Waste Management

Materials Reuse, Recycling, and Disposal Guide

What Do I Do With This?

In the State of New Hampshire, the Department of Environmental Services regulates most materials management. Check out their various programs at www.des.nh.gov. This website provides a lot of great information. See the State Solid Waste Management Bureau page for useful fact sheets and the State Household Hazardous Waste Program page for a list of household hazardous waste collections.


Always ask at your own recycling center to find out what items are recycled there and how.

Index of Materials

Aerosol Containers

When containers still have product in them or are still under pressure, most are considered hazardous waste and should be taken to a Hazardous Waste collection.

Aerosol containers are steel cans; therefore, empty aerosol containers can be recycled with other metal cans in most recycling programs.

Agricultural Plastic

(bale wrap, plastic sheet mulch, etc.)
Agricultural plastics should be managed as trash. Burning agricultural plastics or other types of farm garbage is strictly prohibited. Unfortunately, agricultural plastic is typically not recycled at this time.


If the ammunition is in useable condition, try to find someone who might use it--your police department, a gun shop, or a friend. If the ammunition is old, wet, or corroded, your police department should be able to take it or advise you on how to dispose of it. See also “Explosives.”

Animals, Dead

See “Dead Animals.”

Antifreeze / Coolant

Coolant from vehicles (antifreeze) is a hazardous waste. Check with your town or local auto service station to see if they will take antifreeze. If not, save it for a household hazardous waste collection.


Non-profit COVER Home Repair in White River Junction (802-296-7241) accepts donations of clean, working, large appliances as space allows for redistribution to needy members of the community. Small appliances, in good working order, can be taken to thrift stores such as Salvation Army, Goodwill, the Good Buy Store (SEVCA), Listen Centers. Or owners can sell them through the want ads.

If no longer serviceable, appliances can be brought to recycling centers that accept them in their scrap metal pile. Although appliances are usually taken at no charge, there almost always is a fee for the removal of CFCs (freon) from refrigerators, freezers, dehumidifiers, and air conditioning units. Appliances without freon can be taken as scrap metal at some municipal facilities. For appliances with freon, contact your local metal recycler such as Advanced Recycling or Recycling Services in Claremont or Ever Green Recycling in Wilder, Vermont to see if they will accept your appliance. See also “Electronics.”


Removal of asbestos in any form, friable or non-friable, creates concerns because the material can cause respiratory damage if inhaled. Friable asbestos (soft and fibrous such as pipe insulation) is the most hazardous. Non-friable asbestos (often found in siding and roof shingles and floor tiles of certain vintage) is less hazardous as it is less likely to break into airborne particles.

If you have asbestos wastes, look in the yellow pages under "Asbestos Abatement & Removal" and "Asbestos Consulting & Testing." Or call the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services Air Resources at 603-271-1373 for further disposal location information and to see if any contractors area already working near you and can take your asbestos. Check to see if your local household hazardous waste collection can take this material.  For information on health issues with asbestos exposure, click here.

Aseptic Food Containers

Aseptic food containers are plastic laminated, brick-shaped boxes such as kids' juice boxes, soy-milk cartons, Parmalat boxes, and soup broth boxes. Although aseptic packaging cannot be recycled at recycling centers in this area at this time, they are still a good environmental alternative due to having light weight and avoiding refrigeration during transport.


Ashes, wood or coal, can go in the trash if they are cold and bagged. There is a tremendous fire hazard in trash trucks and the landfill, so every precaution must be taken that the ash is stone cold. Wetting ashes down before disposal is strongly recommended. In small quantities, ashes from raw lumber and clean wood can make a good amendment to compost.


Asphalt can be taken to some paving companies. Check the Yellow Pages under “Paving Contractors” and call first.

Asphalt Shingles

Asphalt shingles can be taken in some landfills and transfer stations at their construction and demolition waste pile. Check with the landfill.


Junk cars can be recycled and many wrecker services will collect them, often at no charge to you. Make sure that the wrecker manages the hazardous automotive fluids correctly (gasoline, motor oil, antifreeze, brake fluid, battery, etc.). Look in the Yellow Pages under "Towing-Automotive."

Automotive Fluids

See “Antifreeze/Coolant” and “Motor Oil.”


See “Light Ballasts.”


Since many people have questions about batteries, we include this list on how to best handle different types.

Regular Alkaline Batteries (AAA, AA, C, D, 9-Volt)

(AAA, AA, C, D, 9-Volt)
There are some recycling programs for alkaline batteries, but there are no known programs in this area--so they go in trash. Make sure they are not rechargeable before discarding as some rechargeables come in the same sizes. If you're set on recycling them, you can do an on-line search for a recycling program and mail them in for recycling.

Alkaline batteries used to be hazardous due to mercury content. In 1996, U.S. Congress enacted the "Battery Act," which among other things banned the use of mercury in these batteries. So what it comes down to is that batteries manufactured and sold before 1996 probably have mercury in them and should be taken to a household hazardous waste (HHW) collection event. Those made after that can simply be tossed into the trash.

Rechargeable Batteries

Should be recycled through:

  • A your municipality if participating in the Call2Recycle or Battery Recycling Made Easy take-back programs (they also take cell phones at these locations) or a retailer: Best Buy; Home Depot; Radio Shack; Staples and other electronic stores.
  • Take to household hazardous waste collection if no other option.

All rechargeable batteries seem to have something in them that makes them hazardous and valuable as a recyclable, usually heavy metals. Therefore, all rechargeable batteries should be recycled. The most popular rechargeable batteries are Nickel-Cadmium, known as Ni-Cd (pronounced ni'-cad). Other common types are Nickel-Metal Hydride (Ni-MH) and Small Sealed Lead Batteries (pb) (if less than two pounds or 1kg). Rechargeables are used for power tools, cell phones, laptops, flashlights, and many other household items. Most retailers that sell rechargeables also take old ones back free of charge and send them to a not-for-profit group called the Call2Recycle who reclaims the metals in them. 

Button Batteries

Button-sized batteries should be taken to your municipal/regional facility if they accept them.  If not, check with your Household Hazardous Waste collection to see if they take them.

Button batteries are found in small items such as hearing aids, watches, and toys and are about the size of--you guessed it--a button. Button batteries can be alkaline, silver, mercury-oxide, or other cell-type. It is best to take any button batteries to an HHW event for collection as all of them contain some sort of hazardous material. Alkaline button batteries contain mercury even though their larger non-button cousins do not. Store button batteries in a small glass jar with a metal lid until you are ready to deliver them. This will keep out moisture, keep them away from children, and keep the pill sized away from those with vision problems.

Automotive Batteries

  • When buying a new battery, ask your service station or car parts store to take the old one back. Often you can receive a discount on the new one for the "core" of the old one.
  • Most auto stores take car batteries from the public.

Car batteries are known as "wet-cell" lead-acid as they contain liquid sulfuric acid. Due to both the acid and the lead, car batteries are considered hazardous. That, and because they contain so much lead which is easily reclaimed, they should be recycled.


Several bookstores take used books for resale. Libraries take them for book sales. Unfortunately, many recycling centers do not accept books. The covers of hard covered books can be ripped off and placed in with cardboard and the remaining pages with other paper—but check with your recycling center to be sure this is acceptable.


Boxboard is a type of carton which is gray or brown when ripped. Examples of recyclable boxboard are cereal boxes (remove bags on the inside), pasta boxes (remove plastic windows), cracker boxes and tubes from toilet paper and paper towels. Boxboard can usually be recycled with your regular recycling program.

Caution: Check with your recycling center about containers used in your refrigerator or freezer (like six-pack and soda boxes, or frozen food boxes). These may not be recyclable, due to the "wet-strength" additive which keeps the box from falling apart. Also, boxes which are white inside when ripped should be recycled with regular paper if it is separated from boxboard.


Metal food and beverage cans can be recycled. All recycling programs require that the cans be rinsed. Otherwise they draw rodents and insects—nasty! Labels no longer need to be removed. Check your regular recycling program to see how to sort your cans for recycling.

Empty aerosol cans and empty, dry paint cans are recycled as scrap metal. They can be recycled in some recycling centers in their scrap metal pile. Ask or check the town’s web site or recycling brochure.

Cellular Phones

Cell phones can be reused or recycled through national programs. Several programs give a percentage of proceeds to charities. They can also be recycled wherever the Call2Recycle take-back program occurs (see “Batteries, Rechargeable”) such as in many municipalities.  Also check:

  • Second Wave
  • Do search of "Charitable recycling of cell phones" for a list of options

Or bring them in to one of these area locations:

  • Verizon Wireless retail stores,
  • Retailers who participate in the Call2Recycle program such as Best Buy, Home Depot, Radio Shack, US Cellular, and Staples
  • Electronics collections.

Worn-out batteries should be recycled.

Carbon Monoxide Detectors

Carbon Monoxide (CO) detectors do not use radioactive substances (like smoke detectors), and can be disposed of in the trash.

Christmas Trees

Christmas trees make excellent habitat for birds and other wildlife if left outside after the holidays. If you have land enough, leave your tree out to decay naturally over time. If you know anyone with goats, talk to them--goats love to eat Christmas trees!

As an alternative some towns provide disposal where they chip the trees into "Merry Mulch." Ask your town representative. The Lebanon Landfill takes Christmas trees. Contact them for more information.


Reusable clothes should be given a second chance. Several consignment and thrift shops exist locally.

Coal Ash

See “Ashes.”


See “Leaves, Grass, and Other Yard Waste.”

Computers & Electronics

Why Recycle Electronics? Electronics contain metals, plastic, and a few toxins that should be reclaimed rather than put in the landfill. Recycling your computer or TV is one of the things you can do to help reduce the need for raw materials, and slow mining and drilling activity; and reuse creates 100 times more jobs per ton than landfilling electronics as trash, and recycling creates 10 times more jobs per ton. Sometimes electronics can be reused for parts or resold to folks who don't need the latest and greatest. The State of NH prohibits disposal of computers in the landfill as the glass contains substantial amounts of lead. The State maintains a web site of electronic recyclers.

To recycle, first, check with you local transfer station and recycling center to see if they accept computers and electronics.  There may be a fee.  There also might be occasional special collection events.  Ask if any are planned in your municipality.  Check local vocational schools to see if they have an electronics program and could use your electronics for hands-on learning. For working electronics, call a thrift store to see if they accept them for re-sale.    

Some Best Buy stores will take old computers and electronics for recycling. Check out their Recycling Electronics web site here. (Thanks Kingston Schools for pointing out this great web site!)

You can also check out the Verizon's Device Trade-In program at http://www.verizonwireless.com/b2c/splash/electronicdevicerecycling.jsp.

Electronics, computers, and TVs can be taken year-round to ___ in _______  You can also take these items to Computer Recycling of Claremont.   They don't appear to have a website but you can call 930-6655.  Your town may collect electronics every day. Watch for occasional electronics collections in your area. 

Staples stores often take back used printer cartridges.  Visit their rewards page for brining in certain cartridges.  

Computer Disks

GreenDisk in Columbia Missouri takes CDs, diskettes, DVDs, ink cartridges, cell phones, videotapes, pagers, PDAs, and all of your "byte-sized" technotrash for recycling. They refurbish or recycle what you send them. There may be a fee involved. Go to greendisk.com or call them at 1-800-305-3475. Computer disks are not recyclable through the computer recycling program. If not recycling your disks through GreenDisk, disks go in the trash. (Painted CDs can make interesting Christmas tree ornaments!)  Some Best Buy stores have a receptacle at their entrances for CDs to recycle.

Construction & Demolition Materials

Waste materials generated during the construction or demolition of buildings are called "Construction & Demolition" waste or "C&D." Reuse, Recycle, or Dispose of C&D:


If you have items that might be of value, please contact someone listed here to see if they might be interested.


C&D waste can be recycled. Ask your contractor or waste hauler to use a recycler rather than a landfill. Check the website for the NH Department of Environmental Services.


Disposal of C&D is available at the some landfills for fees similar to regular trash. Please be sure to properly separate trash from C&D waste.

Dead Animals

The incidental burial of animal carcasses is considered to be the burial of the carcasses at the same location where the animal lived, including the burial of family pets or a small number of large animal carcasses in farm locations. A solid waste facility permit is not required, provided that the person controlling the land where the animal is buried agrees to the location and the grave is covered with sufficient soil to avoid disturbance by other animals. It is recommended that the burial be at least 75 feet from any water supply and four feet above the seasonal high groundwater table to maximize aerobic decomposition. Prior to burial, local authorities such as the town health officer or zoning administrator should be contacted to ensure compliance with any town zoning or health ordinances.

For the one-time disposal on-site of a large number of carcasses, such as when a herd or flock must be destroyed, no permit from DES is required and the same burial requirements as above apply. However, the disposal should take place only under the auspices of the local health officer and with the approval of the New Hampshire State Veterinarian's office (603-271-2404). It is further recommended that "quick lime" be applied during burial to reduce odors and promote decomposition.

Many veterinarians also provide a service for the disposal of animals and rendering companies will sometimes accept large animals. Your local game warden will pick up a deer or moose.  Large-scale compost facilities may be able to accept animal carcasses.

Dry Cleaning Bags & Hangers

Some dry cleaners will take back dry cleaning bags and hangers for recycling and/or reuse. Ask your dry cleaners! Large quantities of hangers can also be recycled as scrap metal through your regular recycling outlets.

Egg Cartons

If a neighbor has chickens, they might appreciate extra cartons. They also make great craft supplies. Egg cartons that are made of paper can usually be recycled with mixed paper at your recycling center. Ones made of foam or clear plastic may or may not be recycled at your recycling facility--give them a call.


See “Computers and Electronics.”


Explosive chemicals, dynamite, marine flares, fireworks, and anything else that might explode should be turned over to the State Police Explosive Disposal Unit. Contact them during regular work hours weekdays at 271-1671. Call dispatch at 271-3636 during other hours. See also “Ammunition.”

Film Canisters

Some photo shops will take back film canisters for reuse or recycling when they accept your film for development. Ask at your local photo developer. They are typically not recyclable with your plastic bottles, but more plastics are being recycled now. Check with your recycling center.

Fire Extinguishers

Fire extinguishers are not accepted at our household hazardous waste events. Fire extinguishers should be refilled or re-pressurized when possible (unfortunately, many household fire extinguishers sold today are not refillable). In the event that you cannot refill your common "ABC" compressed air, dry powder extinguisher, it should be de-pressurized and dismantled before recycling. Release the product into a trash receptacle then remove the valve by unscrewing from the canister. The metal canister, once de-pressurized and empty, can be recycled as scrap metal. The powder and valve can go in the regular trash.

Many transfer stations will accept fire extinguishers along with other tanks such as propane tanks. One market for these tanks from municipalities is through NRRA (Northeast Resource Recovery Association).

Very old fire extinguishers (often brass or copper) can contain extremely hazardous substances. Please contact your local fire department for disposal options.  Or contact your household hazardous waste collection coordinator and explain the age of the extinguisher.


Highway or road flares may be taken to your local fire department to be burned. Give them a call. Flares that are not fired from a gun, may be taken at Household Hazardous Waste collections.   Marine flares intended to be fired from a gun are explosive. See “Explosives.”

Fluorescent & HID Lights

Using fluorescent lighting is a great way to reduce energy consumption and mercury emissions. An electricity-generating coal-fired power plant emits four times as much mercury to sustain a 75-watt incandescent bulb as it does for the equivalent fluorescent bulb. Mercury vapor is released into the atmosphere, comes down in rain, and contaminates our water resources. States sometimes issue warning about eating fish due to the mercury contamination in our lakes and rivers. But putting fluorescents in the trash is illegal in New Hampshire because there is a small amount of mercury in fluorescent bulbs.

HID (high intensity discharge) bulbs also contain mercury and are commonly used in security, outdoor and warehouse lighting. HID lighting is becoming popular for indoor use in commercial settings. The following are HID bulbs: mercury vapor, metal halide, high pressure sodium. HID lighting is also used in vehicle headlamps. HID headlamps can be identified by their characteristic bluish-white tint when lit. Some halogen bulb manufacturers are now applying a blue coating to their bulbs which makes them look like HID bulbs when lit, however, halogen bulbs do not contain mercury.

To properly dispose of your fluorescents, compact fluorescents, ultraviolet, neon, and HID light bulbs:

  • Talk to your town about taking bulbs at your facility if they are not currently collecting them.
  • Ace Hardware and True Value Hardware have teamed up with the State of Vermont (New Hampshire eliminated the funding June 30, 2011) to offer free recycling for residents of up to six fluorescent tubes and other mercury-containing bulbs per visit. Contact your Vermont hardware store for more details.
  • Home Depot and some food co-ops take the compact fluorescent lights (CFLs - the spiral bulbs) for recycling.

If you break a fluorescent bulb at home:

For breakage on a hard surface: Ventilate the room by closing all interior doors and vents, opening windows and any exterior doors in the room and leaving the room (restrict access) for at least 15 minutes. Remove all materials you can and DO NOT VACUUM but do wear disposable gloves, if available and carefully clean up the glass fragments and residue with a stiff paper or cardboard (such as playing cards or index cards). Pick up any remaining small pieces of glass and residue using tweezers and sticky tape (such as masking or duct tape). Wipe the area clean with a damp paper towel, cloth or disposable wet wipe. Place all cleanup materials (cardboard, gloves, tape, etc.) in a sturdy glass container with a tight fitting metal lid such as a canning jar or peanut butter jar. Store the container outside of the house in an area inaccessible to children until you are able to dispose of it at a household hazardous waste location. Wash your hands and leave windows in the affected room open as long as practical (weather permitting).

For breakage on carpet: Complete steps above then, if rug is removable, take it outside, shake, and air out as long as practical. After the cleanup, the first time you vacuum the area where the fluorescent was broken, shut the door to the room or close off the area from as much of the rest of the house as possible and ventilate the room when vacuuming. Remove the vacuum bag when done cleaning the area, wipe vacuum with wet wipe and put the bag and/or vacuum debris, including cleaning materials, into a plastic bag and double bag and store the bag outside the house in an area inaccessible to children. After vacuuming, keep window open, door closed and children/pets out of room for 1-2 hours. Consider removal of carpeting where the breakage occurred as a precaution if there are infants, small children and/or pregnant women present who will be using the room.

Do not throw broken fluorescents away in household trash! See management methods above. Also see NH DES web page.


First consider donating unwanted food to your town’s food shelf or a local food bank which provides meals to the needy:

  • The Haven in White River Junction accepts non-perishable foods anytime. Perishables and extra food from catered events and the like are welcomed as well--just let the staff approve it first. 713 Hartford Ave (Rte 5 between WRJ and Wilder), next to St. Paul's Episcopal Church, 802- 295-6500.
  • LISTEN, Inc. in Lebanon accepts both non-perishable and perishable food, as well as non-food grocery items such as paper products. 60 Hanover St, Lebanon, 603-448-4553.

If the food is no longer edible, consider backyard composting. It reduces your trash costs, reduces use of the landfill, and can be great for your garden. See the EPA's composting website for instructions. Municipal composting programs cannot accept food waste without a special permit from NH DES.


Freon (a brand name we use to mean all refrigerants) is found in air conditioners, dehumidifiers, and refrigeration units. By law, freon and other chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) cannot be released to the atmosphere but must be removed with special equipment. This is because the gases destroy the ozone in the atmosphere, leaving the Earth prone to higher levels of solar radiation. Please take your old refrigerator/freezer or air conditioner to one of our scrap metal collections, where the Freon will be properly removed. BE CAREFUL not to puncture the tubes of the appliance and emit the gases into the atmosphere. See also, “Computers and Electronics.”


Local thrift stores and rummage sales are a great outlet for your used furniture. If the furniture is beyond reuse, many local trash services can take them for a fee.  Wood furniture might be accepted as C&D (construction and demolition debris) at your transfer station.  Some municipal transfer station are accepting plastic furniture--give them a call.


Waste gasoline is hazardous and highly flammable--please use it or take it to a household hazardous waste collection for proper disposal. DO NOT dump it on the ground, where it can get into the water supply: "if you dump it, you drink it." See this link for more great information.


Glass food and beverage containers can be recycled with your regular recycling program. Most programs require that you rinse the containers and recycle metal lids along with tin cans, and throw away plastic caps. Labels do not need to be removed.

In many cases, you cannot recycle light bulbs, window glass, china, crystal, ceramics, mirrors or drinking glasses with food and beverage glass. These items contaminate regular recycled glass in very small amounts. But check with your recycling center as they may combine glass for construction purposes.

Grocery Bags

Reduce. If you accumulate a lot of paper or plastic grocery bags, consider switching to reusable sacks. They are easier to handle and stronger.

Reuse. May thrift stores accept clean brown bags or plastic bags for reuse.

Recycle. Brown paper bags can be recycled with cardboard in your regular recycling program. Some grocery stores accept plastic grocery bags for recycling. Look in the front of the store for a collection container. Be sure to put only plastic grocery bags into the collection container.


Helium is a precious gas.  If you have any helium left in a tank, contact your party store or other retailer to see if they can take the gas back.  They may also be able to take the empty tank.  If not, contact your recycling center to see if they can take the tank along with propane tanks.

High Intensity Discharge (HID) Lights

See “Fluorescent & HID Lights.”

Junk Mail

Unwanted mail, white and colored office paper, envelopes, and cards (paper portions only, no plastic sleeves, sample CDs, etc.) can be recycled as mixed paper with your regular recycling program.

If you find that you receive large quantities of mail which you do not want, contact the Mail Preference Service and say "please remove my name from all mailing lists." This needs to be done periodically to keep your name off the lists. They can be reached at (212) 768-7277 X1500 or online at: dmachoice.org.


Kerosene is flammable, and is considered a hazardous waste and must be disposed of at a household hazardous waste collection.

Leaves, Grass, and Other Yard Wastes

The best management technique is the oldest--make a pile and let them decompose into rich organic humus. Leaves are an excellent addition to kitchen scrap compost bins. If you do not have a place to deal with them on your property, yard wastes are accepted at some transfer stations and landfills free of charge (tree and brush material should be separated and there is a fee for it). See www.epa.gov/compost for more information.

Light Ballasts

Light Ballasts are the heavy black boxes found in some fluorescent light bulb fixtures. They can be recycled with scrap metal or thrown in the trash if they say "No PCBs" somewhere on them. Older ballasts contain capacitors whose oil contains the hazardous polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). If a ballast is unmarked, bring it to a household hazardous waste collection so the PCBs will not be released into the environment. Also, check to see if the local fluorescent bulb collection will accept ballasts as well.

Magazines & Catalogs

If you have a magazine subscription, consider passing the magazine on to someone who wants it when you are done. Maybe a friend, your local library or school, or doctor's office. To dispose of them, please recycle them at your regular recycling program.

Or see “Junk Mail” to learn how to remove your name from mailing lists.

Medicine, Prescription

Also, see “Needles, Medical.” The following information was taken from a NH Department of Environmental Services fact sheet which can be found at online or by contacting DES at (800) 273-9469. In the absence of guidance on the medicine container or as local collection, one must use personal judgment to decide proper disposal. Here are some options to help you choose how to dispose of pharmaceutical and personal care products.

Contact your local household hazardous waste coordinator prior to a collection event to determine if your municipality will accept the waste. Most collection events will accept mercury-added or other personal care products, but not pharmaceutical waste. However, the Upper Valley Lake Sunapee Regional Planning Commission collections are now taking prescription and non-prescription drugs in partnership with Dartmouth-Hitchcock Pharmacy.

  1. Dispose of the waste in household trash.
  2. Dissolve tablets or capsules with a small amount of liquid and place in a plastic bag or small container. Add sawdust, kitty litter, or other dry materials to make it less appealing to pets or children. Treat liquid medicine the same way.
  3. Put sealed medicine mixture in your trash so it is not visible from outside the trash bag to discourage unintended use.
  4. Remove labels from prescription bottles or completely mark out all information before recycling or throwing in the trash.

While households can legally dispose of hazardous waste in their trash, use personal judgment to decide on the proper disposal of intravenous bags that contain chemotherapy agents. To assure these wastes are not discharged to the ground, surface water, ground water, or air:

  1. Remove sharps and dispose of them with other household generated sharps.
  2. If the bag is empty, discard it in the trash or recycle it.
  3. If the bag contains a fluid, return the IV bag to a home care provider, pharmacy or other medical provider. They can dispose of the waste safely and properly.
  4. It is not recommended that chemotherapy agents be disposed of in trash or poured down the drain.

Mercury-Containing Devices

Awareness of the problems with mercury (Hg) has increased greatly thanks to the statewide the mercury device disposal ban, and other initiatives. Items you might have around your home that may contain mercury include:

  • thermometers with silver liquid (red liquid is just alcohol),
  • thermostats,
  • gas-fired appliances,
  • fluorescent light bulbs,
  • button-size batteries,
  • dairy barn manometers,
  • mercury switches,
  • and more.

See the DES website for useful fact sheets including “Cleaning up Household Spills of Elemental Mercury” (HW-15). The State of NH has a program to recover thermostats containing mercury. Contact your town to see if they are participating. You can bring these items to a HHW collection, but it's better (and less expensive) to drop them off at your town's facility if they collect them.

Mercury switches are small metal capsules, often called "bullets" that contain approximately one gram of mercury each. Some vehicles manufactured prior to 2003 have these switches which are generally located inside automobile trunk and hood convenience light fixtures, which they cause to operate. If switches are not removed prior to vehicle crushing, their mercury is vented to the atmosphere as an air pollutant during the smelting process where it eventually falls back to the earth, enters the food chain and is consumed by animals and humans.


Scrap metal is often recycled at no charge at municipal facilities or scrap yards (except Freon-containing appliances, see “Freon.”) Large items like junk cars or large farm equipment are not taken at municipal facilities or at the normal scrap metal piles. (See “Automobiles” for more information.)

Mixed Paper

White and colored office paper, envelopes, unwanted mail, and cards (paper portions only, no plastic sleeves, sample CDs, etc.) can be recycled as mixed paper with your regular recycling program. If you want to reduce the junk mail you receive, see “Junk Mail.”

Motor Oil

When used oil is dumped on the ground or poured down the drain, it becomes a serious pollutant of our ground and surface waters. Remember, if you dump it, you drink it! See also “Oil Filters.”

Residents can take their used motor oil (and transmission fluid separately) to many automotive stores and garages. Call first. Please follow the requirements listed below, and call the store or garage first to be sure they have room.

Usual Requirements:

  • The oil must be "clean" (No water, No antifreeze, No other fluids mixed with it).
  • No more than 5 gallons at a time.
  • One-gallon container maximum size.
  • Some would like the container to be see-through, like milk jugs or windshield fluid. (Do NOT use bleach containers, they contaminate the oil.)

Needles, Medical

The Department of Environmental Services regulates the disposal of household generated sharps. Household generated sharps may be disposed of in the solid waste, provided:

  1. Sharps are enclosed inside rigid, puncture-resistant containers.
  2. Containers encasing sharps are sealed and labeled “not for recycling.”

Certain containers found in the household, particularly plastic bleach and laundry detergent containers are satisfactory to ensure the safe disposal of sharps. Also, containers can be purchased that are specifically designed for the disposal of sharps. Before placing a container of sharps in the trash, reinforce the lid with heavy-duty tape and place the container in a securely fastened plastic bag.

Although placing household generated sharps in the regular trash is allowable under state rule, some municipalities prohibit this disposal method. Please check with the local authority to determine whether or not it is acceptable in your community. While it may be permissible, try to avoid the disposal of sharps in the regular trash if possible. For other disposal options see the DES fact sheet Disposal Tips for Household Generated Sharps or contact the NH Department of Health and Human Services at 271-0290.


Newspaper can be recycled with your regular recycling program. The rule of thumb is, "If it comes with the newspaper it can go with the newspaper."

Office Paper

White office paper is sometimes collected separately from other mixed paper because of its high value in the recycling market. Ask at your recycling program to see if it is separated from or included in the mixed paper category. See also “Shredded Paper.”

Oil Filters

Oil filters can be recycled after being specially drained. Since most people do not have the facilities to properly drain the filter, they should be taken to a household hazardous waste collection for disposal. Since the filters have a lot of oil left in them, please don't throw them in the trash. Some town facilities and auto repair service stations might be able to take filters.

Oily Soil

Oil contamination of soil often happens under outdoor storage tanks or from leaky heavy equipment such as skidders. A large patch of oil-contaminated soil could be a serious environmental condition. In such cases, you may need to hire an environmental consultant to assess the site and provide recommendations. For minor spots, landowners can treat the soil themselves, as the oil will degrade with encouragement. Place the soil on a plastic tarp, and add manure (the nitrogen helps speed degradation). Turn the soil to aerate and mix every few months until the soil is clean again.

Paint & Similar Products

Paint and paint related products can be hazardous to humans and the environment if disposed of improperly. Follow these guidelines to recycle or dispose of paint and paint products safely.  Most paint-related products are hazardous waste and should be taken to a hazardous waste collection. However, if your state participates in the PaintCare program like Vermont, see PaintCare's list of accepted paint related products.  Click here for the Vermont PaintCare brochure with a list of accepted materials in the program as well as other information about the program.

Empty Paint Cans

Empty paint cans are not hazardous waste. Empty, dry metal cans (with less than 1/2 inch of dry paint residue in bottom of can) usually can be recycled as scrap metal. Plastic paint containers, once empty and dry, are probably trash, but check with your recycling center to see if they recycle them. Leave the lids off so the transfer station attendant can see the can is empty and dry. The metal lid can be recycled too.

Partially Full Cans

If there is any paint still in the can, do not put it in the trash and do not dump it down the drain! Septic and sewer systems are not designed to treat any type of paint, oil-based or latex. It also may contaminate your soil and drinking water or pollute streams and rivers. Also, do not put liquid paint in the trash as it can make a terrible mess. First try to find a friend or neighbor who can use the paint. If you cannot, then:

Oil Based paint

Oil-based paint should always be treated as hazardous waste. Keep the paint tightly sealed, safely stored and take it to a household hazardous waste collection.  If you live in a state that has adopted the PaintCare program (like Vermont), then follow guidelines for return by contacting your town or looking at the PaintCare web site.

Latex paint

Latex paint is not taken at hazardous waste collection events because it is not hazardous waste. Latex paint can safely be disposed of in regular trash if dry. (If your State has PaintCare, check here.)  Below are three ways to harden and dispose of latex paint.  Never have open paint where children or pets can access them.

  1. Easy and Fast (not cheap): Purchase some waste paint hardener, stir it in, and throw out with your regular trash. The hardener is like the absorbent in diapers and instantly changes latex into a tapioca-like semi-solid that can go in trash. Available at: Aubuchons Online, 1-800-282-4393 (also search: "paint hardener").
  2. Easy and Cheap (not fast): Just leave the container open in a well ventilated area in warm weather for a long time, until the paint has solidified. Leave the lid off and toss it in the trash.
  3. Fast and Cheap (not easy): Add kitty-litter, sawdust, or another absorbent material to the liquid paint, using a one-to-two ratio of kitty-litter to paint. Stir the litter into the paint, let dry a minimum of two days, leave the lid off the can and throw it away.
  4. Faster and Cheap (not easy): Line a cardboard box with a plastic bag, pour the paint into the bag and leave open until dry. Close up the bag and it can then be thrown away.

Paint Chips

Lead paint chips are considered hazardous waste and should be disposed of at a household hazardous waste collection.

Pesticides and Herbicides

Please take your pesticides and herbicides to a household hazardous waste collection.

Phone Books

Phone books can be recycled with mixed paper in some town programs. Some towns have collections during the time of year that the new phone books are delivered.

Pizza Boxes

There are two kinds of pizza boxes: ones made of corrugated cardboard, and ones made of boxboard. Both of these types can be recycled if the box does not have significant food waste remaining. If there is cheese stuck all over the bottom, or big greasy stains, the box should be put in the regular household trash.


Check with your local recycling program to see which plastics are accepted for recycling. They can tell you what marks to look for on the bottle of the container. And if they only take containers with “narrow necks,” this means bottles and jugs, not yogurt containers or frozen food containers—even if they have the right symbol on the bottom or say “recyclable.” Plastic caps may be trash--ask. Check with your recycling center about recycling jugs used for motor oil and other chemicals.

Some grocery stores will accept grocery bags for recycling. Some dry cleaners will accept dry cleaning bags for recycling.  Do NOT put plastic bags or film in with other recyclables--they become "tanglers" in recycling sorting equipment and are dangerous to workers.

Propane Tanks

See "Tanks.”


Rags are generally not accepted at rummage sales or through textiles recycling. Use them well, see if your mechanic wants them, or make a quilt. When too far gone, they can go in regular trash. Oily rags from home workshops or art studios present a fire hazard as well as an air pollution hazard. Keep them in a fire-safe, closed container, and then bring them to a household hazardous waste collection.

Railroad Ties

Railroad ties may be disposed of with construction and demolition wastes (see "Construction & Demolition Debris").


Oils and fats from large cooking operations can be collected and beneficially reused. Ask the company which supplies you with the oils to recommend a collection agent. Use of vegetable oils for fuel in converted diesel cars is increasing. Towns are starting to collect vegetable oils. Do not include in compost heap.

Scrap Metal

See “Metal.”

Sharps, Medical

See “Needles, Medical.”


Shoes can be tied in pairs (or rubber-banded together) and taken to local thrift shops.

Shredded Paper

Shredded paper can be recycled with most paper recycling programs, but ask your attendant for direction on how to prepare it for recycling. Most places prefer to have shredded paper brought in plastic bags. Loose shredded paper can gum up the works of sorting machinery. Bagged shredded paper can be pulled off to bypass the machinery and head straight to the mill.

Smoke Detectors

There are two types of smoke detectors:  ionization and photoelectric detectors.  Ionization smoke detectors contain a small amount of radioactive material called americium 241. Photoelectric detectors do not contain any radioactive materials.  Look on the back of the unit for the designation Am 241 or the radiation symbol. Home smoke detectors are an exempt radioactive product, and therefore can be disposed as trash in Vermont and New Hampshire. However, you may choose to recycle it by returning it to the manufacturer.  You can also bring smoke detectors to some HHW collections.


Americium is an alpha emitter, which does not travel very far, even in air. Just inches from an opened smoke detector source the radiation will dip below normal background levels (normal levels from things like the ground and air). And in a landfill, the radiation will be even more contained by the dense materials around it. Nonetheless, do not open the insides of a smoke detector, as that could remove the shielding, possibly exposing you to levels above background. Many major manufacturers offer to take back old units for recycling and disposal. A 2014 phone survey of major manufacturers on how to return your smoke detector is provided by clicking here.

Carbon Monoxide (CO) detectors do not use radioactive substances, and can safely be disposed of in the trash.  However, if you have a CO detector combined with a smoke detector, it may contain radioactive materials


Food Service Foam (PS #6) & Foam Packaging (EPS #6)

Polystyrene (PS #6) is found under meats and in take out containers in the form of clam-shell type packaging. Expanded polystyrene (EPS #6) is used to package appliances, electronics, and other products. Both of these types of foam can be recycled at special collections sponsored by Sustainable Lebanon and Lebanon Rotary Club. For information on the next collection date contact Sustainable Lebanon at sustainablelebanon@outlook.com.

Styrofoam Packing Materials

Styrofoam packing peanuts and packing blocks cannot be recycled, but some packaging stores accept them for reuse. Look under “Packaging Services” in the Yellow Pages.


Propane tanks

Pressurized tanks which are empty or which no longer work (propane, butane, oxygen, etc.) should be returned to the retailer or manufacturer. Some retailers take your used tank when you buy a new one, even if the old one wasn't theirs. For grill tanks, swapping them at a department store or convenience store is a good bet, as they often save you money on a new tank with the new "over-fill protection" valve. Check with your local recycling program to see if they are accepting propane tanks. If your town has a contract for tank collection and recycling, this may include the one-pound propane tanks used for camping equipment. Otherwise, there is no responsible management of these little guys.

Fuel oil tanks

A fuel oil tank cannot go in the scrap metal pile unless it has been cut in half, a potentially explosive task. The tanks also often have hazardous sludge in them. Best bet is to hire your fuel dealer or a tank removal company, which can be found in the yellow pages under "Environmental Products and Services" or "Tank Cleaning."


See “Computers and Electronics.”

Textiles (Clothing and Linens)

See “Clothes.”

Thermometers and Thermostats

Thermometers with silver liquid in them, and many thermostats (round in shape or other non-digital ones), contain mercury. Please check with your muncipal/regional transfer station recycling center first to see if they accept them. 

You can potentially take them to a household hazardous waste collection for proper management. Call them to find out (for UVLSRPC collections, call 603-448-1680).  Also see “Mercury-Containing Devices.”


Contact your local tire store or municipal transfer station to see if tires are accepted.

Toner Cartridges

Ink jet and laser printer cartridges, and typewriter cartridges and ribbons, can be often be re-filled and reused. However, they typically cannot be recycled with regular plastics, even if there is a matching number on the cartridge. Ink jet cartridge recyclers often give revenues to charitable organizations to encourage recycling.

Staples office supply store sometimes has a bin for free recycling of toner and cartridges.
Ink jets for charities (www.recycle4charity.com).
Toner cartridges from photocopiers often cannot be refilled or recycled. These can be safely disposed of in the regular trash.


Toys which are in usable condition can find a home with a child. Local day care centers often appreciate donations of toys in good repair. Check at day care centers near you. Also, thrift shops will often take toys in good condition.

If they are not in usable condition, toys can be thrown in the regular trash after removing batteries (see “Batteries”).  Contact your local recycling center in your town to see if they recycle large plastic items--some do, some don't.


It is illegal to burn trash in the State of New Hampshire for very good reasons. Burning trash emits many nasty chemicals and particles into the air. Backyard burning hurts us, our children, our neighbors, and our natural surroundings. You can be part of the solution. Stop illegal burning of trash in New Hampshire. It is also illegal to bury trash on your own property, or dump or deposit it anywhere other than a certified disposal facility.

Trees and Brush

If you can find a way to cut trees and brush into small pieces on or very close to the ground, they will decompose in place while providing habitat for many small creatures. When such a solution is not feasible, check with your municipality to see where you can take trees and brush.

See also “Christmas Trees.”

Wood Ash

See “Ashes.”

Wrapping Paper

Most wrapping paper is recyclable, and can be put with your mixed paper for recycling. However, certain types of wrapping paper are not recyclable—check with your recycling center. These include Mylar, shiny plastic foil, metallic foil, or paper with imbedded heavy glitter or felt. Remove ribbons and bows before recycling.

Yard Waste

See “Leaves, Grass, and Yard Waste.”