WML 2 Rep. May 1995
W DISPOSAL OF HAZARDOUS
WHEN IS A PRODUCT HAZARDOUS?
Most household products are not harmful if
When you care for yourself, your family, used according to label directions. However, they
home, car, yard, and garden, you use a variety of
can become harmful if used improperly, stored
chemical products. Many of these products contain
improperly, or if unused portions are disposed of
hazardous chemicals. When you no longer want
these products, they become hazardous waste.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
HOUSEHOLD PRODUCTS AND THE WASTE STREAM
(EPA) defines four major types of hazardous waste:
Most people dispose of hazardous products by
s Corrosive wastes can cause a chemical
throwing them in the trash, pouring them down the
action that eats away materials or living
drain, burning them, pouring them in a ditch,
tissue. Battery acid is an example.
dumping them on a vacant lot, or burying them in a
s Toxic wastes can cause illness or death.
field. These practices are dangerous.
Some such wastes are more dangerous than
Waste from hazardous products can contami-
others. Exposure to a small concentration
nate lakes, rivers, streams, and groundwater (the
of a highly toxic chemical may cause
places below the ground where water accumulates
symptoms of poisoning. Pesticides, clean-
before it goes to a river, stream, or well). This can
ing products, paints, photographic supplies,
create serious problems for South Carolinians.
and many art supplies are examples.
Why? Because about 66 percent of the water South
s Ignitable waste can catch fire spontane-
Carolinians use in their homes each day comes from
ously or burn easily. Examples include
surface water. The remaining 34 percent comes
charcoal lighter fluid, gasoline, kerosene,
from groundwater. Often only a small amount of
and nail polish remover.
hazardous materials can cause serious problems. It
s Reactive waste can react with air, water, or
only takes one gallon of oil to ruin one million
other substances to cause rapid heating or
gallons of water.
explosions. Acids that heat up rapidly and
spatter when mixed with water are
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN HAZARDOUS HOUSEHOLD
WASTE IS ...
EPA estimates that the average household
1. Thrown in the Garbage?
disposes of one pound of hazardous waste each
Most of the residential trash in South Carolina
year. In South Carolina that means that 1,150,000
is collected door-to-door or is taken to a transfer
pounds of hazardous household wastes must be
station by individuals. Ultimately the trash is taken
handled each year.
to a county landfill. Most landfills are not designed
for hazardous household wastes. These wastes can
leak into water supplies and/or cause air pollution.
Hazardous household waste may cause a fire or
explosion, or give off dangerous fumes. Sanitation
workers have been seriously burned, lost their
eyesight, or suffered lung damage while compacting
hazardous materials. Equipment has also been
risk producing poisonous fumes, contributing to air
pollution, or causing an explosion.
Controlled burning in special hazardous waste
2. Poured Down the Drain?
incinerators by trained professionals can be a good
When you pour hazardous household products
disposal method; open burning by an untrained
down the sink or flush them down the toilet the
homeowner is not. Some hazardous materials may
hazardous materials enter either a septic system or a
not burn away completely and become concentrated
municipal sewer system.
in the ash; others can pollute the air.
If you have a septic system, wastewater from
your home goes into a tank buried underground.
5. Dumped or Buried?
The solids settle out and partially decompose. The
If you dump or bury some types of hazardous
remaining wastewater then goes into a drain field
household waste, they may leach through the soil
where the natural, ongoing processes in the soil help
and contaminate the soil or water, especially if the
to further break down the wastewater. Toxic
waste is persistent or nonbiodegradable. Children,
materials in that wastewater can kill the helpful
pets, and wildlife may be exposed to such hazardous
bacteria and the system will not operate properly.
waste. Dogs frequently are poisoned by drinking
Some toxic materials move through the soil
antifreeze left on roads or driveways.
untreated or unchanged. When this happens
groundwater or surface waters may become con-
STORAGE OF HAZARDOUS HOUSEHOLD WASTE
Storing a hazardous household waste indefi-
For example, many paint removers and aerosol
nitely is not a good solution. Containers and their
paint products contain the chemical methylene
contents degrade over time. Labels get lost, and the
chloride. This chemical can pass directly through a
chance of children or pets finding the hazardous
septic system without breaking down at all. Chlo-
waste increases when waste is stored for long
rine bleach can also pass through a septic system
periods of time.
without breaking down. Also the chlorine can react
However, storage may be the safest temporary
with organic matter to form new toxic chemicals.
option if there is not a safe and organized system in
If your home is connected to a municipal
your community to handle hazardous household
sewage system, wastewater is piped to a central
sewage plant. After treatment, it is discharged into
area rivers, lakes, and streams.
Most municipal systems rely on bacteria or
other organisms to decompose the waste. Some
SAFE STORAGE RECOMMENDATIONS
hazardous household waste can pass through the
system unchanged and thus pollute the water
1. Store containers on high shelves or in
locked cabinets away from children.
In addition, hazardous household wastes
2. Protect the label so it does not come off
poured down the drain may corrode the plumbing or
and get lost.
collect in the trap and release fumes through the
3. Store hazardous household products in
the original container.
3. Poured in Ditches, Storm Drains, or Gutters?
4. Close containers tightly.
If you pour hazardous household waste in
5. Keep containers dry to prevent corro-
ditches, storm drains, or gutters, it can poison plants
and wildlife, contaminate the soil, and harm chil-
6. Store similar products together to reduce
dren and adults who come in contact with it. When
any danger from reactions if containers
it rains, the hazardous household waste travels
directly to nearby streams, rivers, and lakes.
should leak or contents should spill.
7. Store hazardous household products in a
If you burn hazardous household waste, you
DISPOSAL OF HAZARDOUS HOUSEHOLD WASTE
A number of problems can occur when we
Donate paint, household cleaners, or other
discard hazardous household waste using common
products to a local charity, church, or service
disposal methods. Recommendations for proper
organization. Theater groups, the local housing
disposal will depend on both the particular type of
authority, or a neighbor may be happy to accept
waste and the waste disposal options available in
small quantities of usable paint or cleaning products.
Such items need to be in original containers with
Local ordinances vary. Landfills may or may
not accept certain hazardous household products.
5. Throw it in the trash with special treatment.
They also may vary on how they want the product to
Some hazardous household wastes are accept-
arrive at the landfill. For example, one landfill may
able at landfills if special treatment is followed.
want you to solidify (air-dry) paint and wrap the
Empty hazardous product containers should be
container. Another landfill may want paint handled
rinsed several times before discarding in the trash.
a different way. In addition, wastewater treatment
Use the rinse solution in the same manner you were
plants may not allow certain liquids to be poured
using the chemical solution.
down the drain. If you have any questions, call your
Call the local landfill or solid waste manage-
landfill, local wastewater treatment company, local
ment contractor for special information on disposing
waste management office, or the local county
of hazardous household waste. They can advise you
if they will even accept the waste.
6. Flush a very small amount, no more than a
GENERAL DISPOSAL RECOMMENDATIONS:
cup, down the drain with plenty of water.
1. Follow the label instruction.
Some hazardous household wastes can be
Some labels give disposal recommendations.
flushed down the drain as long as they are followed
Read the label carefully and follow the manufac-
by plenty of water. This recommendation applies if
a hazardous household waste will be neutralized by
2. Use it up.
water or if the municipal or sanitary sewage system
When products are fully used up as intended
is able to remove the toxins or render them harm-
there is no hazardous waste. Buy only as much as
less. This method is not recommended for people
you need. Do not buy a gallon of paint, pesticide, or
who have septic systems. Heavy concentrations of
specialty cleaner when a quart will do. The large
certain chemicals in a septic tank can destroy the
container may cost less per ounce, but leftovers
microorganisms that make the system work prop-
must be stored or disposed of so as not to harm
people or the environment.
Call your local wastewater treatment plant
before you flush hazardous household waste down
Recycling means reclaiming the potential
the drain to be sure that the waste can be neutralized
waste so that the product is usable again. Recycling
by their system. Follow their recommendations and
helps reduce the overall demand for hazardous
consider the following:
household products and the amount of waste pro-
w There should be adequate ventilation in the
You can recycle paint thinner at home. Pour
area where you are flushing the waste.
paint thinner or cleaner into a jar. Let it sit for
w Do not dispose of chemical wastes in the
several days. The solids settle to the bottom. When
food preparation area.
the liquid at the top of the jar is clean, pour it into a
w Never mix chemicals together while pour-
container that can be sealed for future use. If
ing or when they are in the toilet or sink.
pouring stirs up the solid, pour the liquid through a
w Pour slowly and carefully to avoid splash-
funnel lined with an old sheet. Dispose of the dried
ing. Wear gloves and goggles to protect
solids in the trash.
hands and eyes.
Oil and transmission fluids from your car and
w Flush wastes using a large volume of water.
lawn mower can be recycled. Find out if a collec-
w Rinse the empty container with water before
tion program is available in your area. Many gas
placing it in the trash.
stations are now accepting used oil for recycling.
Gas stations and stores that sell auto batteries must
7. Save for a collection day.
A community waste collection day is one way
EMERGENCY FIRST AID
to manage hazardous household waste and keep it
out of the landfill. The collection days are usually
Poison Control Center 1-800-922-1117
sponsored by a local government agency or a private
organization. Residents are notified of the date, the
To report products that have caused you harm:
drop-off location, and the types of materials the
U.S. Consumer Products Safety
program will accept. The collected wastes are
recycled, treated, or disposed of by a professional
Household Products Disposal Council
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,
Use and dispose of hazardous household waste
paint supplies and thinners, solvent-based cleaners
responsibly. Contact your local waste management
and polishes, mothballs, wood preservatives,
office, water treatment plant, landfill, or county
gasoline, pesticides, swimming pool chemicals,
Extension office if you have questions. Make sure
lacquer and lacquer thinner, car batteries, kerosene,
the disposal method you use is a safe one so that
mercury batteries, and smoke detectors.
hazardous waste does not contaminate your environ-
If there is not a collection program in your
area, use the recommended disposal methods
described earlier. Find someone who might use the
Adapted by Joyce H. Christenbury, CHE,
product or recycle your waste.
Extension Family Resource Management Specialist,
And in the meantime, store these products
August 1992, from Wilma Hammett. Disposal of
Hazardous Household Waste, HE-368-3. Raleigh,
North Carolina: North Carolina State University.
It would be difficult to eliminate all the hazard-
ous products from our lives. However, we can
minimize environmental problems from improper
use and disposal of these products by:
s Comparing labels and contents when
buying. If a less toxic product will work
just as well, buy it.
s Buying only what is needed. If there is no
leftover product, there is no waste to store
s Using products according to label
s Using nontoxic alternatives. For example,
clear a drain with a metal snake instead of a
chemical drain cleaner.
s Never mixing products. Dangerous
reactions can occur.
Printed on recycled paper with soy ink
The Clemson University Cooperative Extension Service
offers its programs to people of all ages, regardless of race, color, sex, religion, national origin, or disability and is an equal opportunity employer.
Clemson University Cooperating with U.S. Department of Agriculture, South Carolina Counties, Extension Service, B.K. Webb, Director, Clemson,
S.C. Issued in Furtherance of Cooperative Extension Work in Agriculture and Home Economics, Acts of May 8 and June 30, 1914