Household Hazardous Waste
Leftover household products that contain corrosive, toxic, ignitable, or reactive ingredients are considered to be household hazardous waste (HHW). Products, such as paints, cleaners, oils, batteries, and pesticides, that contain potentially hazardous ingredients require special care when you dispose of them.
Improper disposal of HHW can include pouring them down the drain, on the ground, into storm sewers, or in some cases putting them out with the trash. The dangers of such disposal methods might not be immediately obvious, but improper disposal of these wastes can pollute the environment and pose a threat to human health. Many communities in the United States offer a variety of options for conveniently and safely managing HHW.
HHW Reduction, Reuse, Recycling, and Disposal Options
The options of reduction, reuse, recycling, and disposal-listed in order of EPA’s preferred waste management hierarchy-are all important tools to safely manage HHW. The following information can help you determine the best ways to reduce, reuse, or dispose of common household products that may contain hazardous ingredients. Each community is different, so check with your local environmental, health, or solid waste agency for more information on HHW management options in your area.
Benefits of Proper HHW Management
Reduction at Home
Consider reducing your purchase of products that contain hazardous ingredients. Learn about the use of alternative methods or products—without hazardous ingredients—for some common household needs.
To avoid the potential risks associated with household hazardous wastes, it is important that people always monitor the use, storage, and disposal of products with potentially hazardous substances in their homes. Below are some tips for individuals to follow in their own homes:
Municipalities and Local Governments Facilitating Reuse, Recycling, and Proper Disposal
Certain types of HHW have the potential to cause physical injury to sanitation workers, contaminate septic tanks or wastewater treatment systems if poured down drains or toilets, and present hazards to children and pets if left around the house. Federal law allows disposal of HHW in the trash. However, many communities have collection programs for HHW to reduce the potential harm posed by these chemicals. EPA encourages participation in these HHW collection programs rather than discarding the HHW in the trash. Call your local environmental, health, or solid waste agency for the time and location of your HHW collection program. Also, read product labels for disposal directions to reduce the risk of products exploding, igniting, leaking, mixing with other chemicals, or posing other hazards on the way to a disposal facility. Even empty containers of HHW can pose hazards because of the residual chemicals that might remain.