How to Kick the HHW Habit

At home or at work, it’s easy to find products that fall under the category of Household Hazardous Waste: drain cleaners, pesticides, adhesives, solvents, bleach, batteries and much more. What isn’t easy is safe disposal of these products, particularly here in Saskatchewan where lack of a provincial stewardship program, or even funding for municipalities to host their own HHW days (as was provided briefly a few years ago), leaves people wondering what to do with their leftovers. So what are we to do to kick the habit?

Well, start with that first R, Reduce. Look for eco-friendly alternatives when you can so that you don’t have to buy a hazardous product in the first place. Want to get rid of those ants in your driveway? Put some borax on the hill opening. Need to disinfect* your counter? Try wiping it first with vinegar, then with hydrogen peroxide. Sink stopped up? Use a plumber’s snake or plunger. Need to clean the floor? Try 1/4 cup vinegar in your bucket of hot water. Depending on the pest, look for diatomaceous earth or insecticidal soap as alternatives to insecticides. Notice anything else about these “ingredients”? They also tend to be cheaper than the hazardous products, so you can save money and save worry at the same time. Check for an array of ‘recipes’ for non-toxic cleaning products and other useful tips.

If you really must buy something with nasty symbols on it, try to buy only as much as you need. This is one instance in which buying in bulk to reduce packaging is NOT a good thing. If you can’t use it all, share it with someone (part of that second R, Reuse).  Buy non-aerosol versions (spray pumps instead).  Use latex paints instead of oil-based so you don’t have to buy paint thinner for clean-up.
Businesses and institutions, too, can work at making their operations less toxic. In larger organizations, it’s important to implement green purchasing policies, or at least recommendations.  The University of Saskatchewan has an excellent website to help their staff purchase sustainable products. Their “Checklist for Sustainable Purchasing” includes some good suggestions for reducing purchases:

  • Is this purchase necessary? [This is the key one! We can’t say it enough – if you don’t buy it in the first place, you won’t need to figure out what to do with the leftover product or package.]
  • Can demand for the item be aggregated amongst multiple users? [This is the equivalent of ‘sharing it with the neighbours’ on a household level. Less overall product needs to be purchased and less is wasted if the product can be shared.]
  • Can a service be used to meet the need? [Another excellent suggestion. If you can purchase a service rather than a product, you don’t have anything to dispose of. Also, you can request that your service provider use non-toxic products.]
  • How much waste is generated by the product during its use and disposal? Can this waste be minimized? What is the cost of disposal arrangements? [Businesses and institutions have financial incentives to reduce hazardous product use – the cost of disposal can be very high].

Applying the 3Rs will help you and your business kick the hazardous waste habit!
*NOTE:  There is growing concern that we have become overly addicted to antibacterial products, causing the development of resistant superbugs, and making us sicker, not healthier.

[Source: Feb. 2012 WasteWatch ]