The Homeowners Column

The Homeowners Column

Ridding Your Home of Hazardous Household Waste

Photo of Sandra Mason

Sandra Mason
Extension Educator, Horticulture
slmason@illinois.edu

Household hazardous waste. This goes beyond dirty diapers, the unknown green growth in the refrigerator or your spouse's 20-year-old sweat pants. We can easily purchase many products such as drain cleaners, oven cleaners, and pesticides that could potentially harm the environment, wildlife and us unless they are used and disposed of properly. Improper disposal can include pouring them down the drain, on the ground, into storm sewers, or in some cases putting them out with the trash. I've looked on the map and there is no place called "Away."

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) defines a substance as hazardous if it is flammable, can react or explode when mixed with other substances, is corrosive, or is toxic. The US EPA estimates that the average household generates 20 pounds of household hazardous waste each year.

So now what do we do with all this stuff? We have a rare opportunity to properly dispose of household hazardous waste on Saturday, November 3 from 8:00 am to 3:00 pm at the City of Champaign Public Works Center at 702 Edgebrook Drive in Champaign (just east of K-mart).

Acceptable items for collection include oil based paints, paint thinners, pesticides, pool chemicals, cleaning products, mercury/thermostats, household batteries, used motor oil, drain cleaners, lawn chemicals, solvents, antifreeze, aerosol paints and pesticides, fluorescent lamp bulbs, 20 and 30 pound propane tanks, fire extinguishers and automotive batteries.

Unacceptable items are agricultural wastes, business/commercial wastes, explosives, fireworks, medical wastes, smoke detectors, farm machinery oil, electronic waste (computers, TVs, or appliances), and latex paint. You will be asked to remain in your vehicle and anticipate a waiting period. Staff will remove the material from your vehicle at the appropriate time.

Be sure to transport the products safely to the collection site such as in a plastic bucket with a lid. There is no direct cost to you on collection day. The collection is funded through Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, City of Champaign, Champaign County and City of Urbana. Any questions contact City of Urbana 384-2381, City of Champaign 351-4443 or Illinois EPA 782-9284.

Proper disposal is important, but ultimately we should all try to reduce the amount of hazardous waste around our homes. Here are a few tips:

  • Consider alternatives before using pesticides. For example sealing cracks and crevices around windows and doors can prevent many pests from entering our homes, except for annoying neighbors and weird uncle Al.
  • Select the least toxic product available. Any product considered hazardous must be labeled with signal words regulated by the federal government. Signal words include "caution" (the least toxicity) to "warning" to "danger"or "danger/ poison" (the most toxicity). Don't be fooled by the term "nontoxic." It is strictly an advertising term and has no regulation by the government.
  • Buy only what you need over a short term. It's no bargain if it sits so long it is not usable.
  • Read the label. Read the label before you buy it and again before you use it. I know it's a boring read and the letters are so small. However it contains important information as to its use, how to avoid hazards and proper storage.
  • Protect the label. Seal it with clear tape so it will remain readable.
  • Use multipurpose cleaners rather than buying a different product for each surface. Try some of the home made cleaners such as using baking soda on a damp sponge.
  • Choose water based paint, glue and shoe polish rather than solvent based products.

View Article Archive >>