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Household Hazardous Waste

Household Hazardous Waste

Hazards at Home

Hazardous materials are found in nearly every home. Household hazardous waste (HHW) is waste from leftover home products that contain ignitable, toxic, reactive, or corrosive ingredients. Many products we use to clean, garden, control pests, and maintain our cars contain hazardous chemicals and ingredients. When poured down a drain or tossed in the trash or recycling bin, they can pose a risk to our health and the environment. That’s why it is essential for these products to be disposed of with care.

 

Products That Contain HHW

Hazardous materials are in plenty of everyday household products—think paint, cleaning solutions, motor oils, batteries, and pesticides. Electronics, such as old computers, televisions, and mobile phones, include hazardous parts too. Even old prescription and over-the-counter medications may be harmful to the environment if they aren’t disposed of properly.

 

Environmental Impact

Americans produce 1.6 million tons of HHW annually. The average household can accumulate up to 100 pounds of HHW from just the basement, garage, and closets. Without proper recycling and disposal methods, HHW winds up in soil, in the air, and in local waterways. One 2014 study by the Environmental Protection Agency found many common drugs, such as blood pressure medications and ibuprofen, in water systems nationwide. A growing number of communities across the country are putting programs in place that educate the public about how to dispose of HHW safely and are making recycling this type of waste easier through drop-off events.

 

Reduce Your Use

One of the best ways to reduce the impact of hazardous waste on the environment is to use fewer products that produce them. Green cleaning products and environmentally friendly paints are now widely available. Try using boric acid, which is sold in most hardware and big box stores, instead of insecticides to help control pests, and compost in place of chemical fertilizers. When you can’t avoid using products that contain hazardous materials, try to buy only what you need for a specific project. This practice not only reduces hazardous waste, but it will likely save money too.

 

Safe Ways to Dispose of HHW

It’s never safe to throw hazardous products and chemicals in the trash, or to pour them into the soil or down toilets and drains. If you can’t use them up completely, you can take any leftovers to a facility that specializes in recycling or safely disposing of HHW. Many communities also host drop-off events at convenient locations throughout the year; you can recycle your used electronics, medications, and other hazardous waste there—as well as the bottles and packaging they came in. You can also contact your local waste management facility for instructions about how best to dispose of certain types of hazardous waste. Local businesses often welcome the public to bring in certain hazardous materials for recycling or disposal. For example, some auto mechanics recycle car batteries and antifreeze, while paint and hardware stores may properly dispose of paint leftovers.

 

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