Hazardous Waste

Home waste disposal solutions

Hazardous waste which is produced by residential households is called "household hazardous waste," or HHW for short. HHW is not governed by the same regulations that cover the hazardous waste produced by industrial and medical processes, but it can create many problems if it enters the regular waste stream.

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The Impact of Hazardous Waste

Households generate a variety of hazardous waste products, from paints and solvents to pesticides to used batteries. These items are designated as hazardous due to their toxic, corrosive, reactive or ignitable properties. Many municipalities allow these hazardous waste materials to be thrown out with regular non-hazardous waste, where it can end up in landfills. Pouring excess amounts of drain cleaning chemicals down the sink is another dangerous practice, as waste water treatment facilities aren't prepared to handle many dangerous substances. Improper methods of hazardous waste disposal may prove harmful to the environment and pose a threat to the health of humans as well.

Many communities are starting to realize the dangerous impact of improperly managed HHW and are implementing special hazardous waste management programs. The majority of community programs for the disposal of HHW involve designated times at which hazardous waste can be dropped off at special household hazardous waste facilities.

Safe Hazardous Waste Management

Private recycling companies also handle certain types of HHW, including computers and electronics. Since nearly 70 percent of the toxic waste in landfills is due to discarded electronic products (called "e-waste"), this segment of the HHW stream is significant. The Best Buy chain of electronics stores accept a range of discarded consumer electronics. At Best Buy's locations throughout the U.S., customers can drop off as many as two electronic devices per day. Most computer manufacturers are required to have programs for recycling their own products, usually by sending the old computer devices back to them; these programs apply only to computers which were purchased for personal or home business usage.

Another way to reduce the amount of HHW produced is to consider "precycling," or reducing the consumption of products which generate hazardous waste. Rather than purchasing new electronics and consumer goods, first consider ways to improve, revise or upgrade your existing belongings so they can meet your needs without having to buy new products and discard the old ones. Using long-life or rechargeable batteries and choosing compact florescent light bulbs are other examples of precycling, since these products last longer than their conventional counterparts.

Whenever possible, avoid using potentially harmful chemicals around the house. If you must, though, make sure you're up to speed on safe disposal regulations in your area and follow local laws.