Household hazardous waste is one of the most harmful things in the home. If not stored and disposed of properly, it can have horrible negative effects on you, your family, and anyone you invite into your home. It can also affect garbage disposal workers if placed in normal household waste, as it may expose them to harmful products which they aren’t prepared for[sc:1].
What is household hazardous waste?
Basically, household hazardous waste is anything which can’t be disposed of in normal waste channels, or which has to be treated in a certain way first. Something may be considered hazardous if it can catch fire, react, or explode, or if it is corrosive or toxic to human health or surrounding ecosystems[sc:2].
Some of the objects that are usually classified as hazardous are:
- Oil based paints.
- Engine oils, antifreezes, and other automotive liquids.
- Some cleaning products, including bleaches and oven cleaners.
- Pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides.
- Drain cleaners.
- Electronic products including televisions, computers, and mobile phones[sc:3].
These are just a few examples of hazardous products. If you are in doubt, then follow instructions on packets and/or contact your local rubbish disposal company. Make sure that you are careful when handling hazardous waste, or you could compromise the health and viability of the entire waste stream.
Even if something isn’t technically hazardous waste, it can cause huge problems if disposed of incorrectly. The best example of this is single use plastic bags. They should be disposed of in the normal waste stream or in recycling (depending on where you live). However, they often make their way into the environment, where they can cause big issues. They are especially harmful in marine ecosystems, where they are consumed by a range of animals, and often cause death[sc:1].
How to treat household hazardous waste
The first thing that you should do when deciding how to dispose of household hazardous waste is read the labels or health and safety information booklet on the product. The disposal method will be different for different products, which means that you should never assume that you know the correct way to dispose of something[sc:4].
Some of the most common ways that hazardous waste products are disposed of incorrectly include:
- Putting them in the regular trash when they don’t belong there.
- Washing them down the drain or pouring them into stormwater drains.
- Burying them or pouring them on the ground[sc:2].
You should always follow any labels and instructions for storage and use to ensure hazardous products aren’t used in a way which will cause harmful exposure or escape of the products into the environment. Read all of the disposal instructions on the product packaging to reduce the risk of harm through explosion, leakage, or ignition of the material. This may occur if a product is disposed of in a way which causes it to come into contact with something else, so make sure that you are aware of what is entering your waste stream.
Since disposal methods vary between countries and states, it is important to check the local rules regarding the disposal of hazardous wastes. Some places will have collection depos or places that you can take hazardous wastes to. Others will have designated days for collection. Some things, such as used electronics or car batteries, can often be dropped off at local businesses free of charge to ensure they are disposed of correctly[sc:2]. It is important to remember that empty containers can contain harmful chemical residues. They should be disposed of in the same way as other chemical wastes.