Summer is a time for celebration. Which means fireworks, lots of fireworks.

Fireworks play a pivotal role in our public celebrations, from Canada Day and Independence Day to New Year’s Eve, and it’s easy to see why. They’re dramatic and awe-inspiring, a perfect way to wrap up a festive night of fun, whether you’re at a large public event or a block party with close friends and family.

But once the celebrations are over and the smoke has cleared, they can be a mess to clean up. Especially if you don’t know what to do with them. Fireworks, when incorrectly disposed of, can be dangerous. To you, the individuals who handle your waste, and the environment.

How it’s done

First off, you’ll want to make sure your pyrotechnics are waterlogged. This goes for used and unused fireworks. Duds, too, once you’ve determined they’re safe to handle. Soak your ordinance in a bucket of water for at least 15 minutes. Some recommend up to 48 hours, but that’s not necessary if they’re wet throughout.

Once you’re satisfied, drain any excess water into the toilet, and place your fireworks into a sealable plastic bag to maintain moisture. Feel free to double bag them, too. Finally, you can safely toss them into the garbage. The same goes for most other combustibles.

Some communities even host takeback events for unused ordinance, so be sure to check in with yours to see. You can also contact your Fire Department for more information. Whatever you do, don’t recycle your fireworks. Though most of them are made out of paper, they’re not recyclable. Ever.

Fireworks and the environment

Not to be a killjoy, but fireworks aren’t exactly great for the environment.

In fact, on average, Fourth of July celebrations alone contribute 42% more air pollution across the U.S. Fireworks contain plenty of toxic materials. The colors they produce when ignited, for example, come from heavy metals like barium, aluminum, and strontium. Perchlorates, which are propellants, are a family of extremely reactive oxygen and chlorine compounds—the same NASA uses to launch rockets into space. None of these chemicals play well with humans or the environment.

Granted, we don’t use fireworks often enough to see a long-term impact on the planet. At least, not yet. But it’s still something to consider, and it’s a big reason why we need to be vigilant about how we dispose of them. When it’s done right, we can prevent toxic chemicals from leaching into the water, where they can do the most damage.

Alternatives?

If you’re feeling down about fireworks, sorry. Thankfully, there are other alternatives out there. Laser lightshows have gained in popularity and are currently being used as an alternative. There are also eco-friendly fireworks. Though not entirely green, they’re an improvement. If none of these options work for you, that’s okay, too. Just remember to dunk, double bag, and dispose of your used and unused fireworks in the trash.