bioBelieve it or not, the average household has anywhere from 3 to 5 gallons of hazardous waste. When the product is initially purchased, it is not thought of as waste. However, after the product has served its’ purpose it cannot simply be thrown away. It is actually illegal to throw away many types of hazardous waste.

There are different types of household hazardous waste. These are corrosive such as batteries, toxic such as pesticides, paint, or cleaners, ignitable such as gas cans, chemically reactive such as a sulfuric acid, and technological such as computers and digital cameras.

Common practices are to throw these materials away, dump them out, or bury them. This has risks for both human health and the environment. When these hazardous household wastes are taken to a typical garbage landfill, there are no procedures in place to properly handle the waste. It can poison the surrounding area and injure workers at the landfill. If these materials are dumped they can pollute the water system and damage household pipes. Some chemicals are unable to be removed through water treatment. Burying or burning waste is a dangerous activity due to the risk of explosions and concentrated air pollution.

This makes it clear that it is essential to safely dispose of hazardous household waste. While the dangerous material is being used, it should be kept in a double secured container that will prevent leaks from occurring out of the reach of children and pets. If necessary, additional labels can be made to clearly identify the waste. There should be flowing air in the area where the waste is stored so that potentially dangerous gasses are not concentrated. These products need to be kept out of direct sunlight and extreme changes in temperature. So if your garage gets very cold during the winter and hot during the summer it is probably not the best place to store reactive or ignitable waste.

After the material has been stored properly and there is some leftover from the intended use, it is important to properly dispose of this waste. Oftentimes, if a material requires special disposal, the label will indicate. In this case, follow the label. Household hazardous waste can be taken to a hazardous waste plant. Many areas will have dedicated days for disposal of typical household waste. Some of this waste is able to be reused by others who visit the waste center. If you have useful household waste leftover such as paint or oil, a local charity or church will likely be glad to receive the donation. Likewise, with technological waste, many stores will take back computers, harvest their useful parts and safely dispose of the rest.

Every household has some waste that is hazardous. As tempting as it can be to just quickly dispose of this waste, this is a dangerous practice for our health, the local ecosystem, and the larger environment. Follow the above strategies for being a responsible citizen and practicing safe disposal methods.

Tigran is the owner of Glycon Biomedical Waste, a Los Angeles-based medical waste disposal company. On his free time he enjoys blogging about household safety to help people properly dispose hazardous waste.