I grew up in the 1980s and whenever a light bulb would burn out or batteries would die, neither I nor my family thought anything of tossing them in the trash. Yet to properly get rid of items like those, televisions and other such electronics, it is important to take them to recycling and disposal centers, rather than setting them out on the curb.
Batteries contain heavy metals and acids that can harm the local environment, such as polluting the local water supply due to runoff from melting snow or rain. Tiny button batteries, cell phone batteries, and car batteries contain dangerous chemicals and should be taken to disposal centers.
The batteries we use most such as alkaline batteries (AAA to 9v) are okay for regular trash in all states but California. Still you can toss them in anyway and if your particular recycler doesn’t, they will get rid of them properly. Places like Home Depot or Lowe’s often offer free recycling for batteries or CFL light bulbs. If that’s not convenient, try contacting a local chapter of an environmental group who can point you in the right direction or even take care of the recycling themselves.
With electronics, there are environmental dangers—specifically with old-school tube-style televisions and monitors—but the primary reason to recycle those is because inside that outdated technology are resources that are still used today. Mining for these resources remains controversial globally, but at the same time demand for mobile devices and computers is constantly growing.
Yet for parents who already have to balance raising children, earning a living, and trying to squeeze in a little fun now and again, taking the time out to recycle can be a major inconvenience.
Some people are sold on the idea that taking elaborate steps to protect the environment is a good idea. Others aren’t so sure about that or at least not enough to change their habits. For me, the decision was made by my daughter. She has become a vehement animal-rights and environmental conservation supporter. She has spent the last few years living in rural Pennsylvania and being surrounded by nature has obviously made a deep impression on her.
The reality is that the size of the human population and the amount of electronic and hazardous waste we produce is only going to go up. By making this kind of recycling a priority, you would be instilling very good habits in your children. Even if the environmental outlook for their generation becomes somehow better than ours, there is a kind of moral righteousness in not being wasteful, even when getting rid of things we no longer use.