Household Hazardous Waste

Once we really start looking around our houses, the amount of hazardous materials we have on site is a real eye-opener.  Oil-based paints and stains, paint thinner, gasoline, charcoal starter fluid, cleaners, waxes, pesticides, fingernail polish remover, and wood preservatives are just a few that most of us have around the house.

When products such as these are dumped on the ground or in a stormwater collection system, they can be washed directly to receiving waters where they can harm fish and wildlife.  They can also infiltrate into the ground and contaminate drinking water supplies.  The same problem can occur if they are disposed of with your regular garbage; the containers can leak at the landfill and contaminate groundwater.  The same type of contamination can occur if hazardous products are poured down a sink or toilet into a septic system.  Don’t pour them down the drain if you’re hooked to a municipal sanitary sewer, either.  Many compounds will “pass through” the wastewater treatment  plant without treatment and contaminate receiving waters, or they can harm the biological process used at the treatment plant, reducing overall treatment efficiency.

With such a diversity of hazardous products present in all homes, a large potential for serious environmental harm exists if improper methods of storage, usage and disposal are employed.  Using the following Best Management Practices will help keep these materials out of our soils, sediments and waters.

Suggested Best Management Practices:

  • USE LESS TOXIC PRODUCTS WHENEVER POSSIBLE.  Refer to the booklet, The Hazardless Home, available from Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, for tips.
  • Dispose of hazardous materials and their containers properly.  Never dump products labeled as poisonous, corrosive, caustic, flammable, inflammable, volatile, explosive danger, warning, caution, or dangerous outdoors, into a storm drain, a sink, toilet or drain, or onto the ground.  Check with your local solid waste disposal service, the Tribal Environmental Recovery Facility (TERF), or Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (ODEQ) for information on disposal methods, collection events, and alternative products. 
  • Check containers containing hazardous materials frequently for signs of leakage.  If a container is rusty and has the potential of leaking soon, place it in a secondary container before the leak occurs and prevent a clean-up problem.
  • Store hazardous material containers under cover and off the ground.  Keep them out of the weather to avoid rusting, freezing, cracking, labels being washed off, etc.
  • Hazardous materials should be stored out of reach of children and pets.  Never transfer to or store these materials in food or beverage containers which could be misinterpreted by a child as something to eat or drink.
  • Keep appropriate spill cleanup materials on hand.  Kitty litter is good for many oil-based spills.
  • Ground cloths and drip pans should be used under any work outdoors which involves hazardous materials such as oil-based paints, stains, rust removers, masonry cleaners, and others bearing label warnings as outlined above.
  • Latex paints are not a hazardous waste, but are not accepted in liquid form at the landfill.  All paint can be taken to the Sherwin-Williams Paint store for disposal.  Alternately, leave uncovered in a protected place until dry, then place in the garbage.  If you wish to dry waste paint quickly, just pour kitty litter in the can to absorb the paint.  Once paint is dry, leave the lid off  when you place it in the garbage so your garbage collector can see that it is no longer liquid.
  • Oil-based paint is a hazardous waste.  All paint can be taken to the Sherwin-Williams Paint store for disposal.
  • If an activity involving the use of hazardous material can be moved indoors out of the weather, then do so.  Make sure you can provide proper ventilation, however.
  • Follow manufacturers’ directions in the use of all materials.  Over-application of yard chemicals, for instance, can result in the washing of these compounds into receiving waterbodies.  Never apply pesticides when rain is expected.
  • When hazardous materials are in use, place the container inside a tub or bucket to minimize spills.