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Beacon Senior News

Can I throw this out?

Feb 22, 2021 02:57PM ● By Jan Weeks
hazardous waste

How to clean out estates and dispose of hazardous items

Almost everyone has at least one of these items hanging around: a pint of paint left in a gallon-sized can, oil from the last home car change, burnt-out light bulbs or dead batteries. Especially if you’re dealing with an estate, you probably have no idea what’s in all those bottles, cans and boxes, or what to do with them. Instead of taking them to the landfill, there are better options.

“It is surprising how many folks we see each week that come in with truckloads of unmarked chemicals, appliances and so forth from Grandpa’s shed,” said Teresa Nees, manager of the Mesa County Hazardous Waste Facility. “As many people as we are able to help, I know there are many more that don’t know what they are supposed to do with all of the unsellable or unusable items.”

What’s hazardous waste?

When cleaning out estates, most people are unsure what classifies an item as hazardous. There are four categories of hazardous materials:

1. Flammable or combustible items—which means they easily ignite and burn. Old gasoline, paint thinner and oil-based paints should not go in the trash. 

2. Explosive or reactive products. If it reacts with air or water to produce toxic vapors or an explosion, such as peroxides and calcium carbide, it’s hazardous. 

3. Corrosive household items. Caustic cleaners, acids and toilet bowl cleaners burn skin on contact and eat away the surfaces of other material. 

4. Toxic materials such as herbicides, insecticides and pesticides. These are poisonous, and in even small amounts can cause injury or death when inhaled, swallowed, absorbed by the skin or after repeated exposure. If you see “danger” and “poison” on the label, that means the product is highly toxic, corrosive or extremely flammable. “Warning” or “caution” indicates that the product is moderately or slightly toxic. 

Recycling non-hazardous items

Other materials may not meet the above criteria for hazardous, but still shouldn’t go into your trash can. Latex paint can be recycled into a road base, low-grade concrete and oil-based paints become a fuel blend. Likewise, electronic waste is de-manufactured and various components are then recycled. Some items, like TVs, have a by-the-pound cost to recycle. 

There are several places to dispose of electronic waste like old computers, cell phones, printers, ink cartridges and TVs. CORRecycle, located at 739 Third Ave., Grand Junction, takes all these and more. Best Buy also accepts electronic waste for recycling at no charge.

If a loved one has passed away, you may be faced with leftover medications and syringes. St. Mary’s Hospital has a dropbox for medications in the Emergency Department, as do Montrose Memorial Hospital and the Delta County Sheriff’s Office. Mesa County Hazardous Waste Facility also takes sharps (aka syringes and needles) as long as they’re in a biohazard container. 

The Mesa County Hazardous Waste facility is located at the county landfill on Highway 50 and is open Thursday through Saturday from 8 a.m. to 4:15 p.m. 

For a complete list of materials that can be recycled at the hazardous waste facility, visit their website at or call 256-9543. Only Mesa County residents may use the facility, and there is also a fee for some items, such as electronics. Montrose residents can learn about local waste resources online at

What about the non-hazardous stuff?

If you’re downsizing and still have a lot left after getting rid of pesticides and old batteries, read Marie Kondo’s book, “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up,” or watch her series, “Tidying Up,” on Netflix. You’ll find sorting items like clothes, books and memorabilia much easier when there’s a method instead of madness.