Hazardous Waste

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					Question: What items are considered household hazardous waste
(HHW)?Answer: Leftover household products that contain corrosive, toxic,
ignitable, or reactive ingredients are considered to be HHW. Items
including paints, cleaners, oils, batteries, and pesticides contain
potentially hazardous ingredients and require special care when it's time
for their disposal.As a country, Americans generate 1.6 million tons of
household hazardous waste per year. These figures translate to as much as
one hundred pounds of hazardous waste per household, stored in garages as
well as in and around the home.What are some improper methods of
household waste disposal? Pouring them down the drain, on the ground,
into storm sewers, or in some cases putting them out with the trash can
lead to environmental contamination and pose a threat to human health.It
may seem obvious, but hazardous products should be kept in their original
containers with labels intact. Household hazardous waste should never be
mixed with any other products. In some situations, incompatible products
can react, ignite or even explode.When in doubt, it is best to refer to
local environmental, health, solid waste or other appropriate government
agency for instructions on proper disposal of HHW. Many communities now
offer HHW drop-off programs and collection days. The following are some
tips for recycling specific materials.From drugstores to big box stores,
Americans purchase nearly 3 billion dry-cell batteries every year to
power radios, toys, cellular phones, watches, laptop computers, and
portable power tools. Then there are wet-cell batteries, used to power
automobiles, boats and motorcycles.Batteries contain heavy metals such as
mercury, lead, cadmium, and nickel, all of which are environmental
contaminants.One way to reduce the number of batteries in the waste
stream is through the purchase of rechargeable batteries. Each
rechargeable battery may substitute for hundreds of single-use batteries.
Rechargeable batteries are also easy to recycle.What about cleaning
products?
Most antibacterial cleaners, air fresheners, dishwasher detergents, oven
cleaners, carpet cleaners and toilet/sink/tub/tile cleaners contain toxic
ingredients that can seep into groundwater. Not only are most cleaning
products bad for the environment, they can be bad for your respiratory
health too. To minimize their negative effects, it is best to dispose of
any unused products at a local HHW site. A better solution may be to buy
or make your own greener cleaners. Regular soap is negligibly less
effective than antibiotic soap in killing germs and not nearly as bad for
the environment. Scrubbing toilets, sinks and tubs with vinegar or lemon
juice and baking soda works well. Baking soda and water is also a safe
and effective way to clean your oven or carpet.Recent press reports have
shown that trace amounts of prescription and over-the-counter durgs are
showing up in our drinking water. The cause is the expired contents of
our medicine cabinets being thrown away or flushed down the drain. An
alternate disposal method is checking to see what local pharmacy will
take back unused or expired drugs.Compact florescent lamps (CFL) have
become popular because of their energy efficiency. While newer CFLs
contain lower mercury levels than older lamps, the amount is still too
high to simply place bulbs in the trash. Home Depot has a CFL recycling
program that allows the return of any unbroken bulbs for free recycling.
The recycling of old electronics, also known as e-waste, can be disposed
of at many Target, RadioShack, Best Buy, the Home Depot and Lowe's
stores. eCycling is important because most components contain lead, which
can contaminate groundwater and become a health hazard.Because it is
illegal to throw away paint or paint thinner in many states, this
material should be taken to an HHW site. It may also be possible to
donate usable paint to a local paint store to be remixed or sent to a
Habitat for Humanity location.

				
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