Individual trash collection services usually maintain their own list of items that can be disposed of in the trash. However, in general, hazardous waste, fluorescent lights, batteries and items containing mercury cannot be disposed of in a residential trash can.
Any type of waste that contains hazardous materials is banned from being disposed of in residential trash cans. Batteries cannot be disposed of in a regular trash cans because they often contain cadmium, a highly toxic chemical. Fluorescent light bulbs, motor oil, lead-based paint, computer or television monitors and electronic switches and components are all examples of waste that contain hazardous materials. If these items are deposited in a landfill there is a risk that these chemicals could leach into the ground, causing groundwater contamination.
Most cities have a specially designated place to dispose of hazardous chemicals and other materials banned from residential trash collection facilities. You can call to schedule a pickup or take the hazardous materials to the disposal facility. The Department of Toxic Substances Control maintains extensive lists of materials that cannot be disposed of in residential trash and gives specific instructions for the proper disposal of these items. Packaging on most consumer goods includes a label that indicates if the product can be disposed of in residential trash.