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Michelle Kempner in NYC writes in:

A friend left me art supplies when she moved cross country and I have been lugging them around from apartment to apartment ever since. Now I am moving across the country and I need to get rid of them. The only problem is that I am not sure how to get rid of them. The supplies she left me with are things like Stand Oil, acrylic latex paint, turpenoid, gamsol, workable fixatif, spray mount and spray paint. What should I do?

Most county hazardous waste facilities have at least one day a month when you can drop off these materials, sometimes for a small fee. Look up each one of your chemicals to see if it’s safe for the drain. For example, photo developer and stop bath are relatively innocuous (but check out advice for neutralizing them before dumping down the drain), while toner contains heavy metals and should, under no circumstances, be poured down the drain. Since Michelle lives in New York City, she can call the city information line (311) and ask for advice. Your city may have a similar service! I found info at the nycwastele$$ site about dropping off the latex paint, but they don’t accept the other chemicals Michelle listed. Since regulations and pick-up/drop-off services vary by city, county, and state, the best generic advice I can give is to look up “hazardous waste disposal” plus your location when searching online. If you can’t find a website that gives you the details, look for a hazardous waste phone number to call and ask what to do.

If your chemicals are still good, try listing them on a service like Craigslist or contacting your local art school to see if any starving artists might benefit from your turpenoid and stand oil before throwing them away. Your local university art department will know how to dispose of these chemicals, too, and might let you piggyback on their end-of-semester cleanup if you know who to ask.

I wish there were one site I could direct Michelle and you all to that would tell you exactly how to dispose of every chemical in every state, but the truth is that hazardous waste disposal regulations vary based on location, so the best I can offer is some search engine keywords and general recycling principles to get you started. Do you have advice for Michelle and others looking to safely dispose of hazardous chemicals? Post them up in the comments.

(Image: chemical shelves, a Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike image from kevin mullet’s Flickr stream)