6 Common Hazardous Household Waste Items and How to Properly Dispose of Them

January 13, 2020Mandi Morrison

Contrary to what people may think, not all hazardous items we use around our homes every day come with the ominous “skull and bones” label on the back sticker. Most of the items listed here are not even directly hazardous to people but can be harmful for the environment unless properly disposed of. Here are the six most common household waste items that we often don’t know what to do about.

Are cleaning products safe to flush?

Before you decide you don’t need them, why don’t you give your house another round of maintenance and see if you can use up the unwanted cleaning products in the process? Sure, if you decide you don’t like a particular cleaner or are caught with an extra stock between moves, there isn’t much to do. For one, you can give them away, as there are always friends who’re happy to take free stuff off our hands. Most house cleaners are water-soluble and can be disposed of down the drain. Just make sure you recycle the plastic bottles.

Does the paint have an expiry date?

A can of paint can last for a long time. On the one hand, it’s good news because one can may last for up to 10 years, if you use if for light touch-ups, of course. On the other, it’s easy to hoard up dozens of paint cans, which can become a problem if you decide to get rid of them. Again, you can dial up your friend who likes free stuff or donate it to a local non-profit organization that may need it. Finally, you can buy paint hardener or use kitty litter to harden the contents so the paint can be safely disposed of with other waste. This only works with latex-based paints – for oil paints, you need to check if there’s a recycling program with your local hardware store or municipal government.

How dangerous are batteries?

If rechargeable, lithium, and button batteries end up in waste bins, they can pose a risk for collection crews, as they’re considered a leading cause of truck fires. Electronic and hardware stores now often have drop-off locations that ensure proper recycling for these batteries. While some manufacturers claim that alkaline batteries are perfectly safe to dispose of with regular household waste, you’re still leaving non-degradable metal in the ground, so it’s better to dispose of them through a recycling program, as well.

Who recycles automotive products?

The fuel and fluids that your car needs to run can end up as hazardous waste. Both diesel and gasoline are flammable, so if you can’t use them, contact your nearest hazardous household waste facility. If disposed of improperly, motor oil can pollute water supplies, with just one gallon of used oil poisoning a million gallons of freshwater. Luckily, there are mechanics and specialised 4×4 wreckers that reuse or recycle old automotive parts, making sure that any remaining fluid is safely disposed of. About 76% of all the car parts can be recycled in another car or truck with long-term benefits for the environment.

Is it safe to bin lightbulbs?

One positive side to traditional incandescent bulbs is that they don’t contain any hazardous materials, so they can be disposed of with normal waste but, unfortunately, recycling centres won’t accept them. To make sure the bulb is safe for handling, wrap it in a paper towel. LEDs also don’t contain any hazardous materials but are made with items that can be recycled. Fluorescent and CFLs (popularly known as spiral bulbs) contain a small amount of mercury and should be disposed of through a community recycling program or through big box home improvement stores that will take them.

What to do with old medicines?

Old prescriptions and over-the-counter medicines can potentially become hazardous waste that needs to be disposed of with care. In the U.S. for example, the Drug Enforcement Administration organises the National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day in September when people can anonymously and safely drop unwanted or expired medicines. Local pharmacies sometimes have take-back collection programs that see that unwanted medications are disposed of in an environmentally safe way.

Unless disposed of properly, even unassuming household items like bulbs and medicines can seep deep into the soil, polluting it along with our water supplies. Recycling them safely guarantees we invest in a safer future for our children.

About the author: Mike Johnston is an avid creative writer and blogger. He is a regular contributor to numerous blogs and online magazines, where he writes about home improvement (his specialty!), interior design, family life, green living and many other topics. Mike’s goal is to create interesting and compelling content and then share it throughout the online community.

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