If you love showing off your healthy, green lawn or bountiful garden, chances are you use fertilizers on a regular basis.

There are several different kinds of fertilizers now available on the market: traditional chemical fertilizers that contain nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium compounds; organic fertilizers that contain plant matter, animal waste or minerals that make nutrients more readily available in the soil; and biosolids, which are actually treated sewage sludge.

Certified organic fertilizers are usually safe for use on lawns and gardens, and pose little environmental risk. Chemical and biosolid fertilizers are considered hazardous waste, and should never be tossed in the trash or down the drain because they can contaminate local water supplies.

Phosphorus, a main ingredient in synthetic fertilizers, encourages the growth of algae, which sucks the oxygen out of lakes, rivers and streams, killing fish and other creatures that live there.

Fertilizers cannot be recycled, but you can follow these simple tips for proper disposal:

  1. Look for neighbors or friends that might be able to use your leftover fertilizer. This eliminates the need for disposal all together.
  2. Keep fertilizer stored in a cool, dry place out of the reach of children and pets until a household hazardous waste facility is located. Keep fertilizer in its original container or bag, and never mix two types of fertilizer together, as this could result in a dangerous chemical reaction. When dealing with liquid fertilizer, it’s helpful to place the container in a plastic bag to prevent the product from leaking on the ground or your skin.
  3. Search for a local household hazardous waste facility that accepts fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides on 1-800-RECYCLING.com. If none exists in your area, contact local garden supply stores to see if they will accept your unused fertilizer for proper disposal.
  4. When in doubt, always follow the directions on the package!