Your Household May Be Producing More Hazardous Waste Than You Realize – What Should You Do?

Posted on: 5 August 2015

When most people think of hazardous waste, they picture industrial plants and the chemical byproducts of manufacturing. But ordinary residential homes produce a surprising amount of hazardous waste that shouldn't just be thrown away with the trash. This waste can pollute the ground and even infiltrate groundwater if improperly disposed of, so it's important to take care of it safely.

What Is Some Common Household Hazardous Waste?

More and more household products today contain chemicals that must be handled and disposed of carefully. Many automotive products fall into this category, such as antifreeze and motor oil. Other common hazardous waste includes lawn and garden products like herbicides, pesticides or insecticides; paints, varnishes, and paint thinners; and common household cleaners like bleach, ammonia, furniture polish and other chemical cleaners. Pharmaceutical and medical products also require special disposal.

How Can You Tell If Something Is Hazardous?

Household products that are hazardous usually fall into one (or more) of four categories: flammable, explosive, corrosive, or toxic. Looking for these words on the containers of products can signal that you're dealing with a hazardous product. Look also for warning or danger labels. And if in doubt, contact a garbage collection company or your local waste authority to ask them about the product you're dealing with.

How Should You Store Hazardous Waste?

Because some hazardous waste can react chemically with other waste, you should never mix your hazardous waste together. Instead, keep it in its original container so that you can easily tell what it is. You can set aside an area – say, a shelf or box in a garage or basement – to put hazardous waste before you dispose of it properly; avoid areas that get very hot or cold or where children or pets could get into the containers.

If you are dealing with a corrosive product and the container is damaged, you can place the entire container in a plastic bucket filled with non-flammable material such as clay cat litter. Place a secure lid over the bucket and label the outside so you know what it contains.

How Do You Dispose Of Residential Hazardous Waste?

Different wastes must be disposed of in different ways. Many communities hold periodic hazardous waste collections, so you can contact your municipality and see if they offer this service. Many residential waste management services offer hazardous waste removal as well; all you need to do is call them and describe to them the type of waste you need to dispose of, and they will be able to tell you whether they are equipped to deal with it and what you should do next.