Disposing of Household Hazardous Waste

I'm currently working with a metal artist to organize her studio. In this process, we've come across lots of little containers of chemicals that need to be disposed of, but neither of us was sure of the environmental and legal rules for disposal. I began my search for answers by contacting the Environmental Protection Agency for Georgia. After being bounced around from person to person, I finally hit pay dirt with the Department of Community Affairs. A wonderfully responsive gentleman called me back and emailed me a couple of fact sheets on the proper disposal of household waste. Here are a few pointers:

The processes described here basically involve either solidifying wastes for disposal via regular garbage service, or evaporation. With both of the basic steps below, you want to work outside, and wear rubber gloves and eye protection. Never mix more than one material as you're preparing the items for disposal.


The idea here is to make the liquids solid. Sawdust or shredded newspaper will work, but for larger quantities you'll want to get some kitty litter, cheaper at auto parts stores; ask for oil dry. Double-line a garbage can with plastic garbage bags, add some oil dry/kitty litter and then the liquid waste. Work outside, away from access by children and animals. When the material is solidified, tie up the bag and it can then go into regular trash. Be sure not to get the bag so heavy that you can't handle it, or that it ruptures. Wear gloves and safety glasses to prevent contact with the materials you're handling.


Work outside, away from access by children and animals. If there is just a trace amount of hazardous waste in the container, simply open the top and let it evaporate. If you have more than a very little bit, you'll want to accelerate the process. Get some sort of disposable metal try (an aluminum foil roasting pan is ideal) and pour a half-inch of liquid into the tray. The increased surface area will allow the fuel/liquid to evaporate much more quickly. Repeat this process until the fuel/liquid is gone, and then recycle or reuse the containers if possible (though not for cooking!).

The foil tray can be recycled with scrap aluminum; if you're leery of having the fuel/liquid-coated foil around your home until you can recycle it, then wad up the tray, wrap it in a few layers of newspaper and put it in a sturdy plastic garbage bag . Then it can be disposed of in your regular household trash.

Here is the GA Dept. of Community Affairs web site where you can find more info. Look under Recycling and Disposal Guidance:


Of course, if you live outside of Georgia, you will want to research your county or state guidelines for hazardous waste disposal.


John Trosko said...

Hi Suellen! This great info.. well thought out. I had not thought about this kind of stuff, like using newspapers or sawdust to absorb toxics. Good suggestion.


Suellen said...

Thanks, John. What a great way to recycle, huh?