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Household Hazardous Waste

Many of the products that are seen in homes today, would be classified as hazardous waste if they were being used in an industrial setting. We often don't realize that these products need to be used and disposed of in ways that are specific to hazardous chemicals. If you have hazardous products in your home it is important that you are aware of what the dangers are, and how to take appropriate measures to protect yourself. This section describes what household hazardous waste is, why it is a concern, and products of which to be aware. For more information about household hazardous waste, how you can protect yourself and your family from exposures, and safe alternatives to toxic chemicals, contact the Chemical Hazards Program.

What is a Household Hazardous Waste?

  • Household waste is any solid waste discarded from a home. Hazardous wastes are products that fall into four hazardous categories:

  1. Corrosive - damages human tissue.
  2. Ignitable - catches fire under certain conditions.
  3. Toxic - causes injury or death if swallowed, absorbed, or inhaled.
  4. Reactive - capable of causing an explosion.

Products in the home and have any of these characteristics fall into the category of household hazardous waste.

  • Examples of household hazardous wastes include pesticides, drain openers, nail polish and batteries.

Why are Household Hazardous Wastes a Concern?

  • Steps to Safe Management of Household Hazardous Waste
  • If hazardous household products are used according to the instructions and are completely used up, then the product will probably not pose a threat to human health. However, most people have left over chemicals, and in some cases use the product improperly. When products are misused, stored, or disposed of improperly (poured down a storm drain) these household hazardous wastes can contaminate groundwater and surface water, injure homeowners or solid waste workers, and damage septic systems.

  • Examples of potentially hazardous behaviors are:

    • Inadequately sealed containers release fumes that pose a health hazard to those breathing the chemicals.
    • Unfinished aerosol cans placed in garbage may explode when compacted by a solid waste collection vehicle.
    • Chemicals poured into a storm sewer release vapors that can collect, possibly resulting in explosions or fires.
    • One gallon of oil poured on the ground has the potential to contaminate over one million gallons of drinking water.
  • Even though many of the household hazardous wastes are chemically different, the general way to safely manage these products is the same.

    1. Source Reduction - Many of the chemicals that we use in our homes have safer alternatives. By using safer alternatives we don't have as many products that are dangerous in the home.

    2. Recycling/Reuse - Many chemicals can be recycled or used by other people. Avoid throwing out materials that someone else may want, need, or recycle. This reduces the amount of waste going into landfills, and protects groundwater and drinking water.

    3. Proper Storage - Keep chemicals in your home out of the reach of children and pets. Always keep chemicals in their original containers with the labels. Never store chemicals in food containers.

    4. Follow the Instructions - Chemical labels have information on proper use and proper disposal. If you follow the instructions you should be safe and acting safely for the environment.

Safe Alternatives

Your house is probably filled with many common products that could be hazardous to you and your family. Everyday activities, such as cleaning, car maintenance, lawn care, hobbies, and home improvement projects, are often done using toxic products. Many times, you can do these activities using non-toxic or less toxic alternatives.

Rome/Floyd County Household Hazardous Waste Collection Day
In addition to using safer products, professional environmentalists, businesses, local officials, and residents can work together to develop a household hazardous waste collection program in their area. The Floyd County Health Department helped to organize a Household Hazardous Waste (HHW) Collection Day, providing residents with the opportunity to dispose of their toxic wastes properly. The project won the 2000 Keep America Beautiful, Inc. distinguished service award in the government agency category.

Hightlights

One-day free collection of all HHW for Rome/Floyd County residents

  • Co-organized by:

    • Northwest, GA District Health Office, Environmental Health Section, and the Rome/Floyd County Recycling Center.

    • Planned by a Steering Committee comprised of over 30 representatives from local governments, businesses, community groups, and industries.

    • Paid for by local government funds, grants, and corporate donations.

    • Published 6 weekly newspaper articles about HHW safety and alternatives.

    • Distributed over 50,000 HHW educational brochures to the community.

    • Over 500 households attended, representing over 1,200 community members.

  • Collected hazardous wastes:

    • 41,800 pounds of paint/paint products

    • 871 pounds of aerosols

    • 788 pounds of organic liquid

    • 1,057 pounds of liquid pesticides

    • 689 pounds of solid pesticides

    • 334 pounds of inorganic solids

    • 55 batteries

    • 560 pounds of corrosive liquid

    • 350 tires

    • 192 car batteries

    • 25 gallons of antifreeze

    • 300 fluorescent bulbs

    • 400 gallons of motor oil

For information about setting up a similar program in your community, please contact the Chemical Hazards Program.