Household Hazardous Waste (HHW)
Household hazardous waste (HHW) includes products that we purchase and use every day in our home that contain materials that can harm us or the environment. Common household products that are a HHW when discarded include fluorescent light bulbs, cleansers, electronics, medications, needles, pesticides, paints and stains. Look for words such as 'warning,' 'caution,' 'flammable,' 'toxic,' 'poison,' etc. on the labels. Many of these products may be partially used, then stored in your homes, basement or garage. The best option is to use all the products you buy. However, if you have left over materials like this, it is best to take them to a local HHW collection instead of sending them to a landfill, if HHW collections are available. This will help protect both your family and the environment.
You can reduce HHW by:
- Checking the label before you buy. If you see a cautionary notice, understand that this material will become a household hazardous waste if not used up properly.
- Using the product as the manufacturer instructs. Companies are required to test their products to comply with federal regulations. Directions should be followed to get maximum benefit from the products you use without compromising your safety.
- Buying only what you need. Some products cost more to dispose than they do to purchase. So use forethought when purchasing products that may be costly for you or your community to dispose.
- Storing products safely. Children, pets, and others may accidentally injure themselves if products are not safely stored. So make sure these types of materials are stored according to manufacturer instructions, out of harm's way.
If you have questions about proper handling of household hazardous waste, contact your local HHW program, recycling coordinator, wastewater treatment plant or department of public works. Use the links below to obtain information about the hazards associated with household products, where to find a HHW collection program, and what you can do to reduce hazards in your home and community. The resources shared below are neither endorsed nor supported by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ). This list is provided to help you find more information about household hazardous waste management and provide general information about what you can do to protect Michigan's natural resources and your environment.
COLLECTING HHW IN MICHIGAN
- Local HHW Programs in Michigan
- List of HHW Collection Companies that operate in Michigan
- Collecting Small Business (conditionally exempt small quantity generator or CESQG) Waste at a Michigan HHW Program: Operational Memo #121-2, Revision 1
GENERAL HHW INFORMATION
- The Michigan Recycling Directory. Use this directory to find a recycling or HHW collection near you! Search the system based on location or material and view the tutorial on searching the system to learn more. If interested in listing your collection in the directory, please see the MDEQ tutorial on listing your collection location(s).
- Talking Trash. This MDEQ brochure provides information about what materials are banned from landfill disposal in Michigan and proper alternative waste management options.
- United States Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA) HHW Information. This site is an on-line resource for HHW information from the US EPA
- Household Hazardous Materials - A Guide for Citizens. This is an on-line course developed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency to help residents handle potentially hazardous household materials in an emergency.
- National Capital Poison Center 800-222-1222. This national program fields thousands of poison calls every year when someone accidentally ingests common household products.
- Pollution Prevention Regional Information Center. This section contains basic information about what HHW is and the scope of the issue in the US. This information should prove useful to those seeking general understanding of HHW, including policymakers, grant writers, trade groups, researchers, journalists, and those newly assigned to the issue.
- Batteries. Lead acid (such as car batteries), dry cell (commonly used in flashlights and toys), rechargeable (found in power tools, cameras, and phones), button batteries (found in hearing aids and watches) and more. Batteries are found everywhere and proper management is important to ensure they do not cause harm to us or the environment when we are through using them.
- US Department of Transportation Advisory (US DOT). This April 3, 2009, advisory identifies the hazards posed by improper transport of batteries, confirms that all batteries are subject to DOT standards requiring packaging to prevent short circuiting, and identifies the standard can be met by packing each battery in fully enclosed inner packaging made of nonconductive material or separating the batteries from each other and other conductive material in the same package, and packing the battery to prevent damage and shifting while in transport.
- US DOT Letter. This June 23, 2009, letter clarifies when the hazardous materials regulation apply to the transport of 1.5 volt dry cell batteries.
- US DOT Advisory. This October 7, 2009, advisory clarifies the hazards associated with the transport of lithium batteries, including those involved in air travel in personal portable electronic equipment (laptops, cell phone, etc.) and describes the requirements for safe transport.
- The Rechargeable Battery Recycling Corporation sponsors free collection and recycling of rechargeable batteries throughout the country.
- US EPA Information. This site is an on-line resource about batteries from the US EPA.
Cleansers. Cleansers often have a very high or very low pH and can burn the skin.
- Electronics. Electronics, such as computers, computer monitors, televisions, laptops, VCRs, cell phones, printers, computer mice, remote controls, telephones, video games, fax machines, and printers, often contain toxic materials such as lead, cadmium, chromium, mercury, and fire retardants. These products are commonly collected for recycling through HHW collections and other recycling/takeback programs. See www.michigan.gov/deqewaste for more information.
- Light Bulbs. Compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) and traditional fluorescent bulbs are a popular way to reduce energy use. However, fluorescent light technology and some high intensity discharge bulbs use mercury, making it important that these lights be managed properly when unwanted and that the mercury be recycled where possible.
- Medications. Medications should be stored in their original containers and kept secure so they cannot be easily accessed by others. When medications are no longer needed, they should be disposed through a residential takeback program where possible. They should not be flushed down the drain. Studies have shown that medications entering our wastewater are generally not removed by the wastewater treatment process. Therefore, takeback programs that incinerate the chemicals are encouraged. If a collection is not available follow our safe disposal recipe for disposing of unwanted medications in the regular trash.
- Save a Life, Michigan’s Guide to Proper Disposal of Unwanted Household Medications – MDEQ card outlining how to properly dispose of household medications.
- Michigan Household Drug Takeback Programs Web Site – Use this site to find a household medication takeback location or event.
- MDEQ Drug Disposal Web page – This MDEQ website provides resources to residents and healthcare on proper drug disposal.
- Is my Medication a Controlled Substance? This website identifies common medications that are a Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) controlled substance requiring the takeback program to run by law enforcement or a DEA registered collection location.
- Operating Unwanted Medication Collections - A Legal & Safe Approach. This 2006 guide developed by the Northeast Recycling Council. Although some of the information may not reflect Michigan requirements, much of this information may be useful to you if you are planning an unwanted medicine collection in your community.
- For pharmacies interested in holding collections of unwanted medications, these two 2008 resources published by the Northeast Recycling Council may be helpful.
- Medical Waste. Unwanted needles and lancets, also called sharps can injure waste handlers if they are disposed in the trash or in a recyclable. If possible, take unwanted sharps to a residential takeback program where they can decontaminate them prior to recycling or disposal.
- Mercury. For decades mercury (Hg) has received attention as a serious pollutant because it is toxic and it bioaccumulates in living organisms. Take unwanted mercury containing items like thermostat switches or thermometer. Where possible, take sharps to a residential takeback program where they may be decontaminate them prior to recycling or disposal.
- MDEQ Mercury Pollution Prevention. This is an MDEQ sponsored resource for information about reducing the environmental impact of mercury.
- Paint. Many HHW programs collect oil-based paint and associated liquids. Latex paint does not normally contain materials considered hazardous and it is not normally collected at HHW collections. When collected, it is generally collected and recycled.
- Got Leftover Paint? The Five-Point Program for Leftover Paint. National Paint and Coatings Association flyer to help residents manage leftover paint.
- Quantifying the Disposal of Post-Consumer Architectural Paint. An April 2007 US EPA Report detailing the amount and disposition of architectural paint.
- Pesticides. Pesticides are designed to be toxic, so they should be managed carefully and taken to a collection where that will provide for them to be incinerated, to destroy the chemicals in the pesticides. Be sure to follow the label instructions at all times as required by law.
- Used Oil Motor. Oil picks up small particles of metal and dirt as it lubricates a car engine. Since motor oil needs to be replaced periodically, recycling used oil is a good way to protect the environment and conserve this petroleum based product.
- Household Do-It-Yourselfer (DIY) Used Motor Oil and Filters Guidance. See this MDEQ fact sheet discussing how to recycle used oil.
OTHER HHW TOOLS
- Mercury Policy Project
- Pharmwaste - National pharmaceutical waste management discussion
- Tox Town an on-line resource from the National Library of Medicine
WATER PROTECTION RESOURCES
- Be Stormwater Savvy a MDEQ on-line resource.