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American Homeowners Association



Waste Not, Want Not

Keep your home and the environment free of hazardous waste by disposing of current household hazardous waste and reducing future hazardous waste by making smarter purchases.

As winter sets in and you find yourself housebound, consider doing something healthy for the environment-go on a search and destroy mission for hazardous waste. You don't need special equipment or a special suit; in fact you don't even need to leave your house. You are searching for household hazardous waste, and unfortunately, it is all too common in the average home. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) classifies household hazardous waste as "any leftover household products that contain corrosive, toxic, ignitable or reactive ingredients."

Identifying household hazardous waste is generally the easy part. The challenge comes in getting rid of it. You probably took some special measures to use these products, and now you'll need to take some more measures to get rid of them. Putting them out with your regular garbage is not a good option. Many areas are placing restrictions on what items trash collectors are allowed to pick up from the curb, and are instead coordinating hazardous waste drop off days where residents can bring unsafe items for disposal.

Hazardous waste drop off days generally provide for the disposal of the items below:

    -automotive products (used oil, antifreeze and air-conditioning refrigerants),

    -home cleaning products (oven, drain or toilet cleansers, laundry bleach, pool chemicals)

    -indoor pesticides (insect sprays, mothballs and rat poison)

    -home improvement items (oil-based and latex paint, varnish)

    -lawn and garden chemicals

    -household batteries

    -mercury thermometers

    -lighter fluid

    -fluorescent light bulbs

Call your local department of public works to find out what disposal programs are offered in your area.

Once you clean out the old, before you buy more consider purchasing "smarter" in the future. When buying products that can become household hazardous waste, buy the correct amount of the product necessary to do thejob. When planning to paint a room, estimate how much paint you will need so you are not left with a lot of excess. You can determine the surface area to be painted by multiplying the wall's height by its width. Once you know the surface area, talk to a representative at the home supply store about the correct amount of paint to get the coverage you desire.

If you have paint or cleaning products left over from a job, don't put them in your basement and forget about them. Donate it to an organization that will put the products to good use. Habitat for Humanity, a local theater company, or a religious organization could certainly benefit from your leftovers.

For more tips on avoiding household hazardous waste, log onto the EPA's website at

Sources: J.J. McCoy, The Washington Post; the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency,