Household hazardous waste is one of the most confusing parts of responsible waste removal for most people. You know all about recycling (plastics, paper, metals, and glass) and having your mattress hauled away and perhaps donated, but what do you do with that left over motor oil or that paint can collecting dust in the basement? That’s a big question mark for a lot of people. But, first off, what is household hazardous waste? The truth is that the sheer breadth of consumer products that qualify make it hard to pin down what household hazardous waste even is.
Nailing Down the Definition of Household Hazardous Waste
The Environmental Protection Agency offers the following definition for folks: household hazardous waste (HHW) is any leftover household product that can ignite, react, or explode or that can corrode and cause toxicity issues if improperly disposed of. As you can probably already tell based on that definition, this could include the likely suspects like paint and household cleaners but it can also encompass outdoor pest control (e.g., certain pesticides) and automotive care products (e.g., gasoline, fluid, or oil). One of the most common types of household hazardous waste is batteries.
The Environmental Protection Agency considers batteries universal waste (a subcategory of household hazardous waste) because they’re still dangerous to dispose of improperly in terms of soil contamination (even with removing all that mercury) but they’re also extremely common and used to power millions of electronic devices. Four types of universal waste could be considered household hazardous waste by the EPA: batteries, outdoor pesticides, lamps, and other mercury-containing equipment like fluorescent light bulbs. The bottom line is that a lot of the stuff on your garage shelf could probably be considered household hazardous waste. Oil-based paints, drain cleaners, antifreeze, and rodenticides might all require special treatment.
Responsibly Dispose of Household Hazardous Waste in California
So, now that you’re looking through your garage or cupboard of cleaning supplies and wondering what to do with it all, how do you dispose of this stuff? Once you’re sure that you’re actually dealing with household hazardous waste and not a recyclable or reusable item, the next steps would be to use up what you have and/or use a household hazardous waste collection service in your area. The interesting part about all of this is that the Environmental Protection Agency doesn’t actually regulate HHW. Household hazardous waste collection programs are usually funded at the state level. The California Department of Toxic Substance Control takes household hazardous waste extremely seriously and says that in California it is against the law to dispose of household hazardous waste by pouring it down the drain or popping it in the trash and simply treating it as solid waste. Surprisingly, even abandoning or dumping your HHW like certain electronic waste is considered a crime. If improperly disposed of, HHW can harm the ecosystem (animals, plants, water, and soil) as well as human health. The state of California has put together this extensive list of household hazardous waste that includes electronic waste like old computer monitors (e.g., cathode ray tube monitors) and cell phones that Junk King can haul away. Pool cleaners, oven cleaners, and glues and adhesives are some surprising items that made the list. Once you know that you have hazardous waste on your hands (hopefully not literally!), take it to a nearby household hazardous waste collection facility for safe processing (solvents can sometimes be incinerated and used as energy) and/or disposal. Junk King is here to help. Contact Junk King for clean out services, e-waste removal, or donating gently used items.