Household Hazardous Waste (HHW)

Household Hazard Waste

The average Kansas household generates 15 pounds of HHW annually. Does yours? Would you know it if it did?  Household hazardous waste (HHW) is more than you think it is.
What's been hiding in your garage or basement or under your kitchen sink can do serious damage to the environment. It can get into the water system. It can hurt plants, animals - and you.  Find out what it does, how to identify hhw, how to get rid of it, and better alternatives to using HHW.  

Leftover household products that contain corrosive, toxic, ignitable or reactive ingredients are considered hazardous. And you've got more of them than you might expect.  Remember the leftover flea repellent you tossed out? Toxic. How about the mostly-empty jug of carpet cleaner or the aerosol hairspray container? Flammable. Think about the oven cleaner you found in the back of the cupboard. You didn't like how it smelled. There's a reason for that - it's corrosive. So is fingernail polish remover.

Toxic compounds enter the environment in many ways. Some are poured into sewers, some are burned in the backyard and others may be hauled off to the landfill. Regardless of how they get there, once in the environment, chemicals undergo a series of reactions that form new products, some of which may be toxic or take on a new phase of solid, liquid or gas.

And those solids, liquids or gasses move around. Take acid rain, for example. A toxic substance makes its way into the air, which inevitably turns to rain. When that rain falls on plants and livestock, they are affected. When we then eat or interact with those plants and livestock, we're affected, too.

 What It Does
Think pool chemicals, used motor oil and fingernail polish remover are harmless? Think again.

They're all household hazardous wastes (HHW), and the name indicates the danger they pose. But as dangerous as these materials are, it's the improper disposal of them that causes the most harm.

It's never okay to pour HHWs down the drain, on the ground or into storm sewers, flush them down the toilet or put them out with the trash. Why? We're glad you asked.

Think of where that motor oil goes when you dump it in the storm sewer. Storm water is washed directly into lakes, rivers and oceans - untreated. Annually, more oil is dumped into water systems than was spilled by the Exxon Valdez.

And what about tossing an aerosol can of spray paint out in the trash? Not only is the paint flammable, so is the aerosol can it comes in. If you were a sanitation worker, wouldn't you hope there weren't any similar cans cooking in the hot July sun in the back of your truck?

See where we're going with this? It's about nature. It's about health. It's about safety. For all of Kansas.


 How to Get Rid of It

Find the nearest Household Hazardous Waste facility near you

more . . .


 How to Identify HHW
What is HHW, anyway? It's just what it sounds like - hazardous materials, unregulated under federal and state laws because of the limited quantities produced by households.

But hazardous is hazardous, regardless of quantity. Most HHW is hazardous because it is flammable, toxic or corrosive. If carelessly managed, HHW can create environmental and public health problems.

However, these problems can be easily prevented. Generally, HHW materials belong to one of the following categories:

  • Can easily catch fire.Fire
  • Words to look for:
    • Flammable
    • Combustible
    • Contains petroleum distillates
  • Common labels:
  • Common examples:
    • Gasoline
    • Kerosene
    • Fuel oil
    • Butane
    • Oil-based paint
    • Paint thinner
    • Degreasing solvent
    • Cleaning solvent
    • Aerosol containers
    • Roofing tar

  • Poisonous
  • Harmful or fatal if swallowed, inhaled or absorbed through skin
  • Words to look for:
    • Poison
    • Harmful if swallowed
  • Common labels:
  • Common examples:
    • Antifreeze
    • Pesticides
    • Motor oil
    • Wood preservatives
    • Paint strippers
    • Mercury-containing latex paint
    • Spot remover
    • Cyanide compounds (found in rat fumigants)
    • Ant traps
    • Old fire extinguishers

  • Acidic or alkaline Corrosive
  • Can burn or corrode other materials and skin
  • Words to look for:
    • Contains acid
    • Contains lye
    • Causes burns to skin
  • Common label:
  • Common examples:
    • Drain cleaners
    • Rust removers
    • Oven cleaners
    • Toilet bowl cleaners
    • Battery acid
    • Pool acids
    • Concrete cleaners
  • May cause firesOxidizers
  • Common label:
  • Common examples:
    • Pool chemicals
    • Peroxide

Not sure what the risk is? Check the product label. Look for signal words which indicate the product's degree of hazard.

  • Caution indicates a mild hazard
  • Warning indicates a moderate hazard
  • Danger indicates an extreme hazard
 Better Alternatives
When you think about it, the number of chemical products in your home will surprise you. And the fact is, many of them are unnecessary. Here are just a few ideas to get you started on a more nature-friendly household regimen.

Household Cleaner Alternative
Drain cleaner Use a plunger or plumber's snake.
Oven cleaner Clean spills as soon as the oven cools using steel wool and baking soda. For tough stains, add salt (do not use this method in self-cleaning or continuous-cleaning ovens).
Glass cleaner Mix 1 tablespoon vinegar or lemon juice in 1 quart of water. Spray on and use newspaper to dry.
Toilet bowl cleaner Use a toilet brush and baking soda or vinegar (these will clean but not disinfect).
Furniture polish Mix 1 teaspoon lemon juice in 1 pint of mineral or vegetable oil. Wipe on furniture.
Rug deodorizer Sprinkle liberally with baking soda. Wait at least 15 minutes and vacuum. Repeat as necessary.
Silver polish Boil 2 to 3 inches of water in a shallow pan with 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon baking soda and a sheet of aluminum foil. Totally submerge silver and boil for 2 or 3 more minutes. Wipe away tarnish. Repeat as necessary. (Do not use this method on antique silver knives. The blade will separate from the handle.) Another alternative is to use nonabrasive toothpaste.
Plant spray Wipe leaves with mild soap and water; rinse.
Mothballs Use cedar chips, lavender flowers, rosemary, mint or white peppercorns.
Flea and tick products Put brewer's yeast or garlic in your pet's food; sprinkle fennel, rue, rosemary or eucalyptus seeds or leaves around animal sleeping areas.











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