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 www.fda.gov.
To learn more about disposing of HHW and collection locations in your area, visit www.earth911.com.