How to Purge: Can I Throw Away An Old TV? (and other questionable items)

If you’re on a decluttering spree, good for you! But I just want to caution you for one quick second. There are some thing that you need to know how to purge properly.

Before you toss all that old medicine into a trash bag, take a look through this list of things that you may or may not be able to put in the trash.

Some of this stuff you might not WANT to throw away and some of it might even be ILLEGAL to throw away.

Who knew? Well, I did. And now you will, too. I’ve saved you from doing hard time for throwing away rechargeable batteries.

You can email me a thank you note.

How to Purge Without Breaking the Law or The Mother Earth

All of the things on this list are going to be better recycled or repurposed in some way than just tossed in a landfill, obviously. And some of the things on this list are illegal to throw away in many communities.

Bottom line, there are a lot of things in your home that you shouldn’t just throw away in the trash.

I’m going to cover the major ones, but if you’ve got something that seems like maybe it shouldn’t go in the trash and it isn’t on this list, definitely check with your Town Hall or local rubbish people.

And as an added bonus, I asked my friend Catherine from Random Cath for help with how to upcycle some of these items. She writes about Zero Waste and has tons of creative ideas.

The List of Things You Shouldn’t Just Throw Away

  • Electronics
  • Batteries
  • Almost empty paint cans
  • Chemical-y stuff (like motor oil, mercury thermometers, fluorescent light bulbs and even moth balls!)
  • Old medicine/prescriptions
  • Old/broken Appliances
  • Big pieces of furniture

Let’s go through the list.


how to purge - Old Electronics discarded

Best case scenario you can recycle old tvs, computers, phones or whatever other electronics you have hanging around the house. This is going to require some googling on your part to find when your community has an electronics recycling day.

You can also contact your trash collection company and find out if they will collect the items for you. You can expect to pay a fee for this.

Some local charities collect old electronics that are still in working order. This article from Budget Dumpster is a good resource.

What about broken stuff?

There are actually a few good options for selling your broken electronics. You can try Sell Broke or Gadget Salvation.

This article from Money Pantry is a great resource for selling old electronics.

Here’s what Cath has to say about how to use your old electronics:

Monitor/TV/Laptop screen

This project has been on my to-do list for about 2 years.

Make a magic mirror with an old laptop screen or a TV/monitor. This project is fairly easy to make if you’ve a working TV or monitor but it can also work with an old laptop screen as long as the screen itself is working (doesn’t matter if your whole laptop is). To use an old laptop screen a display controller board, which will make the project a bit more expensive but the end result lighter in weight.

Tutorial for old laptop screen: for tv/monitor tutorial:

If you want to dive into electronics, you might want to save your phone and use it to make a smartwatch.



how to purge - Old batteries

Batteries in your electronics are part of the reason you can’t just throw away Electronics. If there’s a lithium ion battery in the thing you want to throw away, don’t.

You’ll need to recycle that and you’ll need to Google where you can do that in your community.

But what about regular batteries that have died? Can you just throw those away?

It depends…

If it’s a regular alkaline battery that you probably use most commonly, then yes, you can put it in the trash. You can also recycle these batteries, but you may pay a fee for that.

If it’s any other type of battery (like a rechargeable one or one that you aren’t really sure what it is…) then you should NOT throw it in the trash. It’s most likely something that needs to be recycled.

In some states it’s actually illegal to throw some batteries in the trash. So, if you’re unsure, you’re going to have to do some research and figure out where you can recycle the batteries local to you.

This article from Battery Solutions is a great resource for figuring out what to do with those batteries.

Chemical-y Stuff

There are chemicals lurking in so much stuff in your house.

There’s the obvious things like gas cans, old lighters, ammonia, super strong cleaning products. Those are kind of obvious and you would think twice about what to do with them before throwing them away.

But there are other things like fluorescent light bulbs, old thermometers (mercury!) and even smoke detectors (radioactive material! who knew??).

This stuff is going to take some thought and research on how to throw it away. This article from Bob Vila is a great place to start, but always hit up Google or your local trash company is a good resource for these questions if you’re ever unsure.

Almost Empty Paint Cans

You can throw away a can of latex paint that still has some paint in it IF you can let the paint dry out. You can leave the can out in the sun or get paint hardener to harden the paint, but don’t throw away the can with wet paint in it.

If you’ve got something like Stain or paint thinner or oil based paint that you need to dispose of, then you’re going to need to do some research on the specific item. You can’t throw that stuff away in the trash, even if you are able to harden it.

Cath suggests a more artful way to get rid of that old paint:

Instead of throwing out the paint, you could use the rest of the paint to paint glass jars and decorate the office. Found this particular cute tutorial:

But that dipped paint style would also look awesome and probably faster project.

Old Medicine/Prescriptions

There are actually medicine take back programs that you can research if you don’t want to dispose of your old medications in the trash.

If you do want to just get rid of them in the trash, you can do that, but you do want to properly dispose of them. You don’t want to just pour the medicine or pills in the trash.

Earth 911 recommends pouring the medicine (or if it’s pills, add some water so they will dissolve) into a plastic baggie and then pouring in some kitty litter to get the whole thing to harden.

Old Furniture

Hopefully if you have old furniture to get rid of it is in good enough condition that you can donate it or even resell it.

If it’s not, however, in good enough condition that someone else may want it, you’re going to have to figure out how to get rid of it.

In many communities you can’t just put it on the curb next to your trash can for the garbage men to pick up.

You may be able to schedule a “bulky item” pick up with them, however. And you can expect to pay a fee for that most likely.

There are also services like 1 800 Junk that will remove big stuff like old furniture for you, too. For a fee. Of course.

And you have to check out these unique ideas Cath found for your old furniture:

There are beautiful furniture planters on the Internet made from old furniture:

Now You Know and You Can Stay Out of Jail

I feel I’ve done my public service by informing you of these hazardous items that you can’t just throw away.

And if you do decide to recklessly chuck a lithium ion battery in the trash, well, you can’t try to use the ignorance defense.

I don’t think that’s ever actually a valid defense, just FYI.

Happy Decluttering!