Household Hazardous Waste

Household Waste Chart

household waste

What is household hazardous waste (HHW)?

Any product which has the potential to harm the user or the environment is considered a hazard. It can be toxic, flammable (can catch fire), caustic (cause burns) or be chemically reactive (react or explode when mixed with other substances). Some of the most dangerous are pesticides, drain and oven cleaners, paint strippers and solvents, many of which are likely to be stored in your home right now.

What does hazardous waste do?

Because we are busy we are often looking for easy solutions to maintain our homes. We fill our shelves with convenience products which promise less effort, more time and a cleaner, healthier, shinier and better smelling place to live. But there may be trade offs . . .

In the long run, improper handling of these products may carry serious hidden costs:

  • accidental poisonings of children or pets
  • long-term illness
  • risk of fire
  • indoor air pollution
Why can't we just throw HHW "away"? First, there is no "away." One of the worst ways to dispose of many hazardous materials is to dump them down the drain, as wastewater treatment plants are not designed to handle certain types of HHW. And, disposing of HHW in a landfill can pollute the environment through the groundwater, surface water and air.

HHW products are sometimes corrosive. Acid leaking from automobile batteries can eat away many substances. Some are poisonous to humans or wildlife, while others can cause birth defects, cancer, or other serious medical problems. Dumping HHW into a storm drain is also dangerous, as it will find its way into a stream and on into the community's drinking water.

paint disposal   paint disposal

How do you know a household product is hazardous?

Look at the label. If any of the following words appear, the product is hazardous:
  • warning
  • caution
  • need for ventilation
  • eye protection
  • gloves
  • fire protection
  • DANGER (extremely hazardous; one teaspoon could be fatal)

Facts about household hazardous waste

  • In central Oklahoma alone 240,000 homes dispose of more than two million pounds of household hazardous waste (HHW) each year.
  • The average home has from 3 to 10 gallons of HHW.
  • More than 2% of all garbage collectors are injured by chemical burns, explosions, etc. from HHW in trash.
  • Certain unlikely combinations of HHW can be dangerous. (For example, soft drinks mixed with swimming pool chlorine can ignite.)
  • Indoor air pollution is often 2 to 5 times worse than the outdoors, even in heavily industrialized cities.
  • It is estimated that in an average city of 100,000, 3.75 tons of toilet bowl cleaner, 13.75 tons of liquid household cleaners and 3.44 tons of motor oil are discharged into city drains each month. -Source: EHMI HHW Wheel