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The Do’s In Household Hazardous Waste Management

When you look under your kitchen sink, in your cupboard, or out in your garage, there are products that will end up as hazardous waste once you get rid of them. Some of them are hazardous in nature such as pesticide, cleaner, thinner, and paint. Others, however, take on a relatively safe form such as battery and fluorescent light. Household hazardous waste (HHW) is that which is corrosive, toxic, reactive, and flammable that if not disposed of properly can create havoc in human health and the environment in general.

Pour it down the drain, and you risk contaminating the groundwater. If you let it sit in the common trash can, you allow its ingredient particles to float in the air. You also put to risk the safety and health of sanitation workers who will deal with your HHW as soon as you dispose of it. Because of these risks, effective household hazardous waste management has been established.

Household hazardous waste management is nothing more than a set of practices in the proper handling of HHW. Done regularly, and you protect human health and promote the cleanliness and wellness of the environment. Here’s what you can do:

1. Use up the products. When you use them up, you don’t have anything to throw away. And that means you decrease the amount of HHW to dispose of in your own little way. Around the world, tons of HHW are produced each year. In the United States alone, an average household generates around 100 pounds of HHW, eventually contributing to the 1.6 million tons the country produces every year.

2. Share the leftover products with someone you think might need them. Or find charities or groups that accept donations. You can also swap the excess products or sell them if you want.

3. Never mix HHW with another HHW. Some of these products may react, explode, or ignite if mixed. Store them in their original containers, with the labels still attached, and place in areas where children can’t reach them.

4. Find out if your community has HHW collection programs. Every year, many communities run a collection program where HHW are picked up from households. Collection days are set early on, and some cities provide kits where bags, labels, and instructions are included.

5. Hand your HHW to local business collection groups if your community doesn’t host a collection program. For instance, you can give your discarded batteries to battery collection agencies for recycling. Some battery retailers, in fact, participate in battery recycling programs and accept used batteries. The same is true with fluorescent light retailers.

6. Check your medicine cabinet and see if there are old, used, and expired medications. Although some medications are not necessarily hazardous, careful disposal is necessary since they may have health-threatening ingredients and properties. For pills, you can crush and mix them with coffee grounds or kitty litter and thrown them in the trash can. Liquid medications, on the other hand, should be absorbed by rags or paper towels before throwing in the trash can. Sharps and needles should be disposed of as regular HHW. Some cities accept expired medications during their HHW collection, so this service should be taken advantage of.

Household hazardous waste management is largely directed toward disposing of HHW, but the part of it that deals with waste reduction should not be ignored. To reduce the amount of HHW produced every year, it would help to use products with organic or non-toxic materials. Look for these products the next time you head to the supermarket.


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