A household drain can seem like a convenient way to get rid of unwanted liquid waste – we’ve all been tempted to flush away dirty mop water or to just dump cooking oil down the sink and be done with it. But have you ever stopped to think about where all that water goes once it leaves your sight? While it may seems safe – that water has to be treated eventually, right? – in fact a lot of what goes down your drains will eventually end up back in natural waterways and maybe even back at your own faucet someday. So to help keep your water clean (and your water treatment facilities running smoothly), here are four things you should never put down the drain.
What to do instead: City waste centers will have drop-off areas for toxic chemicals. Some substances like paint and motor oil can be recycled, while non-recyclable liquids will be disposed of properly. You can also replace nasty, toxic cleaning supplies with eco-friendly cleaners made with enzymes, citrus, or oxygen.
What to do instead: Instead of flushing used pills look in your area for a medicine take-back program. While there is no national plan to collect unused medications, there are lots of local organizations that join together pharmacies, law enforcement, and hospitals to collect and responsibly dispose of everything from painkillers to blood pressure pills. If no programs are available in your area, mix pills with something unpalatable like kitty litter or coffee grounds to keep them from being accidentally ingested and include them with your regular trash.
What to do instead: It’s possible to compost fats and oils, but you’ll want to be very careful if you’re dumping them into a home compost bin. The smell can attract animals and too much grease can block access to oxygen, resulting in smelly, poor-quality compost. The best option is actually to recycle it: dirty kitchen grease can easily be turned into eco-friendly biofuel. Look in your area for companies or city programs that accept kitchen waste for recycling, then just stick a jar by your stove to collect cooking oil and drop it off when it’s full.
What to do instead: Why not put all that paper to work? Paper products make a great source of carbon for home compost piles which means you’ll be keeping that waste out of landfills, too. Better yet, switch to cloth towels and other reusable products to cut out that trash altogether.