When you care for yourself, your home, and your yard you use a variety of chemicals. Many common household products contain hazardous ingredients which can become toxic waste if are used, stored, or disposed of improperly.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) identifies four major types of hazardous waste:
1. Corrosive Wastes: Cause a chemical action that eats away materials and living tissue.
2. Toxic Wastes: Cause illness or death. Some are more dangerous than others; a small concentration may cause symptoms of poisoning.
3. Ignitable Wastes: Catch fire spontaneously or burn easily.
4. Reactive Wastes: React with air, water, or other substances to cause rapid heating or explosions.
Most people dispose of hazardous products by throwing them in the garbage, pouring them down the drain, burning them, dumping them in a vacant area, or burying them in a field. These practices cause waste from hazardous products to contaminate lakes, rivers, streams, and groundwater. Why is this harmful? Because 55% of Canadians use these sources as drinking water. It doesn’t take much hazardous material to cause serious problems either. For example, it only takes one gallon of oil to ruin one million gallons of water.
What You Shouldn’t Do:
1. Don’t Throw it in the Garbage. Most landfills are not equipped to deal with hazardous household wastes. Hazardous waste may cause a fire, an explosion, or give off dangerous fumes. Many sanitation workers have been seriously burned or lost their eyesight while compacting hazardous materials.
2. Don’t Pour it Down the Drain. When you flush hazardous products down the sink or pour them into the toilet, they enter into either a septic system or municipal sewer system. Toxic materials which have entered into a septic system can kill helpful bacteria causing the system to not operate properly. In addition ground water or surface waters may become contaminated. If you are hooked up to a municipal sewage system, wastewater is piped to a central sewage plant. After treatment it is discharged into rivers, lakes, and streams. Toxins pass through the system unchanged and thus pollute the water downstream. In addition, hazardous wastes poured down the drain may corrode plumbing or collect in the trap releasing deadly fumes.
3. Don’t Pour it in Storm Drains or Gutters. Hazardous waste can poison plants and wildlife, and also contaminate soil. It can also be deadly to children and adults who come into contact with it when it rains.
4. Don’t Burn It. If you burn hazardous waste, you risk producing poisonous fumes which contribute to air pollution or could cause an explosion. Controlled burning in special hazardous waste incinerators by trained professionals can be a good alternative.
5. Don’t Dump or Bury It. If you dump or bury hazardous materials they may leach through the soil and contaminate the soil or water. Children, pets, and wildlife may be poisoned as a result.
Can you Store Hazardous Wastes? Storing household waste indefinitely is not a good solution since containers and their contents degrade over time. Labels wear off or get lost, and you don’t want to risk the chance of children or pets getting into hazardous waste. In order to safely store waste for a reasonable period of time, we recommend:
1. Safe containers on high shelves or in locked cabinets.
2. Protect the label.
3. Store chemicals in the original container.
4. Close lids tightly.
5. Keep containers dry to prevent corrosion.
6. Store similar products together to reduce the danger of a chemical reaction if containers leak or spill.
7. Store in a well-ventilated area.
What you can do:
1. Read the Product Label. Some manufacturers will include instructions for safe disposal on the product label.
2. Use It Up. If there is no waste, you don’t have to store it or throw it away. Don’t buy a gallon if you only need a quart, etc.
3. Donate what you Don’t Use. Often times a local church or charity organization would be more than happy to receive leftover household cleaning products.
4. Compare Labels When You Purchase. If a less toxic product will work just as well, purchase that instead.
5. Call Your Local Waste Management Company. They will be able to provide information on disposal of household waste and advise you on the disposal method they prefer.