What to do with your household hazardous waste?

by Amanda Kuhnert

Every week we place our trash and recyclables on the curb for pickup or deposit them at the town transfer station. But what about our household hazardous waste? According to the EPA, the average home can accumulate up to 100 pounds of hazardous waste. Improper disposal of these materials poses serious health, safety, and environmental risks.

What does this include? Medicines, chemicals, paints, lightbulbs, spray cans, fertilizer and pesticide containers, batteries, automotive products, and shoe polish. When these items end up in a landfill, they eventually seep into the environment, contaminating our air, water, and food.

There are steps you can take to reduce toxic chemicals in your home and limit the negative impact of hazardous waste on the natural world. Here are some ideas:

  1. Limit your purchase of products with hazardous ingredients. For example, opt for a plunger or plumber’s snake instead of drain cleaner. Use natural cleaning products like diluted vinegar and lemon juice for glass, countertops, and furniture. This site has some great recipes for homemade household cleaners: www.naturallivingideas.com/homemade-cleaning-products.
  2. Use eco-friendly fertilizers and biopesticides, derived from animals, plants, bacteria, fungi, and minerals. You can pull weeds by hand, use food-grade diatomaceous earth to get rid of insects, and ward off bugs with garden fabric and row covers.
  3. Choose water-based paints and polishes that contain no or low volatile organic compounds (VOCs). These products are better for your health and the environment, and they’re easier to recycle. Info: earth911.com/recycling-guide/how-to-recycle-paint.
  4. Wash your clothes with a “green” laundry detergent. One of the major threats to marine life is nonylphenol ethoxylates (NPEs), byproducts of a common ingredient found in many laundry detergents. Thankfully, there are a number of NPE-free detergents available.
  5. Dispose of auto products safely. Never pour motor oil, antifreeze, or gasoline down the drain, where it can contaminate fish and water supplies. To learn how to properly dispose of these materials: www.earth911.com/recycling-guide/how-to-recycle-automotive-fluids.
  6. Don’t put batteries in the garbage. Mercury and cadmium in batteries can be dangerous to humans and the environment, and car batteries placed in landfills release lead and sulfuric acid into the earth and water. Join the Vermont Battery Collection Challenge: call2recycle.org/vermont.
  7. Recycle energy-efficient lightbulbs, such as CFLs and other fluorescent bulbs, which can release mercury when they end up in a landfill or incinerator. There are other materials in the bulbs that can be re-used. To find out where to recycle bulbs: earth911.com/recycling-guide/how-to-recycle-cfls.
  8. Bring your toxic products to a household hazardous waste collection and drop-off day in your community. See this page for information about an upcoming event in Woodstock.

Another household product you’re wondering about? The website Earth911 (www.earth911.com) is an extensive recycling database listing about 350 products and how to dispose of them properly. You simply type in the material you’d like to recycle and your zip code to find recycling locations near you. You can also call 1-800-CLEANUP for the same information.

BOX:

HED: Household Hazardous Waste Collection Day
The Greater Upper Valley Solid Waste Management District (GUV) will hold its last household hazardous waste collection of the year on Saturday, Sept. 15 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Woodstock Town Highway Garage, 2576 West Woodstock Road. The event is open to all residents of the GUV District and the Town of Hartford. Businesses of any size are required to call in advance and pre-register. For more info call 674-4474 or email hgillett@swcrpc.org.

DO JUST ONE THING: Read product labels for disposal directions or visit Earth911 to find out how and where to recycle hazardous materials.

Sources: epa.gov, earth911.com

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