Easy Ways to Dispose of or Recycle Common Potentially Hazardous Materials in Your Home

Old paint cansDepending upon your location, your municipal waste provider may not offer household hazardous waste (HHW) services in your area. Managing HHW can be expensive for waste providers, and some HHW can be safely disposed of by residents if proper steps are taken first.

One of the most common forms of HHW is paint. Fortunately, this is also one of the easiest ones to safely dispose of yourself.

Latex or Water-Based Paint

Most interior or exterior house paint is latex paint. While many HHW collection sites will accept it, any hazardous waste is expensive for facilities to manage. This is a good one to try to dispose of yourself, which is quite easy to do safely.

If you would like to dispose of latex paint and don’t have access to a recycling center, you can convert it to solid waste. Here’s how: just add equal parts of cat litter, sand or shredded paper to the paint in the can. If you have more than half a can of paint, you will want to empty part of it into a trash can or lined box, and then add cat litter, sand or paper. The mixture will need time to set, preferable a few hours or overnight. Once set, remove the paint lid and throw away. This method works well for full cans, or cans more than ¼ full.

For nearly empty cans, simply remove the lid and allow paint to dry naturally, away from children and pets. Once dried, you may throw the can away.

Oil-Based Paint

Oil-based paint is considered hazardous waste, so it must be taken to a drop-off center or other appropriate disposal center.

Recycling Options for Common HHW


Before safely dispersing of your paint, consider checking with area community centers, charities, places of worship or local theaters to see if they may be interested in your unwanted paint. Often they are working on projects with a limited budget and could use the extra supplies. Habitat for Humanity Restore is another good option to explore. You may also want to check with local hardware stores as many offer take-back or paint recycling programs.

Motor Oil

Motor oil is banned from recycling facilities and landfills because it is classified as hazardous waste. Many mechanics and auto parts stores will accept used oil and oil filters. Contact your local car care locations to see if they will accept it.

Car Batteries

Car batteries cannot be put out with regular garbage or curbside recycling carts. They can cause fires and explosions in the back of disposal trucks. Safe disposal options include auto parts stores, car dealers or scrap yards. Many of these businesses will accept them and safely dispose of them.

Light Bulb Disposal

Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs (CFL) are hazardous waste and cannot be placed in your regular trash or recycling. They contain mercury posing a safety risk to disposal workers and the environment. Contact your local home improvement store to see if they will accept them for recycling. Older incandescent bulbs are safe to dispose of in your regular trash.

Household Batteries

You never want to put lithium, rechargeable or button batteries in your curbside garbage or recycling. Lithium batteries are a leading cause of truck fires in the garbage and at recycling facilities, and pose risks to waste collection crews.

Many electronic and hardware stores offer drop-off locations for these items. Although alkaline batteries may be safely put in your trash, you may also recycle them at electronic and hardware stores.