Some household wastes can injure living things and the environment to the point of being life threatening. Such wastes are called hazardous household waste or HHW for short.
A product is considered hazardous if it is toxic, corrosive, flammable, or reactive. People have always produced HHW, but in the twentieth century the amount and variety have greatly increased. Some of the most dangerous include pesticides, drain and oven cleaners, paint strippers, solvents, corrosive (batteries), bleaches and oxidizers.
Americans generate 1.6 million tons of HHW each year. The average home can accumulate as much as 100 pounds of HHW. When improperly disposed of, HHW can create a potential risk to people and the environment. The dangers of improper disposal may not be immediately obvious, but HHW have the potential to cause physical injury to sanitation workers, contaminate septic tanks or waste water treatment systems if poured down drains or toilets, and present more serious hazards to children and pets.
We can manage HHW by reducing the amount of wastes we produce. There are two ways to reduce HHW in the home. Use safer less toxic products and use less. Not every job can be done with safer products, but most can. By learning some simple techniques, most home and garden pesticides can be eliminated. Latex paints can be substituted for oil based paints, and many cleaning chores can be done just as effectively (and for less money) with simple products you can make yourself. Click here for Alternative Non-Toxic Recipes for Common Hazardous Wastes. Some of the safer products go back over a hundred years. Baking soda, vinegar, and soap are things your grandparents used. Other products are the result of sophisticated new research to find less volatile, water-based, or plant-based solvents to replace petroleum-based chemicals.
There will be some potentially hazardous products that you may find you cannot do without (i.e. paint, adhesives, and automotive products). In these cases the answer is conservation. Try to minimize your use of these products. Buy only what you need, use it all up, or give the rest to someone who can use it. Reuse or recycle products whenever possible. Consider the health and environmental costs of the products you currently use when deciding what you will buy. Remember that you are ultimately affecting complex biological systems, both in your body and in the environment.
So how do I dispose of my household hazardous waste? Marshall County residents may contact the Recycle Depot at (574) 935-8618 for proper disposal of HHW.