This is the season to beware of little ghosts and goblins and be aware of them when they travel through neighborhoods on Halloween. But there are chemicals in and around our homes that we need to beware and be aware of all year round! These chemicals are known as household hazardous waste.
Motor oil is a good example. Used motor oil is just dirty and needs to be cleaned in a process called “rerefining.” So throwing it away is wasteful. But motor oil can also be dangerous if it is spilled or poured onto the ground, where it can end up polluting water and hurting fish, animals, and people.
Items like used motor oil and other chemicals that are no longer needed are called “household hazardous waste,” (or HHW). HHW includes many items commonly found in and around the home, such as oil-based paint, paint thinner, motor oil, antifreeze, old gasoline or kerosene, weed and bug killers, plant foods, tub and tile cleaners, toilet bowl cleaners, hobby glues, nail polish and remover, fluorescent light tubes and bulbs (like twisty CFLs), and mercury-containing items.
These items should never be dumped on the ground, poured down the drain, or put into the trash. HHW contains toxic chemicals that can harm those handling the waste and pollute soil and water. HHW needs to be handled at special facilities where the chemicals can be recycled or disposed of safely. Some communities have permanent locations for HHW collection, some hold special collection events, and some local businesses may collect some types of HHW, such as an automotive supply store accepting used motor oil.
To find a safe location for disposal of HHW, check with local solid waste authorities in your community for the best disposal options. For ways to reduce HHW by using natural cleaners, read Four Simple Steps to a Safer Home. For recycling options for compact flourescent bulbs, read Make a Fish Happy – Recycle Your CFLs!
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