When you have old clothes, books or sporting equipment, do you donate these items or throw them away?

Do you know what to do with leftover paint, dirty motor oil or unused pesticides?

What do you do with your TV, smartphone or dishwasher when they stop working?

Many people aren’t sure what to do with common household items they no longer want or need, so they take the simplest approach and toss them in the trash.

Others engage in “wish-cycling,” the act of placing an item in a recycling bin hoping it will be recycled even if they suspect it won’t.

Putting nonrecyclable items in the recycling bin potentially could contaminate the entire batch.

If only there were an easy way to know the safest and most environmentally responsible way to dispose of each item. Well, now there is.

The Solid Waste Authority of Central Ohio recently launched a recycle and reuse search tool, which helps people figure out the best way to dispose of dozens of items typically found in and around most homes – everything from glass bottles and grass clippings to batteries and light bulbs. People easily will find answers to such questions as “How do I dispose of?” or “Where can I recycle this?” or “Can I throw this in the garbage?”

Just go to RecycleRight.org and scroll down to the orange box titled “Recycle and Reuse Search Tool.” You’ll see dozens of images separated into five categories:

• Household items

• Yard waste and organics

• Household hazardous waste

• Other reusable and recyclable items

• Trash

Click on an image and a box pops up with information about the item, as well as locations where it can be donated, recycled or properly disposed. Users may search recycling and drop-off locations by ZIP code and download directions to their mobile devices.

For example, do you know what to do with an empty propane tank?

The search tool at RecycleRight.org explains that empty propane tanks should never be put in the garbage or your curbside recycling container because leftover propane could cause an explosion.

Most stores that sell 20-pound propane tanks offer free exchange programs.

Blue Rhino offers a free recycling program for tanks you no longer need. Smaller tanks, which often are not refillable, may be dropped off at SWACO’s permanent household-hazardous-waste facility at 645 E. 8th Ave. in Columbus.

Our hope is residents will use the information in the search tool to reduce the amount of waste they send to the Franklin County Sanitary Landfill. After all, the less waste we put into the landfill, the longer it will last us.

Franklin County already boasts a diversion rate of 49%, which means we’re keeping nearly half of all the waste we produce out of the landfill. That’s an outstanding rate, far exceeding the national average of 34%.

But we know we can do better, which is why SWACO has set an ambitious goal of achieving a 75% waste diversion rate by 2032.

Check out SWACO’s recycling and reuse search tool at RecycleRight.org and let me know what you think. If you have suggestions for additional items to include or organizations that accept recycled or donated items, let me know at info@swaco.org.

We’re trying to make it easier than ever for you to reduce your carbon footprint and the amount of waste you contribute to the Franklin County Sanitary Landfill.

Ty Marsh is executive director of SWACO. Questions about its operations may be directed to him at questions@swaco.org. His office provides this column to ThisWeek Community News.