Household Hazardous Waste

Household Hazardous Waste

Since one of my resolutions was to Be More Green in 2015, I had to understand the difference between trash, recyclables, and household hazardous waste. In addition to my ReThink Waste Tour, I also visited my local Household Hazardous Waste Program (HHWP) to learn exactly what is household hazardous waste.

Household Hazardous Waste Items

According to Elizabeth Rouan of the San Mateo County Household Hazardous Waste Program,“household hazardous waste is anything that is not being used for its original purpose.” For example, unwanted laundry detergent can’t go with the trash or poured down the drain; both are illegal.

Here’s a non-comprehensive list of common household hazardous waste:

  • Anything with toxic, corrosive, flammable or reactive chemical properties
  • Paint (including latex), paint thinner, varnish, stain
  • Garden, swimming pool, or hobby chemicals
  • Antifreeze, motor oil, oil filters, batteries (automotive/household), fluorescent bulbs/tubes
  • Household cleaning products, aerosol spray cans

It’s not always easy or convenient to properly dispose of such items, but it’s important to do the right thing. When making a decision to bring these items home, we must accept the responsibility to properly dispose of them. Here are a few options:

  • Be conscious of what you bring home. Buy only what you need and learn how to properly dispose of any leftovers.
  • The most ‘green’ thing you can do is use up a product. Buy multi-purpose cleaners instead of different cleaners for each project. Better yet, make your own cleaner from natural ingredients (vinegar, lemon, and water).
  • Free-cycle or donate items you no longer want/use to local shelters.
  • Every 6-12 months take unused household waste items to your local drop-off center or collection event.

Some HHWP accept medical waste (sharps), however pharmaceuticals must be brought to the Sheriff’s office (which will not accept sharps). Also check with your local HHWP for restrictions on amounts or materials that can be dropped off per visit. Click here to learn more about San Mateo County.

Pharmaceutical Disposal

Medical Waste Disposal Redwood City County Sheriff's Office

Please don’t hesitate to contact Let Me Organize It with any questions about household hazardous waste.

Lauren Mang
  • Derek Dewitt
    Posted at 13:59h, 30 August Reply

    My wife and I just got done repainting some bedrooms in our house and are looking for how to dispose of the leftover paint cans. I had no idea that antifreeze and motor oil also had to be disposed of properly. I’m going to gather all these things up and look for a place to drop them off. Thanks for sharing!

    • Lauren Mang
      Posted at 14:56h, 30 August Reply

      Derek – thanks for your comment. Depending on your municipalities rules, you MAY be able to drop paint and certain motor oil/antifreeze to your local recycling center. Each city has different rules about what they will and will not accept. My local place (in San Carlos) will take paint and some motor oil types. Otherwise, I have to take items to the Household Hazardous Waste facility (after making an appointment) just down the road. Also, many paint stores will take back paint but I would call to find out which ones do and if they have room. Often they have a limit of 5 gallons per person per day. Another fabulous resource is to offer the paint on to your neighbors. The greenest thing to do is use the paint up, and someone else just might do that. Happy recycling! 😀

  • Method
    Posted at 06:01h, 28 May Reply

    I agree with what you said. I think that it is very important to buy only the things that you need. You can also save money from doing it. Thanks for sharing this.

    • Lauren Mang
      Posted at 14:58h, 28 May Reply

      Thanks! I know Method is a B-Corp and is doing what they can to put out responsible products. I’m sure you also try to educate your consumer where possible. I use meethod products when I don’t create my own. Education is key here – and so I’m doing what I can to help people understand what Household Hazardous Waste includes. I was shocked when I found out myself.

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