Hazardous Household Waste
What is Household Hazardous Waste (HHW)?
Household Hazardous Waste (HHW) is waste produced in our households that are hazardous in nature, but are not regulated as hazardous waste under federal and state laws. Each person in Pennsylvania produces an average of four pounds of HHW each year, for a total of about 25,000 tons/yr. statewide. If carelessly managed, these consumer waste products can create environmental and public health hazards.
Household Hazardous Waste is that portion of a household product that is no longer usable, is left-over or unwanted, and has to be disposed of. The labels on hazardous products typically use words like CAUTION, WARNING, POISON, or FLAMMABLE.
Types of HHW
Cleaning Products: aerosols, bathroom cleaners, drain cleaners, chlorine bleach, solvents, spot removers, toilet cleaners, oven cleaners, rug and floor cleaners, furniture polish
Auto/Garage: car wax, starter fluid, solvent-based cleaners, antifreeze, repair products, brake fluid, motor oil, gasoline
Home Improvement and Household Supplies: oil based stains and paints, caulking, varnish, paint thinners, chemical strippers, flea collars and sprays, insect repellents, insecticides, kerosene, lighter fluid, lye, mothballs, pool chemicals, fluorescent light tubes.
**Latex paint is not hazardous waste: Click here for how to dispose of latex paint.
Lawn and Garden Care: weed and pest killers, herbicides, fungicides, and other lawn chemicals
Hobby Products: glues, paints, stains, finishes, contact cement, photographic chemicals
Personal Care Products: nail polish and remover, lotions and crèmes, hair color, and mercury thermometers
**Pharmaceuticals and Sharps: Over-the-counter and prescription drugs; needles, syringes, sharps
**These items cannot be accepted at a hazardous waste collection. Call Westmoreland Cleanways for proper disposal options**
Some materials may no longer be in their original container, may or may not have a legible label, and/or be very old. The material may no longer be manufactured, may be illegal to possess or use, or be intended primarily for use by business and industry. These unusual materials warrant extra care in handling and disposal.
If you are unsure of what a material is, if the container is stable, leave it in the container it is in until it is to be transported to a HHW collection. If the package is unstable (corroded metal can, torn bag), decide the best way to encapsulate the material (glass container or heavy mil plastic). Wear chemical-proof gloves, long pants and long sleeves, and breathing mask. Ventilate the area, being sure to be upwind of a breeze or draft; but DON”T use a fan around powders. Encapsulate the material and store it where it can be undisturbed until it can be transported to a HHW collection. Wash well, and remove and wash clothing after handling any HHW product.
The best method of managing Household Hazardous Waste (HHW) is to prevent its generation in the first place. This involves selecting the least toxic item "to do the job" and buying only the minimum amounts necessary. View a list of safer alternative household products here.
Buying in large quantities is not a bargain if half goes unused and must be discarded. If the material is still usable (e.g. undamaged, still within designated shelf life), check with friends and neighbors to see if they can use it. You can also check with your local solid waste or recycling office for suggestions.
Proper Disposal of CFLs
Cleanup of broken CFLs is very different than old practices with incandescents. CFLs contain a small amount of mercury sealed in the glass tubing. When broken, some of the mercury is released as mercury vapor. The EPA stresses that the bulb will continue to leak mercury vapor until it is cleaned up and removed from the home. To minimize exposure, the EPA recommends homeowners clear the room of people and pets, and then open a window or door to the outdoors for 10 minutes. Central heating and cooling systems should be turned off as well.
For detailed information on proper CFL disposal, check out the full EPA update.