A number of household products contain hazardous materials. Corrosive chemicals such as battery acid, ignitable substances like lighter fluid, toxic substances including pesticides and paints and unused prescription medications can be harmful to individuals and the environment if not disposed of properly. Following professional organizer advice for disposing of household hazardous materials helps to keep you, your family and your community safe.
Disposing of household hazardous materials in the garbage means they end up in landfills, most of which are not designed to accommodate them. These wastes can leak into water supplies, cause a fire or explosion and create air pollution. They can also endanger sanitation workers. Pouring hazardous wastes and medications down the drain or flushing them down the toilet also carries risks. Some household wastes can pass through municipal water systems and pollute water downstream. They may also damage plumbing and release dangerous fumes through drains.
According to the NASD and Clemson University, follow these general guidelines in disposing of hazardous wastes in your home:
Follow the label instruction. Some labels give disposal recommendations. Read the label carefully and follow the manufacturer’s recommendations.
Use it up. When products are fully used up as intended there is no hazardous waste. Buy only as much as you need. Do not buy a gallon of paint, pesticide, or specialty cleaner when a quart will do. The large container may cost less per ounce, but leftovers must be stored or disposed of so as not to harm people or the environment.
Recycle. Oil and transmission fluids from your car and lawn mower can be recycled. Find out if a collection program is available in your area. Many gas stations are now accepting used oil for recycling. Gas stations and stores that sell auto batteries must recycle them.
Donate. Donate paint, household cleaners, or other products to a local charity, church, or service organization. Theater groups, the local housing authority, or a neighbor may be happy to accept small quantities of usable paint or cleaning products. Such items need to be in original containers with labels.
Save for a collection day. A community waste collection day is one way to manage hazardous household waste and keep it out of the landfill. The collection days are usually sponsored by a local government agency or a private organization. Residents are notified of the date, the drop off location, and the types of materials the program will accept. The collected wastes are recycled, treated, or disposed of by a professional handler.
Collection days for hazardous household waste are a good way to dispose of hazardous household wastes, such as automotive paint, brake fluids, dry cleaning fluid, engine degreaser, flea powder, epoxies and adhesives, photographic chemicals, paint supplies and thinners, solvent-based cleaners and polishes, mothballs, wood preservatives, gasoline, pesticides, swimming pool chemicals, lacquer and lacquer thinner, car batteries, kerosene, mercury batteries, and smoke detectors. If there is not a collection program in your area, use the recommended disposal methods described earlier. Find someone who might use the product or recycle your waste. And in the meantime, store these products safely!
Disposing of Unused Prescription Medications
Do not toss unused prescription medications in the trash and never flush them because they can contaminate water systems and traces cannot always be filtered out by treatment facilities. What to do? The DEA offers a bi-annual Prescription Drug Take Back Day which occurs around April & October. The next one is September 29, 2012. Some pharmacies and local police departments offer programs to collect and destroy prescription drugs. Check with yours to find out what options are available.
For additional information on the safe disposal of hazardous products and local recycling centers, be sure to check out www.earth911.org.
Guest author Terri Stephens is the founder and Chief Professional Organizer of Real Order Professional Organizing, LLC. Since 2003, she’s helped busy homeowners with their clutter and organizing needs in metro Atlanta and surrounding areas. Terri is also a Senior Move Manager and helps older adults and their families with later-life moves.