recently, they had a pickup of these odd items, but I don’t know where I can just drop them off. I know I don’t want to acquire any more if I can help it.

Sears was happy to take back the plastic hooks that came with my tights (which were 97% cotton, by the way!).

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