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Household Hazardous Waste

Author: Marketing
Date: February 3, 2024

Correct disposal of household hazardous waste is vital in ensuring a healthy home for our families. Looking beyond our own homes and communities, however, proper management of household hazardous waste also helps preserve the overall quality of our groundwater, lakes, and streams - all of which affect not just human health but also of our environment and wildlife.

This is why any hazardous household waste that our homes produce should never be:

  • irresponsibly thrown and mixed in with non-hazardous waste in the trash or recycling bin
  • carelessly dumped into the storm sewer, drains, or even flushed down the toilet

This guide will help you understand what hazardous household waste is, how to correctly dispose of it, and other important tips that will also help you and your family reduce these types of hazardous wastes.

What Is Household Hazardous Waste?

Per recent statistics from the Environmental Protection Agency or the EPA, more than 20 pounds of household hazardous waste are produced each year by the average American household. If you do some quick math - since there are an estimated 126 million households in the US, then that equates to a total of 1,260,000 tons of household hazardous waste. That is a lot of toxic waste produced from home.

But when is household waste considered “hazardous”? According to the EPA, household hazardous wastes are “leftover household products that can catch fire, react, or explode under certain circumstances, or that are corrosive or toxic…”

You may not immediately realize that these types of toxic wastes are present in your own home. But, if you take a careful look around what’s under the kitchen sink or random things you’ve stashed in the basement or attic, you’ll probably find cans of paint, half-empty bug repellent, or perhaps used motor oil. These are just some of the most common types of hazardous household waste that you will need to dispose of properly.

Here we’ve gathered a list of the most common types of household hazardous waste:

  • Automotive products such as motor oil and fluids, gasoline, oil filters, gasoline, and waxes.
  • Electronics and small appliances such as laptops, desktop computers, printers, cell phones, fax machines, MP3/DVD/CD/cassette players.
  • Batteries that include vehicle and home batteries.
  • Fluorescent bulbs and compact fluorescent lamps.
  • Paints that include latex and spray paints, oil-based paints, and wood preservative and stain.
  • Pest and garden materials such as fertilizers, pesticides, and insecticides.
  • Cleaners that include rust remover, carpet cleaner, shower or tile cleaner, and toilet bowl cleaner.
  • Sharp materials such as syringes and needles.
  • Devices that contained mercury such as thermometer and thermostats.
  • Chemicals used in swimming pools.

Changes in Household Hazardous Waste

With the ever-evolving state of consumerism of the country, Americans’ product preference and usage have also changed drastically. And this is reflected in the demand from waste companies to look for new ways of recycling and hazardous household waste disposal.

In recent years, Americans tend to look for products that are both cost-efficient and technologically advanced. An appropriate example of this is the increase in the demand and consumption of LED lights. As a result, there is a rise in the volume of traditional fluorescent light bulbs and compact fluorescent lights being disposed of and collected by waste companies.

While the volume of other household hazardous waste products is being maintained each year, we also see a surge in the volume of fluorescent light bulbs and compact fluorescent lights being disposed of. This results in an overall increase in the production of household hazardous wastes. Products used for cleaning, paints, and electronics are still considered as top household hazardous waste in recent years.

Hazardous Waste vs. Universal Waste

The EPA defines hazardous waste as any discard that has unsafe components that can cause damage to human health and the environment. It can be generated from different sectors of society; from manufacturing wastes to residential wastes. Hazardous wastes also come in several forms - solid, gas, liquid, and silt.

There are hazardous wastes that are considered to be a universal waste. They fall into this category because these wastes are not exclusively generated by a single sector of society.  Under the federal universal waste regulations which can be seen in Title 40 of the Code of Federal Regulations in part 273, universal waste can be categorized into four types:

  • Batteries
  • Pesticides
  • Equipment that contains Mercury
  • Lamps

After passing the Universal Waste Law in February 2006, residents and owners of small businesses can no longer dispose of by themselves any waste under the universal waste category (i.e. common batteries, products containing mercury, devices with a cathode-ray tube, and equipment that contain other heavy metal).

Safe Management of Household Hazardous Waste

The inappropriate disposal of these household hazardous waste includes pouring liquid hazardous wastes on the sink, down the drain, or on the ground, and throwing solid hazardous wastes in the regular trash bins. These are obviously the improper method of disposal and may result in environmental pollution and damaging human health.

These are some quick and helpful ways on how to safely handle household hazardous wastes:

  • Follow the instructions provided on the product labels for its proper use and storage to avoid untoward accidents at home.
  • Once the need to dispose of household hazardous wastes arises, make sure to read the product labels for directions of its accurate disposal to decrease the danger of the products blowing up, leaking, and mixing in with other hazardous components.
  • Do not store products that contain harmful ingredients in a usual food container. Always put them in their original containers with product labels intact. Special handling is needed for products that have corroding containers.
  • When you have different product leftovers, keep them separate and never combine various household hazardous waste. Combining different products may cause harmful reactions due to their incompatibility.
  • It is imperative not to disregard empty containers of household products with hazardous waste as chemical residues may still be present and inappropriate handling and disposal may result in unfortunate incidents.
  • For more information regarding household hazardous waste management, it is best to contact your local environmental, health, and solid waste agency.

Reducing Household Hazardous Waste

To decrease the need to dispose of household hazardous waste, one can opt for environmentally-friendly products that use natural ingredients when shopping for household tools and essentials. There are also DIY recipes found online for common household products such as cleaners, detergents for laundry, dish soaps, pest control, and bug sprays that you can consider as projects to decrease hazardous waste generation in your household.

Listed below are some more ideas to take to reduce hazardous wastes home.

  • To clean your drain, one can use a plunger of a plumber’s snake.
  • Combine a tablespoon of vinegar or lemon juice and a quart of water to make a glass cleaner. Just spray it on any glass surface and wipe it dry using a newspaper.
  • To polish any furniture, combine a teaspoon of lemon juice and a pint of vegetable oil or other mineral oil. Wipe the liquid combination unto the furniture’s surface.
  • Sprinkle baking soda to your carpets (make sure to apply a generous amount), this should act as a rug deodorizer. Leave it for at least 15 minutes then vacuum the carpet. Repeat the process if needed.
  • To polish your silverware, prepare a shallow pan and fill it with water; 2 to 3 inches of water with a teaspoon of salt, a teaspoon of baking soda, and an aluminum foil sheet. Bring the mixture to a boil. Put in the silverware, make certain that all are soaked with the water mixture, and boil it for about 2 to 3 minutes. Be careful as you handle the silverware after boiling. Take them out of the mixture and wipe dry. If needed, repeat the process to completely polish your silver
  • To replace the mothballs that you store together with your clothing and other materials easily damaged by molds, use natural oils coming from cedar chips, lavender flowers, rosemary, mints, or white peppercorns.

In order to assist consumers and businesses reduce hazardous waste, the EPA also came up with a yearly list of products that have ingredients tested to be safer for the environment and human health.

Household Hazardous Waste Regulations

In the United States, household hazardous wastes are not regulated by the EPA. Most states and their local solid waste management agencies have organized and funded collection programs for the safe and proper hazardous household waste disposal.

Common hazardous waste products in the United States are regulated under Subtitle C of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act or RCRA. However, the U.S. Congress has granted exclusions for household waste under Title 40 of the Code of Federal Regulations Part 261.4. In this regulation, the wastes produced by doing normal household activities are exempted from the definition of hazardous waste. The exclusion may be granted if two criteria are satisfied;

  • The individuals producing the waste materials are on the premises of a temporary or permanent residence,
  • The components found on the stream of waste must be waste generally produced by household dwellers.

This exclusion includes areas in bunkhouses, picnic grounds, range stations, crew quarters, and areas for day-use recreational activities as per EPA’s interpretation.

Again, the hazardous wastes produced by households are under the state and local level regulations and not by EPA. That is why if you have any specific questions regarding the collection of any hazardous household waste, it’s best to contact your local waste disposal facility for more accurate information.

Where Can I Drop Off My Household Hazardous Waste?

It has been established that household hazardous wastes should be disposed of properly. It should not be put down the drain, on the ground, flushed in the toilet or sewers, and be casually thrown in the trash bins as it may cause potential damage to human health and the environment.

In most states, improper household hazardous waste disposal is illegal. Disposal of such waste must be done through Household Hazardous Waste Programs. You can contact your local authorities for more information regarding your locality’s handling of household hazardous waste.

The payment for disposing or recycling anything will depend on the waste you are trying to get rid of and the place where you live. You can also look for the nearest household hazardous waste collection facility in your area by going to this site.

COVID-19 Drop HHW Drop Off Tips

Due to the health risks brought by the Covid-19 pandemic, many household hazardous waste disposal facilities are taking extra steps to ensure not just the safety of its staff but also that of yours and your family.

These are the suggested rules to follow as you drop off your household hazardous waste in most facilities:

  • Stay inside your vehicle. However, make sure that items that need to be disposed of should be stored in appropriate containers and be placed in the unlocked trunk of the vehicle or in the space at the back cargo.
  • All individuals coming into the facilities should wear masks.
  • Be ready with any documents that the facility staff can use to identify you.

Make sure to contact your local household hazardous waste disposal facility for their operating hours as it may be affected with Covid-19 related restrictions, as well as for other instructions specified in each state facility.

Conclusion

Knowing the things that you are consuming is as important as having the information on the waste products that your household is producing. There are household wastes that are dangerous for the environment and human health. It can cause leaking, explosion, and other risky incidents. That is why, household hazardous wastes need to be properly used, stored, and disposed of. It is important to read labels for appropriate instructions on handling them. If the need to dispose of them arises, there are local facilities that have the capacity for proper household hazardous waste disposal.

Moreover, there are some ways to reduce the usage of products that contain hazardous ingredients. Consumers can opt to buy products that contain natural ingredients that are environmentally-friendly. You can also create your own natural products to be used in your households. In this way, you know what goes in your household which goes a long way in helping the environment.

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