Most of us dread cleaning out that cluttered cupboard under the bathroom sink. When we finally muster up the courage, not much gets done because we still can't figure out how to dispose of that aerosol can that's been there since 2003, or the expired prescription drugs left over from wisdom tooth surgery. What gets recycled? What should be thrown out?
Well, look no further. Here is a short guide to help you dispose of all the flotsam and jetsam that's in that cupboard, as well as some useful tips to help you reduce your bathroom clutter.
How to safely dispose items in your bathroom
Do not throw medicine in the garbage as animals or children may get at it. Health Canada advises not flushing any medication down the toilet or pouring it down drains. Flushed medications can find their way into ecosystems and into our drinking water.
Inquire at pharmacies in your area as many take back expired or unused medication to ensure it is disposed of properly. If you are a patient of Shoppers Drug Mart or Pharma Prix (Quebec), you can bring back your unused medication. The pharmacies store the medication until a disposal company comes to pick it up, disposing it in a safe and environmentally friendly manner. The Rexa family of pharmacies, which includes Rexall, Pharma Plus, Guardian and I.D.A., offers the same service to its patients.
Think twice about throwing out old nail polish, nail polish remover, hairspray (and other sorts of aerosols) or leftover hair dye. Many brands of these products contain chemicals that are toxic, flammable and downright hazardous for the environment. Waste management services across the country consider these products toxic waste. Find the number of your local waste management service in the phone book or on the Internet and enquire about hazardous waste days. Most municipalities offer days when the public can bring their toxic waste to transfer stations where it will be disposed of properly.
If the cans and containers are totally empty (ensure they are empty to avoid danger of explosion), dispose of the lids in the garbage and toss the can or container into your recycling bin.
Overall, you should try to avoid buying hazardous products. Most are now available as natural products or in spray and pump form.
3. Syringes and needles
These are not to be disposed of in your recycling or garbage cans. Make sure to put all used syringes and needles into a tightly sealed container and label it. Take them to a hazardous waste depot for proper disposal.
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Reduce waste in your bathroom
One way to reduce the amount of waste coming out of your bathroom is to buy in bulk whenever possible. If you're loyal to a certain brand of shampoo and conditioner, buy a larger bottle, therefore reducing your use of packaging. If you don't have room in your shower for a large bottle of shampoo, keep an old small container and refill it as needed.
How to reuse items in your bathroom
With a little creative thinking you can find uses for some of your old bathroom products. Here are some ideas:
1. Use an old toothbrush to scrub the grit out of those hard to reach places or from between your bathroom tiles.
2. Use reusable rather than disposable cleaning cloths. They can be tossed in the washing machine when dirty, reducing waste. A good choice is Method microfibre cloths. Four types are available -- windows and glass, granite, wood and stainless steel -- and they even "improve with usage"!
3. Invest in a reusable razor. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that over two billion disposable razors end up in landfills every year in the United States alone.
4. Transfer your old hairbrush to your camping gear bag or give it to your kids to use when playing dress-up. You can also use it as a heavy-duty scrub brush to scrub out garbage and recycling bins, or even muddy shoes.
5. Refill smaller plastic bottles with hand cream for your purse or use them as travel size shampoo bottles. Wash them out thoroughly and put some Tylenol or Advil in them for those times you get a headache when you're on the go.
6. An old shower curtain can be used to cover your table while your kids are testing their artistic skills. Or, use it to line the trunk of your car when transporting dirty materials, such as plants for the garden.
7. Toilet paper rolls and facial tissue boxes can be used for arts and crafts or as building blocks for your kids. If you can't use them, ask some local schools or day camps if they can.
8. Spray and pump bottles can be thoroughly washed out and filled with a homemade window and glass cleaner of 1/4 cup of vinegar, 1/2 teaspoon of liquid soap and 2 cups of water.
How to recycle items in your bathroom
Many of the things you use in the washroom can be recycled. If in doubt, check with your municipality or recycling centre.
1. Once you are finished with shampoo, conditioner and your body wash, rinse out the containers and put them in the recycling bin.
2. Make sure to recycle all empty toilet paper rolls and tissue boxes.
3. Spray and pump bottles can be rinsed out and recycled.
4. Recycle your empty toothpaste tubes.
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5 more ways to reduce waste in your bathroom
There are many other ways to reduce waste in your washroom if you have the resources.
1. Many products from Burt's Bees and Tom's of Maine come in packaging made from recycled materials. Tom's of Maine is the first company to have recyclable deodorant containers. Burt's Bees and Tom's of Maine products can be found at many health and organic stores, as well as some brand name pharmacies.
2. Recycline makes toothbrushes and razors that are produced from 100% recycled material. If you order off their site you can customize your own delivery schedule, receiving a new toothbrush every three months for a year if you like. Recycline also includes a postage paid envelope so you can send them back the product when you are finished with it. Or, toss it in the recycling bin.
3. Order bathroom and cleaning products from Grassroots, who ship all over North America. Their all-natural, environmentally friendly products are packaged in bottles made from recycled plastic. If you live in Toronto, visit one of their two stores with an empty bottle or Tupperware container and fill up on dish soap, laundry detergent and other all-natural cleaning products.
4. Buy toilet paper and tissues made from 100% post-consumer recycled material. Cascades and Loblaws' President's Choice Green bathroom tissues are great options.
5. Another way to help out the environment and your family's health is to purchase all-natural cleaning products, such as those from Canadian brand Nature Clean. These can now be found in most major stores as well as health and organic stores.
There's a huge variance from municipality to municipality over what recycling gets picked up at the curb and what cannot be thrown in the garbage, so be sure to check with the waste management offices in your area. Here are some links to waste management sites in some of Canada's major cities:
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