How to Dispose of Toxic Sunscreen Banned in Several Vacation Destinations

, How to Dispose of Toxic Sunscreen Banned in Several Vacation Destinations
, How to Dispose of Toxic Sunscreen Banned in Several Vacation Destinations
At the county landfill, researching disposal options for toxic sunscreen.

I have a need for disposing of my toxic sunscreens, and I was not sure what to do. The day Key West banned sunscreens containing oxybenzone and octinoxate, I went around gathering all my sunscreen bottles from the house, the car, the boat, my closets and cabinets. I checked them all for harmful ingredients, and they had plenty.

Into a canvas bag in case of leakage they went, along with a scary shark to guard them. Then I had to figure out what to do with them.

, How to Dispose of Toxic Sunscreen Banned in Several Vacation Destinations

Calling Locally

First, I called Anita at Waste Pro – our local trash pick up service – and explained about my toxic waste, and asked where to place it. “We wouldn’t know not to take it our garbage truck, but since you do know, you might want to check with waste management and see what they say,” was her response.

, How to Dispose of Toxic Sunscreen Banned in Several Vacation Destinations

I Had to Dig Deeper

Then I called Nancy Jones at County Sanitation, and her answer astounded me. “Just throw it in the trash.”

“What?” I exclaimed. “Just throw it in the trash? But it’s TOXIC!”

She said, “We have a lined fill – so it’s not going to be a problem. Just throw it in the trash. Paint cans have a separate area, as do tires.”

Wow. That was easy. But not everyone might have a lined fill. So, I started developing a list of possibilities for others with old or unsafe sunscreen.

, How to Dispose of Toxic Sunscreen Banned in Several Vacation Destinations

Steps to Follow for Sunscreen Disposal

1. Call your county sanitation. Ask if you have a lined fill.

If you do, into the trash it goes. No recycling the container, no using it up, no rinsing it out, no passing go, no $200. But… it’s not in your water.

2. Some counties have a home pickup service, I learned.

You can call them and ask for their rates.

, How to Dispose of Toxic Sunscreen Banned in Several Vacation Destinations

3. Find a drop-off facility.

I read an interesting piece from a “Great Sunscreen Trade In Project” in Hawaii. They were organizing transportation from various islands to one central dropoff site that would convert their newly-banned toxic sunscreen into power. Ask around, and search for a toxic waste drop off facility near you.

, How to Dispose of Toxic Sunscreen Banned in Several Vacation Destinations

4. I considered putting the containers in biohazard bags.

Online retailers have plenty of biohazard disposal bag, and buckets, however, they all seemed to be geared toward the disposal of medical waste, or sharp needles.

I daydreamed about bringing a large purse to my next doctor’s appointment, and emptying those poisonous tubes and bottles into their red-lined trashcan. Then I thought through all the places I visit in a month, and tried to remember where the biohazard containers are located in drug stores, and if I could surreptitiously slide a few tubes and bottles in during each visit.

5. For tips on disposing of waste before a move, moving.com has suggestions we can use now.

The best tip that moving.com suggested that could be applied to toxic sunscreen was to keep materials in their original packing, don’t expose to air, and don’t mix products.

Their best advice was that if something is aggravating to get rid of; then don’t even buy it in the future, and make your own household cleaning solutions.

, How to Dispose of Toxic Sunscreen Banned in Several Vacation Destinations

6. Request by-mail-kits

I found some “seal and send” controlled substance return envelopes for $350 from Stericycle. Gasp. Saved that to my wish list. Not. Cheaper to send them spilled mercury. They offered some medial waste mail-back buckets for about $58. I figure at least 20 tubes of sunscreen could fit in one of those…

A better bet was a Sharps MailBack Kit that included shipping. It was just a bit over $30, but required almost $20 for shipping, so total coast nearly $50. I wasn’t sure if that was a good price to pay for saving the fish. Back to sneaking my toxic waste into bins at the clinic?

, How to Dispose of Toxic Sunscreen Banned in Several Vacation Destinations

7. Organize a community drop-off or wait around for a collection even to be publicized.

You can scan social media, look for flyers, call your city management team, your county waste management service and ask around. I thought it might be faster to stroll down the hallway at the local hospital and stealthily drop my toxic sunscreens into their biohazard buckets.

Some major retailers have drop-off points for used batteries, recyclable ink and printer cartridges, plastic bags. Maybe you could organize a “Toxic Sunscreen Roundup,” only with a catchier name! What a great idea!

, How to Dispose of Toxic Sunscreen Banned in Several Vacation Destinations
Reef-, coral-, and human-safe sunscreen at Key Largo Diving Quiescence in the Florida Keys.

8. Use non-hazardous products. Like Stream2Sea.

This seems to be the fall-back advice from many sources.

, How to Dispose of Toxic Sunscreen Banned in Several Vacation Destinations

Environmental Protection Agency’s WasteWise

If you are part of an organization or business, this might be something to consider. You could join their sustainable materials management efforts

The EPA’s WasteWise information says, “All U.S. businesses, governments and nonprofit organizations can join WasteWise as a partner, endorser or both. Current participants range from small local governments and nonprofit organizations to large multinational corporations.”

“Partners demonstrate how they reduce waste, practice environmental stewardship and incorporate sustainable materials management into their waste-handling processes. Endorsers promote enrollment in WasteWise as part of a comprehensive approach to help their stakeholders realize the economic benefits to reducing waste.”

That sounds like a good group in which to participate!

, How to Dispose of Toxic Sunscreen Banned in Several Vacation Destinations

What Qualifies as Hazardous Waste

I learned that household hazardous waste includes cleaners, stains, varnishes, batteries, automotive fluids, pesticides, herbicides, certain paints, and many other items found in basements, under kitchen sinks and dark garage corners. Also, I learned that you can return pool chemicals to the store where you purchased them.

The oldest city in Brevard County, the City of Rockledge, FL in an article about “Hazardous Materials Go green with the City of Rockledge” said, “Hazardous waste is defined as any substance that is corrosive, reactive, flammable, or toxic. These chemicals pose a threat to people and our environment. When disposed improperly, they injure and/or pollute.”

Finding a mention of banned sunscreen disposal is nearly impossible.

, How to Dispose of Toxic Sunscreen Banned in Several Vacation Destinations
Sailing school student Teri searching for answers.

There’s Confusing Advice Out There, Too

From BeyondToxics.org came some confusing suggestions on sunscreen. There have a list of common hazardous ingredients, a list of potential hazards, uses, storage, and under disposal, this about disposing of sunscreen:

“Best: Use up or give away. Rinse container and dispose of in the garbage. Second best: Take to a hazardous waste facility or collection event. Third best: If you are connected to a city sewer system, flush small amounts down the drain (toilet is best) with lots of water. Do not use this method if you are on a septic system.”

I’m leaving the link here because you can see how misleading it is: https://www.beyondtoxics.org/work/green-home-cleaning-campaign/toxic-beauty-and-body-care-products/sunscreen/

I’d recommend the opposite; don’t use it or give it away; get rid of it. Don’t rinse the container into the aquifer. And even if you did do all that; you wouldn’t put the container in the garbage – you’d recycle! Grrr.

, How to Dispose of Toxic Sunscreen Banned in Several Vacation Destinations

Best Advice of All – Say “NO”

The best advice of all comes from Bay Disposal & Recycling, “the self-appointed environmental wards of Hampton Roads.” They service the residents of coastal Virginia and Corolla, North Carolina. Their answer is, “Just Say NO to Oxybenzone Sunscreen.”

I think I’m in love with their blog writer – imagine; a a disposal and recycling company saying the following:

“Don’t worry, you don’t have to choose between sunburn and killing coral reefs. There are lots of eco-friendly mineral sunscreens which skip the harmful, toxic chemicals in favor of titanium oxide or zinc oxide.”

, How to Dispose of Toxic Sunscreen Banned in Several Vacation Destinations
Winning the sunscreen-hat-upf shirt trifecta, Captain Dave at the helm.

“We encourage you to share this article, or just its message, with everyone you know. One person can make such a difference with their personal choices—imagine if your entire social network united in this one small thing. You could save the world. Commit to a sunny summer for all, coral reefs included.”

Their blog is so interesting. Did I just say a trash company blog is interesting? I sure did. I spent some time reading their articles about reducing plastics in businesses, recycling e-waste, and, well, let’s just say I read all their recent posts. Imagine – a disposal and recycling company with a blog and a message on how to reduce.

, How to Dispose of Toxic Sunscreen Banned in Several Vacation Destinations

That’s almost like a sunscreen company reminding you to wear your UPF shirts…

Speaking of that…

Here’s my favorite choice for sunscreen I don’t have to fret over the disposal of the lotion OR the container! Fully recyclable, eco-friendly sugar cane resin tubes contain Stream2Sea’s reef-safe mineral sunscreen.

With spf of 20 or 30, in tinted or non-tinted, and offering a bevy of other personal products like shampoo, leave-in conditioner, body wash, lip balms, sting relief and even UPF shirts, Stream2Sea is committed to only offering products with the lowest impact possible on our fragile environment.

Do your part in protecting our oceans, rivers, lakes, and streams; after you’ve figured out how to dispose of all your toxic sunscreens, treat yourself to a new tube of Stream2Sea. Here’s a 10% off discount to reward you for being environmentally conscious; just use “KimW” at the checkout.

, How to Dispose of Toxic Sunscreen Banned in Several Vacation Destinations
Spook could not resist the box, the crinkly paper, and especially the adorable strings on these Reef Sentinel kits. They are going to be awards for an upcoming sailboat race.

You can see my Stream2Sea unboxing video here!

What to read next: Learn why your cheap gear really costs you more in the long run: In Search of the Best Sailing Hat Ever.

Thanks for reading, and if you have a good name for your “Toxic Sunscreen Roundup Event” – leave your comments below! I’d love to hear from you!

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  • Lorri June 4, 2019 at 5:28 pm

    Thank you for this informative article! I am an environmentally concerned person who thought I was buying “natural” sunscreen in the past and realized I had two tubes of the reef bleaching sunscreen-GASP! I agree with you that rinsing bottles or flushing the contents just gets those chemicals eventually into our oceans. I’ll see what I can do in Vancouver, 🇨🇦 to get this stuff where it will do no more harm. Thanks again!

    • Kimberly June 4, 2019 at 9:30 pm

      Lorri – I thought I was doing the right thing too… apparently what is printed on the front doesn’t have to tell the whole story of what’s on the back label! Probably true for a lot of foods, too. “Contains natural ingredients” but at what %?

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