Volume III, Number 10
eMDE is a bi-monthly publication of the Maryland Department of the Environment. It covers articles on current environmental issues and events in the state.
Spring, who doesn’t love it? The longer days, warmer temperatures, and the traditional spring house cleaning. Among the items that might be thrown out during spring cleaning are potentially dangerous household hazardous wastes (HHW), such as paint, gasoline, oil, burned-out fluorescent lights, and nearly empty cans of wasp and hornet spray that can harm the environment and public health.
Before discarding a household product, read the label and to evaluate if there’s a potential concern if disposed. The Maryland Department of the Environment’s (MDE) “Household Hazardous Waste Products” fact sheet lists types of potentially dangerous products and defines levels of danger such as “toxic,” “flammable,” “poison,” “corrosive,” or “danger.” Examples of HHW include cleaning and disinfectant products (oven cleaners, bleach, drain cleaners, pool chemicals), automotive products (brake cleaners, fuel additives, starter fluids), lawn and garden products (herbicides, pesticides), pest control products (ant and bug spray, rodent baits and poisons), home improvement and hobby supplies (glues, paints, thinners, solvents, paint removers), flammable materials (propane cylinders, lighter fluid, waste gasoline, kerosene), and miscellaneous manufactured products (fluorescent lamps, rechargeable batteries, mercury thermometers, electronic devices).
Once you have identified a HHW, what should you do? First, determine if the product can still be used either by you or an organization. If the HHW can no longer be used, MDE recommends properly recycling or disposing of HHW materials at local HHW collection programs. Details on local HHW programs are available on MDE’s HHW web page. If your county is unable to accept the HHW, recycling opportunities may exist. Maryland’s Recycling Market Directory features a list of recycling businesses that accept materials for recycling in Maryland.
If you have no other option than disposing HHW with your trash, take precautions to minimize the potential impact. Don’t dispose of a large collection of household waste at once – spreading out the disposal will reduce the potential for mixing of incompatible wastes and the hazards that a large quantity of toxins would otherwise present. If the container is damaged or leaking, package it in a larger, intact container (such as a coffee can) along with a non-flammable absorbent, such as clay-based kitty litter, taking precautions to avoid exposure to the waste (using protective gloves, eye protection, splash protection, and respiratory protection, as appropriate, and working outdoors or in a well ventilated location).
Finally, the best thing you can do is avoid using potentially toxic products in the first place. Before purchasing a material that is problematic to dispose of, consider whether you really need it or whether there are safer alternatives available.
For more information including collection locations in your county and other tips, visit MDE’s Household Hazardous Waste website.
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