Give garage nasties the boot

G Magazine

Do you simply store the stuff you don't know how to dispose of safely? Here are some tips to clear some space - and your conscience

garage clean-up

All sorts of toxic products lurk in your garage. Disposing of them safely is important for the environment.

Credit: Louise Lister

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Let's face it: garages are the places where we store things that are too unwieldy, unsightly or just plain messy or hazardous to have in our homes.

Often, items end up languishing in our garage or shed because of our eco principles - not wanting to send things to landfill, but not being quite sure of how to get rid of them either.

To make your garage amnesty a success (and clear room for all those cool things you can pick up on Freecycle), here is a guide to some common items that you may have currently gathering dust.


That distinctive paint smell is generally from volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which include chemicals such as benzene, formaldehyde, kerosene, ammonia, toluene, and xylene. These are all toxic.

Even when used properly, paints containing VOCs can cause headaches and worsen allergies.

How to dispose: Donate to neighbours/community groups. A pilot scheme supported by Bunnings Warehouse - called Paintback - will accept leftover paint, for use in Dulux's Walpamur Fence Paint. A national launch is in the pipeline. Alternatively your local waste management services will reprocess or dispose of paint (and empty paint cans) safely.

Next time: Choose natural, organic paints and very low-VOC products. Look for the GECA (Good Environmental Choice Australia) certification label.


Lubricating oil ('sump oil') from engines can be a fire hazard, and needless to say, it should never be poured onto the ground. It also seriously damages the equipment at sewage treatment plants if it is poured down the drain.

How to dispose: To find your nearest local recycling facility call 1800 982 006 or see www.oilrecycling.gov.au. When transporting the old oil to the waste facility, place it in the original container or a plastic one. Don't use old petrol containers, paint cans or other metal containers, as remnants of other chemicals could contaminate the oil. The Waste management facility will clean and recycle the oil for industrial purposes or re-refined back into a lubricant such as Envirolube.

Next time: Re-refined (recycled) oil is now available from some major outlets - ask your local retailer.


Disposed of incorrectly, the heavy metals in some batteries can leak into the ground when the battery erodes.

How to dispose: Lead acid car batteries can be recycled locally at car mechanics, scrap metal dealers and municipal waste facilities. About 96 per cent of every car battery is recyclable. Rechargeable household batteries (such as phone batteries) are often recycled by local councils. As single-use (standard alkaline AA type) batteries are difficult and costly to reprocess, most councils will not recycle them, but Battery World stores (call 13 17 60) will take them and recycle some parts.

Next time: Use rechargeable batteries for household items.

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