Common household products such as cleaners, used motor oil, cooking oil, pesticide, batteries, fluorescents, electronics, gardening products, paint, and pharmaceuticals all contain chemicals that harm the environment and can even be deadly, and are considered household hazardous waste (HHW).

Every year, Americans create an astounding 1/6 million tons of household hazardous waste.

What is Household Hazardous Waste (HHW)?

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the State of California considers some household products that can catch fire, react, or explode under certain circumstances, or that are corrosive or toxic, as HHW. Products, such as paints, household cleaners, oils, batteries, fluorescents, electronics, pharmaceuticals, gardening products and pesticides, can contain chemicals and hazardous ingredients that harm the environment and can even be deadly. Words such as danger, warning, caution, poisonous, corrosive, toxic and flammable on the labels of common household products tell you these products may be harmful, even deadly, to you, to your children, to your pets, or to the environment. Even if the products’ labels do not contain the word “hazardous” they may be just as hazardous as any industrial waste. These products require special care when you dispose of them.

What are the Dangers of HHW if not Disposed of Properly?

HHW should never be thrown in the trash, washed down drains, or abandoned. Improper disposal is illegal. Hazardous chemicals can “pass through” wastewater treatment processes or storm drains and get discharged into the environment.  Wastewater treatment plants are not designed to remove hazardous chemicals from wastewater, and many storm drains flow directly to the Bay without any treatment at all. HHW thrown into the garbage can injure workers during collection or react with other chemicals when buried in a landfill. Groundwater used for drinking or irrigation can be contaminated when waste products are poured onto, or seep into, the ground.

Warning Words to Look For

  • Toxic: Poisonous or lethal when ingested, touched or inhaled even in small quantities (rat poison, cleaning fluids, pesticides, bleach);
  • Flammable: Ignites easily (lighter fluid, spot and paint removers);
  • Corrosive: Eats away materials and living tissue by chemical action (oven and toilet bowl cleaners);
  • Reactive: Creates an explosion or produces deadly vapors (bleach mixed with ammonia cleaners).Careless use and disposal of harmful and hazardous substances contaminate our food, soil, water, and air; and seriously threaten the ecosystems on which we depend.

Where do I find HHW?

Check your house, garage, storage cabinets and shed for items such as batteries (household flashlight type, automobile, rechargeables), cleaners and solvents, paints and paint remover, used motor oil and cooking oil, lighter fluid, gasoline, auto care products, pharmceuticals and sharps, fluorescent light tubes and compact bulbs, items containing mercury, electronic waste, weed killer, drain opener, poisons and pesticides. Practice safe storage and proper disposal for all of these items. You may wish to mark or label these products as a reminder to use them up and dispose of them safely.

How do I Dispose of HWW properly?

West Contra Costa residents can properly dispose of household hazardous waste free of charge at the West County HHW Collection Facilities located in Richmond and El Cerrito. For more information, visit the HHW Facilities page.

Door to Door Program

For Seniors and those that are disabled, RecycleMore has a door to door program, where items can be picked up from your home. To learn more about the program and to see if you are eligible, CLICK HERE

What are Acceptable HHW Items?

To see examples of what types of items that can be dropped off at the facilities, please access the RecycleMore Online Disposal/Recycling Guide by typing in an item in the search bar “What Do I Do With”. Search for the item you have for disposal to see whether it is accepted at the facilities and for alternative proper disposal options.

If you have chemicals that are NOT common household products or large quantities, DO NOT attempt to deliver these chemicals to HHW facilities, you may need to hire a hazardous waste contractor to properly dispose of the material. If you believe there is a safety hazard, please contact your local emergency response agency to assess the situation.


For more information on hazardous waste and universal waste visit CalRecycle or the California Department of Toxic Substance Control (DTSC).