Last updated on January 19, 2021
Your house probably contains hazardous waste. Don’t put it in your garbage.
We’re so used to having powerful household solvents and chemicals in our homes that it’s easy to forget how toxic they can be when we’re ready to dispose of them.
Some household waste requires special handling because it can release harmful chemicals or heavy metals into the environment. Other waste represents a safety hazard to solid waste workers and the public. The federal government doesn’t regulate the disposal of Household Hazardous Waste (HHW), but many state and local governments have regulations that govern HHW disposal.
Depending on where you live, your community may regulate the disposal of these ten types of waste. Here’s why!
Batteries contain heavy metals like cadmium, mercury, and nickel. Even small amounts of these substances can be dangerous because they accumulate inside our bodies and can cause health problems – particularly in young children.
In 2016, Americans threw out 44 pounds of electronic waste per person. While one cell phone in the trash may not seem like much, a United Nations study identified discarded electronics as “the world’s fastest growing waste problem.” Like batteries, electronics contain heavy metals and toxic chemicals that contaminate soil and water.
3. Medical Needles and Sharps
It’s not illegal to put used needles and sharps into your garbage can or recycling bin, but it is dangerous to the workers who handle it. Needlestick injuries to solid waste workers (and the associated medical costs) are on the rise as more Americans self-inject at home.
4. Paints and Stains
Paints and stains often contain fungicides, biocides, toxic solvents, and other chemicals. External paints should never be used indoors, and paint should never be poured on the ground or poured down the drain. Here’s how to safely clean paintbrushes at home.
5. Household Chemicals
Any product whose name ends in “-cide” (herbicide, pesticide, fungicide, etc.) is a poison and requires safe disposal. Antifreeze, hydraulic brake fluids, and ink all contain ethylene glycol, a powerful poison that has a sweet taste. It’s the most common cause of accidental pet poisonings.
6. Engine Oil
The used oil from a single oil change can contaminate 1 million gallons of fresh water. It also contains toxic chemicals and heavy metals and degrades slowly.
7. Light Bulbs
Fluorescent and high-energy discharge (HID) bulbs all contain small amounts of mercury. Accidental breakage can release harmful mercury vapor.
8. Anything Flammable
Flammable materials like paints, petroleum products, fireworks, and even cell phone batteries can cause dangerous fires in apartment trash compactors, garbage trucks, and landfills.
9. Mercury Thermometers
At least 13 states have banned the sale of mercury fever thermometers. Glass mercury thermometers are easily broken and should never be put into household trash.
Medications placed in household trash may poison children or pets. When placed in landfills, they can contaminate water supplies and aquatic life.
Safe Disposal Options for Household Hazardous Waste
Fortunately, there are safe, convenient alternatives to trash disposal.
- Use it up! The best way to handle many household chemicals is to purchase carefully. Only buy as much as you need, so there’s nothing left over to throw out.
- Household hazardous waste collection centers. Some local governments operate special household hazardous waste collection centers. Many retailers also offer take-back and/or recycling services. Search for collection and recycling centers near you.
- Pharmaceutical disposal kiosks. Many retail pharmacies, law enforcement organizations, and healthcare facilities offer secure, DEA-compliant drug disposal kiosks like MedSafe. They offer ultimate users a safe, convenient disposal alternative for unwanted/unused medications.
- Household sharps mailback containers. It’s as easy to put used needles and sharps into a secure, environmentally friendly mailback collection container as it is to place it in the garbage – and safer too!
For 25 years, Sharps Compliance has helped industry, retailers, and ultimate users comply with regulations regarding regulated medical waste, hazardous waste, and pharmaceutical waste management. Contact us to learn how we can help you manage waste and comply with federal, state, and local regulations.
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