Be responsible; dispose of household hazardous waste properly

They appear innocent enough, hiding in the medicine cabinet, basement workshop, or garage. But while it seems simple to just toss them in the trash, careless disposal of household hazardous waste (HHW) can have a devastating impact on the environment, including water quality.

HHW encompasses many items, from cleaners, paints, and chemicals to medications, light bulbs, and electronics. Proper HHW management not only benefits the environment, but many items can be recycled — conserving resources and energy while saving money. Below you’ll find facts and tips related to common HHW items.

•  Car batteries.
Car batteries are among the most recycled products. In most cases, old batteries can be returned to the dealership or store where a replacement battery was purchased.

•  Household chemicals. Chemicals poured down drains can contaminate wastewater treatment and septic systems. They also can harm sanitation workers if carelessly discarded with regular refuse. Contact your local environmental health or solid waste agency for advice on proper disposal.

•  Fluorescent and Compact Fluorescent Light (CFL)
. CFLs and other fluorescent bulbs contain mercury. When released into the environment, mercury is easily absorbed into plants and ultimately our food chain. Never discard fluorescent bulbs in the trash. Many hardware stores have recycling bins for the bulbs, which are almost 100 percent recyclable.

•  Medications
. Most expired or unused drugs can be discarded with normal trash, provided precautions are taken, such as removing them from their original containers and mixing them with undesirable rubbish such as cat litter or coffee grounds. First, consult the label for instructions on disposal. Don’t flush prescription drugs down the toilet unless the instructions specifically dictate that. For more tips on disposal of medications, visit

To learn more about disposing of HHW and collection locations in your area, visit


  1. Safely recycling used fluorescent lamps and compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) is important for the environment, but also for the health of consumers and handlers who come into contact with them. Exposure to mercury vapors can lead to significant risks including neurological damage. Despite the potential health issues, fluorescent lamps and CFLs are growing steadily in the industrial, commercial and residential markets. They are four to six times more efficient than incandescent bulbs, offer energy cost savings and deliver a longer working life. In order to safely dispose of and recycle used fluorescent lamps and CFLs, they must be properly packaged in an effective mercury-safe storage or shipping container that includes an adsorbent technology.

    A study by NUCON International, Inc., a world-wide leader in providing gas, vapor and liquid phase adsorption solutions for mercury and other contaminants to the nuclear and other industries, found that within mercury-specific packaging, vapor levels can reach over 150 to 300 times OSHA’s 8-hour permissible exposure limit. A new, patent-pending adsorbent technology, recently announced at the Air & Waste Management Association’s Conference & Exhibition, can significantly reduce the mercury vapor levels in these storage and recycling packages. Levels were reduced by nearly 60 percent in only 15 minutes and over 95 percent after 12 hours, according to the study. The adsorbent is impregnated with powdered, activated carbon and reacted with proprietary inert chemicals, allowing it to effectively capture and reduce the mercury vapor from shattered lamps to a safe level within the shipping and storage package. In addition, the adsorbent can accommodate the high volume of mercury vapor that is released when several or all bulbs in a full package are broken. This provides an added layer of protection against incidental mercury exposure, offering consumers and other handlers a safer way to recycle their used fluorescent lamps and CFLs. A small consumer-size recycling bag, available soon, will also feature this technology and allow people to safely store three to four used lamps at home before taking them to a retailer or municipality that accepts CFLs for recycling.
    View a short animated depiction of the adsorption process at

    Download a detailed White Paper on this technology at

  2. Thanks for sharing this information about safely recycling used fluorescent lamps.