Disposing Household Hazardous Waste
The National Waste & Recycling Association encourages everyone to consider the proper options for disposing of household hazardous wastes. These items are often just pitched in the trash, but can be managed in a more appropriate way. Many communities hold collection events for HHW items or have drop-off locations available at waste facilities.
“Waste employees have tough jobs, but when chemicals, potentially explosive items or other hazards are tossed in with common household trash, workers are put at serious risk for injury,” said Sharon H. Kneiss, president and CEO of the National Waste & Recycling Association (Waste & Recycling). “There are safer, environmentally friendly ways to dispose of Household Hazardous Waste.”
Before disposing of these items, check with friends and neighbors if they can use them. For those items that need to be disposed, community HHW collection events are ideal for the following:
- Outside: Products including fertilizers, pesticides, weed killers and pool chemicals. Watch this video for more.
- Inside: Household chemicals including nail polish remover, hair relaxers, bleach, oven cleaners, drain cleaners, and metal polishes. Watch this video for more.
- In the Garage: Motor oil, paint thinners, varnishes and oil-based paints. Latex paints are not considered hazardous and, in most communities, can be disposed in the trash—but recycle the cans! Just let the paint air-dry, or add cat litter to speed up drying, before removing it from cans and tossing it. Watch this video for more.
Help recycle, reduce and reuse these usable items:
- Batteries: Battery recycling is preferred and, in some areas, required. Visit www.call2recycle.org for information on how to dispose them. Watch this video for more.
- Light Bulbs: Energy-efficient compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) contain mercury and should be managed properly, ideally at HHW events. Otherwise, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends sealing old CFLs in plastic bags and placing them in outdoor trash bins. Visit this page to learn more.
- Motor Oil: Used motor oil and filters can be recycled. HHW facilities, automotive stores, repair shops and garages will often take them from you. Watch this video for more.
- Electronic Waste: Discarded computers, cellphones and televisions are a growing portion of the waste stream, and half the states have electronics recycling laws of some kind. Consider reusing and recycling e-waste before throwing it in the trash. Visit this page to learn more.
Use extra attention and care when disposing of:
- Sharps: The EPA estimates that 9 million Americans use needles, syringes or lancets at home, disposing nearly 4 billion sharps each year. These should be placed in approved containers and disposed according to community guidelines. Sharps should never be recycled, as they endanger recycling center employees who manually handle materials. For more information, visit www.fda.gov/safesharpsdisposal.
- Medicines and Pharmaceuticals: Never flush medicine down toilets or drains! Wastewater facilities are not designed to filter medicines. If trashing medicine, first mix it with substances like coffee grinds or cat litter. April 26 is National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day, so visit this link for more information. Watch this video for more.
- Pressurized Containers May Burst Under Heat or Pressure. Full or partially full containers should be taken to HHW collection sites. Refillable propane tanks can usually be returned to suppliers, and empty aerosol containers are recyclable.
You should contact the company or authority that handles your waste for more information on local HHW collection or for questions on how to dispose of particular items properly.
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