Wastes are solid, liquid or compressed gaseous materials that are longer needed. Industries are regulated in how they can dispose of unwanted chemicals, but they aren't the only producer of these wastes. At home we dispose of chemical products daily. Most local agencies have programs in place to guide the disposal of hazardous chemicals, but the regulations often vary. Some landfills may not accept certain household chemicals, and waste water treatment facilities may not allow some chemicals to be poured down the drain. There are steps you can follow to determine the best way to dispose of hazardous chemical waste.
- Skill level:
Call your local waste management or municipal office to find out what chemicals can be poured down the drain and the proper procedure for doing so. Ask which chemicals are safe to throw away and which should be saved for local hazardous waste disposal collection.
Follow the manufacturer's disposal instructions on the chemical's label, if provided.
Call your local landfill or waste management agency before throwing any chemical product in the garbage, to make sure that they will take the empty containers and to find out what treatment (such as flushing or rinsing) is required before doing so. Some hazardous wastes can be put in the garbage, as long as you follow certain treatment procedures.
Call your local waste water treatment facility before flushing any chemical waste down the drain. Waste that can be neutralised by water (check the label) or have their toxins removed by your municipal sewage system should be poured down the drain in cup-sized amounts with lots of water. Wear gloves and safety goggles when flushing. If you have a septic tank, flushing chemical waste is not recommended.
Save chemical waste for hazardous waste collection days. Most communities have such a collection day at least once a year, and residents are usually notified of their dates, locations, times and acceptable materials.
Tips and warnings
- Recycle what you can't use. Paint thinner, for example, can be recycled by allowing the used product to sit for a couple of days so that solids will settle to the bottom. The liquid at the top, which is clean, can be poured off and used again.
- Donate chemical waste such as paint or household cleaners to a charity or service organisation. Make sure these products are labelled and in their original containers before donating.
- Use the product up instead of disposing of it, which leaves little or no waste to dispose of. Buy only what you need to ensure you'll use it all up.
- Compare labels and product contents when buying cleaners, paints and similar chemicals. If there is a less toxic option, choose that.
- Use non-chemical alternatives when you can. A metal snake, for example, can clear drain clogs as effectively as chemical drain cleaner.
- Because dangerous reactions can occur, never mix chemicals when using, storing or disposing of them.
- To reduce environmental contamination, use the safest disposal method available if you must get rid of chemical waste.
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