Region 1: EPA New England
Questions About Your Community: What is Household Hazardous Waste?
- HHW Reduction, Reuse, Recycling, and Disposal Options
- HHW Facts and Figures
- Related Links
Benefits of Proper HHW Management
- Reduction and recycling of HHW conserves resources and energy that would be expended in the production of more products.
- Reuse of hazardous household products can save money and reduce the need for generating hazardous substances.
- Proper disposal prevents pollution that could endanger human health and the environment.
Leftover household products that contain corrosive, toxic, ignitable, or reactive ingredients are considered to be "household hazardous waste" or "HHW." Products, such as paints, cleaners, oils, batteries, and pesticides, that contain potentially hazardous ingredients require special care when you dispose of them.
Improper disposal of household hazardous wastes can include pouring them down the drain, on the ground, into storm sewers, or in some cases putting them out with the trash. The dangers of such disposal methods might not be immediately obvious, but improper disposal of these wastes can pollute the environment and pose a threat to human health. Many communities in the United States offer a variety of options for conveniently and safely managing HHW.
HHW Reduction, Reuse, Recycling, and Disposal Options
The options of reduction, reuse, recycling, and disposal listed in order of EPA's preferred waste management hierarchy are all important tools to safely manage HHW. The following information can help you determine the best ways to reduce, reuse, or dispose of common household products that may contain hazardous ingredients. Each community is different, so check with your local environmental, health, or solid waste agency for more information on HHW management options in your area.
Reduction at Home
Consider reducing your purchase of products that contain hazardous ingredients. Learn about the use of alternative methods or products without hazardous ingredients for some common household needs. Click here for a list of suggested alternatives to common hazardous household items. For specific information regarding household hazardous waste please visit EPA HQ’s Household Hazardous Waste site.
Collection Options - Municipalities and Local Governments Facilitating Reuse, Recycling, and Proper Disposal
- Permanent collection or exchange. See if your community has a facility that collects HHW year-round. Some of these facilities have exchange areas for unused or leftover paints, solvents, pesticides, cleaning and automotive products, and other materials. By taking advantage of these facilities, materials can be used by someone else, rather than being thrown away.
- Special collection days. If your community doesn't have a year-round collection system for HHW, see if there are any designated days in your area for collecting solid waste at a central location to ensure safe management and disposal.
- Local business collection sites. If your community has neither a permanent collection site nor a special collection day, you might be able to drop off certain products at local businesses for recycling or proper disposal. Some local garages, for example, may accept used motor oil for recycling.
Certain types of HHW have the potential to cause physical injury to sanitation workers, contaminate septic tanks or wastewater treatment systems if poured down drains or toilets, and present hazards to children and pets if left around the house. Some communities do allow disposal of HHW in trash, particularly those areas that do not yet have collection programs. Call your local environmental, health, or solid waste agency for instructions on proper disposal. Follow their instructions and also read product labels for disposal directions to reduce the risk of products exploding, igniting, leaking, mixing with other chemicals, or posing other hazards on the way to a disposal facility. Even empty containers of HHW can pose hazards because of the residual chemicals that might remain.
HHW Facts and Figures
- Americans generate 1.6 million tons of HHW per year.
- The average home can accumulate as much as 100 pounds of HHW in the basement and garage and in storage closets.
- During the 1980s, many communities started special collection days or permanent collection sites for handling HHW. In 1997, there were more than 3,000 HHW permanent programs and collection events throughout the United States.
To avoid the potential risks associated with household hazardous wastes, it is important that people always monitor the use, storage, and disposal of products with potentially hazardous substances in their homes. Below are some tips for individuals to follow in their own homes
- Use and store products containing hazardous substances carefully to prevent any accidents at home. Never store hazardous products in food containers; keep them in their original containers and never remove labels. Corroding containers, however, require special handling. Call your local hazardous materials official or fire department for instructions.
- When leftovers remain, never mix HHW with other products. Incompatible products might react, ignite, or explode, and contaminated HHW might become unrecyclable.
- Remember to follow any instructions for use and disposal provided on product labels.
- Call your local environmental, health, or solid waste agency for instructions on proper use and disposal and to learn about local HHW drop off programs and upcoming collection days.
- Household Hazardous Waste Project
1031 East Battlefield, Suite 214
Springfield, MO 65807
Phone: 417 889-550
- EPA has developed a list of HHW-related publications.
- Environmental Hazards
10 Newmarket Road
P.O. Box 932
Durham, NH 03824
Phone: 603 868-1496
- Minnesota Pollution Control Agency
- North America
Hazardous Materials Management Association
15 Barre Street
Montpelier, VT 05602
Phone: 802 223-9000
Fax: 802 223-0269
16 Haverhill Street
Andover, MA 01810
Phone: 978 470-3044
Fax: 978 470-3384