Americans use hazardous materials on a daily basis, often in their homes and with little thought about the dangers to the environment, pets, themselves or others. The U. S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which federally enforces regulations for the protection of health and the environment, puts a great deal of thought into the subject of household hazardous waste, and maintains a dedicated web site found here: href="http://www.epa.gov/waste/inforesources/pubs/hw_waste.htm In addition, some states pass and enforce regulations that are more rigorous than the federal standards. In California, for example, Household Hazardous Waste is regulated by the Department of Toxic Substances Control, Hazardous Waste Division, headquartered in Sacramento, CA and also found here: http://www.dtsc.ca.gov/HazardousWaste/UniversalWaste/HHW.cfm
According to the EPA, “Household Hazardous Waste” is “leftover household products that contain corrosive, toxic, ignitable, or reactive ingredients.” Those products are typically used in and around the house for such activities as cooking, cleaning, gardening, carpentry and auto maintenance/repair. The list of household hazardous waste is daunting, including but not limited to: household cleaners; oven cleaners; drain cleaners; pool cleaners; solvents; paints; antifreeze; batteries; glue and adhesives; pesticides; wastes containing asbestos; wastes containing mercury, such as thermometers and the relatively new Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs (CFLs); and electronic wastes, such as televisions, cell phones and computer monitors.
How, then, are you supposed to handle these potentially harmful substances that are necessarily in and all around your home? The EPA has developed a plan of “Reduction, Reuse, Recycling, and Disposal.
First, reduce the amount of hazardous waste brought to your home. When shopping, read the labels on products to determine whether they exhibit one of the four qualities of hazardous waste: Ignitability – can it create fires under certain conditions, spontaneously combust or have a flash point less than 140°F (60°C); Corrosivity – acids or bases producing acidic or alkaline solutions; Reactivity – unstable under normal conditions, causing explosions or releasing toxic fumes, gases or vapors when heated, compressed or mixed with water; Toxicity – harmful or fatal if ingested or absorbed. If you have a choice between products having one or more of these characteristics vs. a product having fewer or none of those characteristics, buy the alternate product.
Second, reduce the risk from hazardous waste in your home: use and store those products in a safe place in their original containers with their original labels; and never mix leftover hazardous products with other products that could cause the mixture to react, ignite, explode or contaminate.
Third, reuse hazardous household products whenever possible in order to reduce the leftover amount that must be recycled/removed.
Fourth, recycle/dispose: hazardous product labels give instructions for use and disposal, so follow those instructions; when in doubt, contact your local Household Hazardous Waste Facility, which is required to provide instructions on proper use/disposal, drop-off programs and/or special collection days for hazardous waste that is not typically picked up (for example, televisions, cell phones and computer monitors); failing those options, check for local permanent collection sites and/or local businesses accepting some types of hazardous waste and arrange delivery of the hazardous waste to those sites/businesses. Responsibly reducing, reusing, recycling and disposing of household hazardous waste can significantly reduce risks to you, your family, your garbage man, your home, the air, the soil, your ground water, the sewer system, your pets, and every other important aspect of human health and the environment (especially your garbage man).
DO’S AND DON’TS
DON’T be intimidated by the process or the people.
DO reduce the amount of hazardous waste brought into your home by responsible purchase.
DO reduce the risk from hazardous waste in your home by proper use and storage.
DO reuse hazardous household products to reduce the amount of leftover waste that must be recycled/removed.
DO recycle/dispose of waste according to the product labels.
DO consult your local Household Hazardous Waste Facility for instructions on proper use/disposal, drop-off programs and/or special collection days for hazardous waste that is not typically picked up.
DO check for local permanent collection sites and/or local businesses accepting some types of hazardous waste and arrange delivery of that hazardous waste to those sites/businesses.
By Kathy Catanzarite
[Note from HandelontheLaw.com: This article is to be used as an educational guide only and should not be interpreted as a legal consultation. Readers of this article are advised to seek an attorney if a legal consultation is needed. Laws may vary by state and are subject to change, thus the accuracy of this information cannot be guaranteed. Readers act on this information solely at their own risk. Neither HandelontheLaw.com, or any of its affiliates, shall have any liability stemming from this article.]
Note from HandelontheLaw.com: This article is to be used as an educational guide only and should not be interpreted as a legal consultation. Readers of this article are advised to seek an attorney if a legal consultation is needed. Laws may vary by state and are subject to change, thus the accuracy of this information can not be guaranteed. Readers act on this information solely at their own risk. Neither the author, handelonthelaw.com, or any of its affiliates shall have any liability stemming from this article.
AGRICULTURE/ENVIRONMENTAL DOS AND DON'TS