Introduction to Household Hazardous Waste

Did you know the average US household generates more than 20 pounds of household hazardous waste (HHW) a year with as much as 100 pounds accumulating in the home?chemicals in the home Hazardous waste is a form of waste with properties that make it dangerous or capable of having a harmful effect on our health or the environment. It is waste that can catch fire, react or explode under certain circumstances or that is corrosive or toxic. Many of us have HHW in our homes and don’t know how to manage it. Proper and safe disposal of HHW is not only important for our environment, but also for our own health and safety.

What is considered HHW?

HHW are types of products that may contain hazardous materials making them toxic, flammable and/or explosive under certain circumstances. These products require special care when you dispose of them. Products with potentially harmful chemicals can be identified by warnings on the label or packaging. Here are just a few common examples:

  • Drain openers

  • Oven cleaners

  • Metal cleaners and polishers

  • Automotive oil and fuel additives

  • Grease and rust solvents

  • Air conditioning refrigerants

  • Starter fluids

  • Paint, paint strippers, thinners and removers

  • Adhesives

  • Herbicides

  • Insecticides

  • Pesticides

  • Fungicides and wood preservatives

  • Batteries

To avoid the potential risks associated with household hazardous wastes, you should always monitor the use, storage and disposal of products with potentially hazardous substances in your home. You should never dispose of HHW by pouring them down the drain, into the ground or into storm sewers, or put them out with your regular trash.

So, what should you do with your HHW?

Check with your local environmental, health or solid waste agency for more information on HHW management options in your area. Some communities have year-round collection systems for HHW. If yours doesn’t, check to see if there are any designated days in your area for collecting HHW at a central location to ensure safe management and disposal. If your community doesn’t offer a permanent collection site or a special collection day, you might be able to drop off certain products at local businesses for recycling or proper disposal. Some local garages, for example, may accept used motor oil for recycling.

How to locate HHW services in your area: 

  1. Contact your local environmental, health, or solid waste agency to learn about permanent or periodic HHW collections near you. Some municipalities host HHW cleanups on a regular basis.

  2. Search for “household hazardous waste” near your zip code using your favorite search engine. This will help you find HHW locations in your area.

  3. Some of your HHW can be recycled. To find a location near you, the Earth 911 website allows you to search by type of material needing to be recycled and your location.