Don't Toss These Hazardous Items in the Trash

Written by Anita Alvarez
Updated October 27, 2014
hazardous materials sign
Many common household items, including ink cartridges and oil-based paint, are hazardous materials that must be disposed of properly. (Photo courtesy of member Brian R. of Bushkill, Penn.)

Before you toss it, check the label. Hazardous items — like batteries and ink cartridges — should be disposed safely, which doesn't mean at the curb!

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Commercial businesses and factories deal with hazardous materials on a daily basis and must follow strict regulations for their safe disposal.

But homeowners may also — sometimes unwittingly — may use hazardous products in their garage, yard or home.

Before you toss a potentially hazardous product in the trash can, take these steps to safely dispose of them and keep them from leaking into your local landfill.

What is considered a "hazardous" material?

Many products that you use in your home or while working in the garage are considered hazardous. However, many consumers are unaware of the dangers of improper disposal. In general, you can assume that products need special disposal if they are labeled:

• Poison

• Toxic

• Danger

Hazardous products include drain cleaners, pesticides and herbicides, oil-based paints, metal polish, oven cleaners, solvents, antifreeze, used motor oil and transmission fluids.

Broken electronics, compact-florescent light bulbs and sharps, such as used medical needles, may also require special recycling or disposal.

What will my municipality accept?

Some cities and towns have facilities to properly dispose of hazardous materials. Check your local government's website, or call your trash removal company to ask what items are accepted.

Municipalities also should keep a list of products that are considered hazardous, if you're unsure about some of the products you use at home.

RELATED: How to dispose of old paint

How to dispose of hazardous products

Here are some hazardous products and guidelines for safely disposing of them:

Batteries will eventually contaminate groundwater if you dispose of them in the garbage. The good news is, you can recycle batteries. Your local facility may accept used batteries, and some retails and office supply stores accept them, too. If you need to dispose of a car battery, take it to your local mechanic or auto parts store.

Ink cartridges also are toxic, and you shouldn't throw them in the garbage. Printer manufacturers often supply postage-paid return bags that consumers can use to dispose of a used ink cartridge. Office supply stores also collect empty ink cartridges to recycle, and some stores will even give you a credit toward your next ink purchase.

Antifreeze can be recycled at your local mechanic's garage. Simply pour the remainder of the fluid into plastic bottles and take it to the garage, where it is generally recycled.

Used motor oil also is toxic, and should be disposed of properly. Like antifreeze, you can pour and store used oil in plastic bottles or milk jugs. Most local mechanics will accept used oil; however, if you have a lot of old oil, they may not take it all at once.

Solvents, such as paint thinner or mineral spirits, generally dry after a period of time. If you're disposing of a solvent, such as brake fluid, then pour the remainder into a disposable aluminum pan that's filled with cat litter. Do this outside of your house, and if you need to dispose of more than one solvent, be careful not to mix them together in the same pan as they could generate toxic fumes when combined. Once the solvent is dry, you can throw the full pan away in a bag with your trash.

Many communities sponsor hazardous waste collection events throughout the year to collect these and other potentially harmful products. Check with your city or county to see if they have one on the schedule, and carefully store the items you need to dispose until you can drop it off.

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