Earth Day originates right here in the Badger state, where over 50 years ago Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson created the day that predates even the Environmental Protection Agency.
Beyond the river-clean ups and other eco-conscious activities planned throughout the state in celebration today, Wisconsinites can easily do their part on a regular basis to avoid generating particularly hazardous pollution. Electronic and medicinal waste don’t belong in the landfill, and plenty of services offer alternatives to properly dispose of these items – during events on Earth Day, and drop-off locations any day.
Regular recycling collection from Waste Management does not process cell phones, computers, TVs and other electronics. And according to the Department of Natural Resources, it’s illegal to dispose of E-waste in the garbage because it often contains hazardous materials like lead and mercury.
Local services like Milwaukee PC or Elite Energy Distribution offer free recycling of most electronics.
“Once they’re collected, we have different agencies we partner with that shred them and bring it down to a metal level,” said Elite Energy’s Vice President of Sales and Marketing Ray Curtis. “The materials then get recycled into other components for being re-manufactured.”
The DNR coordinates the E-Cycle Wisconsin program for electronic recycling. They provide a map for households, schools and businesses to find nearby E-cycle collection sites for every type of electronic item. The map also includes a mail-back program for consumers to ship unwanted electronics to an E-cycle site, often free of charge.
Unused and expired medications should not go into the garbage, and especially shouldn’t be flushed or poured down the drain. Not all pharmaceuticals can be removed by water treatment facilities: trace amounts of medications like antibiotics, hormones and painkillers show up in lakes and rivers. These can disrupt wildlife and threaten the quality our drinking water.
Wisconsin Department of Health Services maintains hundreds of permanent drug drop boxes throughout the state. Prescription and over-the-counter medications such as pills, creams, inhalers and liquids in their original container can be dropped off. DHS does not accept illegal drugs or hazardous waste, but will take vape pens with the batteries removed.
Proper drug disposal also helps fight the opioid epidemic: “Now is a great time to clean out your medicine cabinet and safely dispose of your unwanted or expired medications,” said Attorney General Josh Kaul in a press release.