Do you have a box of odds and ends in your home consisting of items such as used-up batteries and old electronics that you aren’t sure what to do with? Maybe you had no idea that you aren’t supposed to toss away certain household waste items. Household hazardous waste isn’t often spoken on but is very important in our physical and environmental health.
The EPA defines household hazardous waste (HHW) as “leftover household products that can catch fire, react, or explode under certain circumstances, or that are corrosive or toxic as household hazardous waste.” These items consist of used batteries, old electronics, lamps, lightbulbs, paint, pesticides, pool chemicals, household cleaners, and other home improvement compounds.
You cannot throw away these items into the trash like other everyday rubbage. These harmful products’ toxins can escape into the soil, air, and groundwater.
Ensuring that you dispose of these items correctly is essential for our planet’s overall health. This quarter, our team at LIM Living has taken a deep dive to learn more about handling Universal Waste. Here are some essential takeaways from our research:
Why To Not Throw HHW Into Your Garbage Can
Universal waste materials consist of toxins such as lead, mercury, cadmium, beryllium, polyvinyl chloride, and chromium. If these elements are mixed or tossed away together, there is potential to cause a fire or explosion. When toxins seep into our soil, air, and water, it can harm wildlife and impact our food supply.
If shipped off to an average garbage processing center, sanitation workers risk becoming injured or exposed to poisons. Paints and other chemicals are directly exposed to groundwater when poured down the drain or into storm sewers.
Not to mention, household chemicals corrode your pipes which can be pricy to fix! Be proactive instead of reactive to harmful impacts by not putting toxic waste into your trash or recycling bins.
Read Your Labels
While it may seem tedious to read the fine print on labels and packaging, these tags determine how to properly use, store, and dispose of each of these items. It is critical to know how to store certain chemicals to avoid accidents. Improperly stored compounds can react with other materials and cause fires, explosions, or additional damaging responses.
When in use, be sure to keep materials in their original containers so you know what you are using and can always have access to the label information. Never store materials in food packaging in case it gets mistaken for food.
In addition to storage instructions, these labels inform how you are to dispose of the respective materials. Improper disposal can lead to potential contamination of people, pets, or the environment. Take photos of the labels of electronic boxes if you would like to dispose of their containers to avoid clutter. You can create an album on your phone of these descriptions to quickly refer back to!
Proper Disposal Tips
While you should always read the labels on how to dispose of each of these items, here are some other common tips on adequately disposing of material that can’t go into the landfill.
Donate: Did you only use half of that paint can for your home improvement project? Is it time to upgrade your electronics? Donate leftovers to a neighbor or a center that can use them up to the end of their lives. Research to find companies who can pick up or take your old electronics, such as Paintcare or Best Buy.
HHW Drop-off Centers and Waste Collection: Look to see if there is a year-round HHW Collection site in your area. In addition, many regular waste drop-off centers will have designated days where you can drop off these specified items.
Check your local government’s website to see if they are organizing any collection drop-offs in your area. You can typically find this on the “Sanitation” section of the city’s .gov site. Mark your calendar for when your next collection day is, and store them safely in the meantime.
Reduce Hazardous Waste: One of the best ways to bypass disposing of universal waste is avoiding it altogether! Many chemical household improvement products can be DIY’d with natural substances.
The EPA lists several alternatives you can use instead of household waste. Before purchasing any new cleaning material, try researching to see if you can make it yourself! Natural products are better for your health and home.
Supporting the Disposal of Universal Waste Movement
As previously mentioned, household hazardous waste is not a subject that is widely recognized. Tell your family and friends about the significance of safely disposing of, storing, and using these materials safely.
Creating awareness for your peers can be fun! Our LIM Living office is hosting a challenge for employees to bring in (safe) waste materials such as batteries and electronics in exchange for raffle tickets. At the end of the challenge, LIM Living will collect all of the waste and take it to its proper disposal site. In addition, a lucky employee will go home with a prize!
Another way to get involved with this movement is to volunteer for an HHW program. In these events, volunteers have the opportunity to help direct county residents on waste management, survey what has been dropped off, and more! You can find volunteer opportunities on your local government’s website or with Keep America Beautiful!.
Having healthier landfills starts at home. What small steps are you going to implement today to support the hazardous materials movement? Let us know on Facebook!