Some of the Hazards
When you look around your store room or garage on a weekend morning to clean and organise, you may come across some hazardous materials such as used oil, old TVs and car batteries.
The potential hazards are almost endless. A million gallons of fresh water can be contaminated by used oil from a single oil change, for example, while toxic lead from car batteries contaminates groundwater. Aerosol tins are a fire hazard at the very least.
While people are replacing old TV sets with new flat-panel setups, the old ones contain high quantities of toxic lead, plus heavy metals such as cadmium. They also contain brominates, and some use radioactive isotope Krypton 85. One University of California study claims high brominated flame-retardant levels may affect pregnant women’s thyroid hormones, critical to infant growth and brain development.
Long-term cadmium exposure through air or diet, even at lower levels, can cause kidney damage. LCDs contain mercury, which can cause a variety of disturbances such as tremors, insomnia and cognitive function performance deficits. Increased exposure may also be responsible for kidney problems, respiratory failure and even death.
Vintage, or ‘Legacy’ TVs are those with bulky and heavy cathode ray tubes (CRTs), each containing pounds of lead.
How to handle them
What should you do with hazardous materials? It’s best to check with family and friends, as most of the disposal services in Malaysia are commercial (they pay you), with no overarching recycling structure provided by local government. I’m told though, that glass, plastic, metal and even clothing are collected for recycling from Kuala Lumpur door steps with the weekly rubbish collection.
Some services are specific, for example paper only. Some traders set up roadside stalls to buy scrap at low prices. I’m told that metal items sell for RM 0.30 per kilo, and that a used car battery will get you RM 10 if you bring it to them.
Greenpeace Malaysia will take your old mobiles and ensure the groundwater isn’t receiving those heavy metals. Their Facebook page link is below.
Instead of polluting, take used car oil to your local repair garage, and they’ll reuse it.
With demand for lead-filled glass having plummeted, low prices for gold and copper have made stripping vintage TVs unprofitable. You might as well store them to sell as antiques in a few years’ time. More use for your storage unit!
Not all recycling centres (Pusat Kita Semula) take glass. Some will only accept food and beverage glass, and possibly lenses from pairs of glasses. Not all glass is the same. Mirrors, window glass and decorative glass comprise a different category, and should be well wrapped in paper and placed in labelled bags, for your local rubbish collectors’ safety. You can sell glass (ordonate) vases, crystal and other glass items to second-hand shops. Or see the giveaway link below.
Car batteries are easily reused. Car dealers charge a deposit on batteries, which you get back when you return them.
If the paint’s dried and there’s only residue in the tin, it’s OK for the rubbish. If you have full tins of paint, re-sell or give them away.
Car parts shops and even repair garages stock used tyres. Make sure there’s some tread on them!
EMPTY AEROSOL TINS.
You shouldn’t discard aerosols labelled “toxic” or “flammable” unless you’re sure they’re empty. Empty aerosol cans are classed as ‘metal’ wherever metals are recycled.
SOCIAL MEDIA & FURTHER INFO
Use your neighbourhood WhatsApp group and other networks to see who handles things locally, and have your whole street gather theirs up. Why not make it into a social event?
This national map shows you where to bring things to recycle all around Malaysia: goo.gl/xZlWhJ
If you’ve got anything people can reuse, you can give it away on Streetbank:
Greenpeace are a global environmental charity, and they’ll take your old mobiles: