Household Hazardous Waste

What is it? 

Chemical products in your home such as cleaners, paint thinners, sprays, and pesticides can be a potential danger to you, your family, and the environment. Most of us have a variety of these products stored in our cupboards, closets, or garages. Products that are emptied down the drain, or into storm sewers can contaminate water. Hazardous products put in the garbage typically make up less than one percent of the waste stream but their presence in landfills has the potential to do more harm than the other 99+ percent.  

What is the issue? 

A product is hazardous if it has one or more of these properties:

Toxic — substances that may be poisonous even in small quantities and cause injury or death when swallowed, absorbed through the skin, or inhaled into the lungs
poison symbol
Flammable — substances, usually liquids, which can readily ignite (burn in the air) in a wide range of temperature conditions.  flammable symbol
Corrosive — substances or vapors that can destroy or eat away the surface of another material.
corrosive symbol
Reactive/Explosive — substances that can react with air, water or another substance to produce toxic vapors or explode.
explosive symbol

Radioactive — substances that can damage and destroy cells and chromosomal material. Radioactive substances are known to cause cancer, mutations and fetal harm

radioactive symbol



Where can it go? 

Some communities set up Household Hazardous Waste Days (HHW days) often once a year, which allow residents to get rid of their hazardous materials in safe and environmentally responsible way. Certain landfills and independent businesses also accept some hazardous products. Please check out our Waste Reduction Hub for locations and HHW days near you.  

What happens after? 

HHW products are dealt with in various ways. Each class of product requires a specific treatment that will destroy it, render it non-hazardous, recycle it, or otherwise keep it out of landfills and out of the environment. Some, like batteriespropane cylinders, solventsfuels, and some mercury-containing products (e.g. fluorescent light bulbsthermometers, etc.), can be recycled. Poisons, pharmaceuticals, and PCBs are incinerated in specialized facilities. Corrosives are neutralized. Adhesives, cleaners, and some oxidizers are subject to physical or chemical treatment. 

How can I reduce? 

  • Chose non-toxic alternatives to hazardous products. 

  • Use rechargeable batteries instead of disposable ones. 

  • LED light bulbs are a mercury-free alternative to fluorescent lights and are extremely long-lasting and energy efficient.  

  • When buying things like light bulbs, batteries, thermometers, etc., select a mercury-free option. 

  • Buy the smallest container that you need and give away the extras to friends 

  • Reduce the number of smoke alarms in your house by placing them in areas that cover multiple rooms.