Every year Americans create an astounding 1/6 million tons of house hazardous waste. Products such as household 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.
What is Household hazardous Waste (HHW)?
HHW should never be thrown into the trash or washed down the household or storm drains or abandoned – that is the law! For health, safety and environmental reasons it is illegal to dispose of HHW in the garbage, sewers, down household or storm drains, and they cannot be abandoned. Hazardous chemicals can “pass through” wastewater treatment processes or storm drains and get discharged into the environment. This occurs because 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 mix 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.
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. When these products are no longer wanted and are destined for disposal they become “household hazardous waste” also known as “HHW.”
Do not put any of these HHW items or materials in garbage cans or down household or storm drains:
Even if the products’ labels do not contain the word “hazardous” they may be just as hazardous as any industrial waste.
Where is HHW?
Check your house, garage, storage cabinets and shed for items such as batteries (household flashlight type, automobile, rechargables), cleaners and solvents, paints and paint remover, used motor oil and cooking oil, lighter fluid, gasoline, auto care products, pharmaceuticals 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.
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.
RecycleMore has compiled an extensive list of easy-to-do “homemade” alternatives to store bought toxic products. Click here for a list of Safe Alternatives to HHW products. For more information on hazardous waste and universal waste visit CalRecycle or the California Department of Toxic Substance Control (DTSC).