Household Hazardous Waste
Do you have these products in your house: bleach, rat poison, mothballs, charcoal lighter fluid, oven cleaner, batteries, mercury thermometers, gas, oil, wood polish, toilet and drain cleaners, shoe polish, bug spray? Some household products like these are dangerous for your children. Household products are called hazardous if they can cause harm when not used properly. Not every product is hazardous and some are more dangerous than others.
You can use most products safely if you follow the directions on the label. Doing things that are not on the label can be risky for your health and your family's. For example, people get in trouble by using too much of a product, or by mixing two products together. Children can be poisoned if you store or throw away products unsafely. Children's bodies are small, so even a little bit of some chemicals can cause big problems.
Eating or drinking a hazardous product is dangerous, of course. Also, just touching or breathing some products -- even a very small amount of them -- can be harmful. They can burn your skin or eyes just by touching them. They can make you sick if they get into your body through the skin or by breathing in dust or fumes. Sometimes a reaction tells you right away if you or your child has contacted a hazardous product. You may feel sick to your stomach or dizzy. Your skin may itch or burn. Your eyes may water or hurt. Other problems don't show up until later, like cancer or harm to your lungs. Also, being exposed to chemicals can affect a child's growing body.
You can protect your children and yourself from illness and injury. Use hazardous products safely. Store them carefully. Dispose of them properly.
There are a number of problems that can occur when we discard hazardous household waste using common disposal methods. Recommendations for proper disposal will depend upon both the particular type of waste and the waste disposal options available in your community.
Local ordinances vary. Landfills may or may not accept
certain hazardous household products. They also may
vary on how they want the product to arrive at the
landfill. For example, one landfill may want you to
solidify (air-dry) paint and wrap the container. Another
landfill may want paint handled a different way. In
addition, waste water treatment plants may not allow
certain liquids to be poured down the drain. If you
have any questions, call your landfill, local waste
water treatment company, local waste management office
or the Extension Home Economics Agent at the North
Carolina Cooperative Extension Service center in your
When you pour hazardous household products down the sink or flush
them down the toilet the hazardous materials enter either a septic
system or a municipal sewer system.
If you have a septic system, wastewater from your house goes into
a tank buried underground. The solids settle out and partially decompose.
The remaining wastewater then goes into a drain field where the
natural processes ongoing in the soil help to further break down
the wastewater. Toxic materials in that wastewater can kill the
helpful bacteria and the system will not operate properly.
Some toxic materials move through the soil untreated or unchanged.
When this happens ground water or surface waters may become contaminated.
For example, many paint removers and aerosol paint products contain
the chemical methylene chloride. This chemical can pass directly
through a septic system without breaking down at all. Chlorine bleach
can also pass through a septic system without breaking down. Also
the chlorine can react with organic matter to form new toxic chemicals.
If your home is hooked to a municipal sewage system, your wastewater
is piped to a central sewage plant. After treatment, it is discharged
into area rivers, lakes and streams. Most municipal systems rely
on bacteria or other organisms to decompose the waste. Some hazardous
household waste can pass through the system unchanged and thus pollute
the water downstream.
In addition, hazardous household wastes poured down the drain may
corrode the plumbing or collect in the trap and release fumes through
If you pour hazardous
household waste in ditches, storm drains or gutters, it can poison
plants and wildlife, contaminate the soil, and be harmful to children
and adults who come in contact with it When it rains, the hazardous
household waste travels directly to nearby streams, rivers and lakes.
If you burn
hazardous waste, you risk producing poisonous fumes, contributing
to air pollution or causing an explosion.
Controlled burning in special hazardous waste incinerators by trained
professionals can be a good disposal method. Open burning by an
untrained homeowner is not. Some hazardous materials may not burn
away completely and become concentrated in the ash.
If you dump or bury some types of hazardous household wastes, they
may leach through the soil and contaminate the soil or water, especially
if the waste is persistent or non-biodegradable. Children or pets
and wildlife may be hurt. Dogs frequently are poisoned by drinking
antifreeze left on roads or driveways.
household wastes are acceptable at landfills if special treatment
is followed. Empty hazardous product containers should be rinsed several
times before discarding in the trash. (Use the rinse solution in the
same manner you were using the chemical solution. Continue safe-use
Call your local solid waste management company for special information
on disposing of hazardous household waste. They can advise you on
the disposal methods they prefer. They can also advise you if indeed
they will even accept the waste.
- no more than a cup - down the drain with plenty of water.
Some hazardous household wastes can be flushed down the drain as
long as they are followed by plenty of water. This recommendation
applies if a hazardous household waste will be neutralized by water
or if the municipal or sanitary sewage system is able to remove
the toxins or render them harmless. This method is not recommended
for people who have septic systems. Heavy concentrations of certain
chemicals in a septic tank can destroy the microorganisms that make
the system work properly.
Call your local waste-water treatment plant before you flush hazardous
household waste down the drain to be sure that the water can be
neutralized by their system. Follow their recommendations.
- There should be adequate ventilation in the area where you are
flushing the waste.
- Don't dispose of chemical wastes in the food preparation area.
- Never mix chemicals together while pouring or when they are
in the toilet or sink.
- Pour slowly and carefully to avoid splashing. Wear gloves and
goggles to protect eyes and hands.
- Flush wastes using a large volume of water.
- Rinse the empty container with water before placing it in the
Some labels give disposal recommendations. Read the label carefully
and follow the manufacturer's recommendations.
cleaning the potential waste so that the product is usable again.
Recycling helps reduce the overall demand for hazardous household
products and the amount of waste produced. Presently recycling is
available for only a small number of products. Paint thinner, automotive
oil and transmission fluid can be recycled.
A community waste collection day is one way to manage hazardous
household waste and keep it out of the landfill. The collection
days are usually sponsored by a local government agency or a private
organization. Residents are notified of the date, the drop-off location
and the type of materials the program will accept. The collected
wastes are recycled, treated or disposed of by a professional handler.
Only a few North Carolina cities and counties currently have periodic
collection days for hazardous household waste. If your city or county
has such a collection day, use it. It is a good way to dispose of
hazardous household wastes, such as automotive paint, brake fluid,
dry cleaning fluid, engine degreaser, flea powder, epoxies and adhesives,
photographic chemicals, paint supplies and thinners, solvent-based
cleaners and polishes, mothballs, wood preservatives, gasoline,
pesticides, swimming pool chemicals, lacquer and lacquer thinner,
car batteries, kerosene, mercury batteries and smoke detectors.
If there is not a collection program in your area, use the recommended
disposal methods described earlier. Find someone who might use or
recycle your waste. In the meantime, store these products safely!
Household Hazardous Waste will be accepted on Fridays at the Landfill— please see HHW Schedule for hours. Paint & paint related items such as
water sealer, paint thinners, enamels and polyurethane will be charged
at $2.00 per gallon. There will be no charge for pesticides, herbicides,
insecticides, motor oil, antifreeze and lead acid batteries. No
hazardous wastes from businesses will be accepted. No Bio-Hazardous,
radioactive, or explosives will be accepted at any time.
If you have any questions, please contact the Solid Waste Office
at (828) 250-5460.
Be a good citizen. Use and dispose of hazardous household waste responsibly. Call your County Extension Home Economics Agent or the local waste management agency, water treatment plant or landfill if you have questions. Make sure the disposal method you use is a safe one so that the hazardous waste does not contaminate your drinking water.
Improper disposal may allow these chemicals to contaminate soil and/or water.
Emergency First Aid:
Poison Control Center, 1-800 672-1697
To report products that have harmed you:
U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission, 1-800-638-2772
Household Products Disposal Council, 1-202-659-5535.
Household Hazardous Waste & Electronics Disposal
Buncombe County accepts household hazardous waste (HHW) at a special drop-off area at the Landfill. Please check the HHW schedule to for dates and times when the HHW is open.
Each week, we accept electronics from residents at no charge. Businesses will also be able to drop off electronics, but they will be charged a fee of 30 cents per pound.
The following items must be separated out of loads and brought to the electronics recycling area:
- Computers (monitors, CPU’s, keyboards)
- Fax Machines
- VCR’s & DVD Players
- Cell Phones
- Video cameras
Household Hazardous Waste is also accepted on Fridays:
- Paint and paint related items such as water sealer, paint thinners, enamels,polyurethane, and flammable liquids (such as gas and kerosene) will be charged at $2.00 per gallon. (20 gallon limit per week.)
- There is no charge for pesticides, herbicides, insecticides, motor oil, antifreeze and lead acid batteries.
- No hazardous wastes from businesses will be accepted.
- Bio-Hazardous materials, radioactive materials and explosives are NOT accepted at any time.
If you have any questions, please contact the Solid Waste Office at 250-5460 or the Landfill at 250-5462.
Residents can drop off used compact and regular fluorescent light bulbs at any of the following participating municipal and volunteer fire departments:
- Black Mountain - 106 Montreat Road
- Enka-Candler - 85 Pisgah Highway
- Fairview VFD - 1586 Charlotte Highway
- Reems Creek - 730 Reems Creek Road
- Reynolds - 235 Charlotte Highway
- Skyland - 9 Miller Road
- Swannanoa - 103 South Avenue
- Weaverville - 3 Monticello Road
City of Asheville Fire Departments
- Station 2 on Livingston Street - 415 S French Broad Avenue
- Station 11 at - 7 Rocky Ridge Road near Biltmore Square Mall
Mercury containing fluorescent lights can be recycled at the landfill on Fridays from 9:00 am to 3:00 pm during the HHW program.
For household quantities from residents of the county:
|4 foot Fluorescent Light Bulbs
||Up to 5 free/ week
|8 foot Fluorescent Light Bulbs
||Up to 5 free/ week
||Up to 5 free/ week
Maximum of 20 bulbs per month.
Businesses are permitted to recycle bulbs at the landfill’s HHW ONLY with a 20 bulb limit per month. BUSINESSES ARE STRICTLY PROHIBITED FROM DROPPING BULBS OFF AT THE FIRE DEPARTMENTS. The fees for business bulb recycling is:
|4 foot Fluorescent Light Bulbs
||20 per month
|8 foot Fluorescent Light Bulbs
||20 per month
||20 per month
If you have broken fluorescent lamps they are also accepted.
Citizens can take discarded and "broken CFL's in a sealed bag" to either Lowe's or Home Depot. Please note that the broken CFL must be in a sealed bag in order for them to accept it.
- Please note: if any of your bulbs are broken please use protective gear like rubber gloves and eye protection and use a wet paper towel to clean up the the debris. DO NOT sweep or vacuum up the debris. It will cause material to be dispersed into the air. Place the contents in a Ziploc bag, wipe the area with a wet paper towel or cloth and bring the bag to the Fire Station.
- Please make sure the broken bulb and towel are sealed in the plastic bag when brought into the Fire Station. Ventilate the room where the lamp was broken.
- When the unit is broken the mercury is released. It is released as a vapor and there will be very little left in the powder.
- 100% of these lamps are recycled.
If you have questions or need assistance please call 250-5460 or 250-5462 for information.
It would be difficult to eliminate all the hazardous products from our lives. However, we can minimize the environmental problems from their improper use and disposal by:
- Using non-toxic alternatives. For example, clear a drain with a metal snake instead of a chemical drain opener
- Buying only what you need. If there is no waste, you don't have to store it or throw it away.
- Comparing labels and contents when buying. If a less toxic product will work just as well, buy it.
- Using products according to label directions.
- Never mixing products. Dangerous reactions can occur.
Other ways we can reduce environmental problems:
Use it up.
When products are fully used up as intended there is no hazardous waste. Buy only as much as you need. Don't buy a gallon of paint, pesticide or specialty cleaner when a quart will do. The large container may cost less per ounce, but leftovers must be stored or dispose of so as not to harm people or the environment.
Donate what you don't use.
Donate paint, household cleaners or other products to a local charity, church or service organization. Theater groups, the local housing authority or a neighbor may be happy to accept small quantities of usable paint or cleaning products.
Recycle what you do use.
You can recycle paint thinner at home. Pour paint thinner or cleaner into a jar. Let it sit for several days. The solids will settle to the bottom. When the liquid at the top of the jar is clear, pour it into a container that can be sealed until future use. If pouring stirs up the solids, pour the clear liquid through a funnel lined with old sheet fabric. Dispose of the dried solids in your trash.
Oil and transmission fluids from your car and lawn mower can be recycled. Ask the Extension Home Economics Agent in your county if a collection program is available in your area. Most gas stations and stores that sell auto batteries also will recycle them.
Storing a hazardous household waste indefinitely is not a good solution. Containers, and their contents, degrade over time. Labels get lost, and the chance of children or pets finding the hazardous waste increases when it is stored for long periods of time. However, storage may be the safest temporary option for now if there is not a safe and organized system in your community to handle hazardous household waste.
Safe Storage Recommendations
- Safe containers on high shelves or in locked cabinets away from children.
- Protect the label.
- Store hazardous household chemicals in the original container.
- Close containers tightly.
- Keep containers dry to prevent corrosion.
- Store similar products together to reduce any danger from reactions if containers should leak or contents should spill.
- Store hazardous household products in a well ventilated area.
Improper storage may allow chemicals to leak into the environment, causing dangerous chemical reactions, poisoning or pollution.
When you care for yourself, your home, your yard and your garden you use a variety of chemical products. Many of these common household products contain hazardous chemicals. When we no longer want these products they become hazardous waste.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) defines four major types of hazardous waste.
- Corrosive wastes can cause a chemical action that eats away materials or living tissue. Battery acid is an example.
- Toxic wastes can cause illness or death. Some are more dangerous than others. Exposure to a small concentration of a highly toxic chemical may cause symptoms of poisoning. Pesticides, cleaning products, paints, photographic supplies and many art supplies are examples.
- Ignitable wastes can catch fire spontaneously or burn easily. Charcoal lighter fluid, gasoline, kerosene, nail polish remover and various oils are examples.
- Reactive wastes can react with air, water or other substances to cause rapid heating or explosions. Acids that heat up rapidly and spatter when mixed with water are examples.
EPA estimates that the average household disposes of 1 pound of hazardous waste each year. In North Carolina that means that 2,045,700 pounds of hazardous household wastes must be handled properly each year.
When is a product hazardous?
Most household products are not harmful if used according to label directions. However, they can become harmful if you use them improperly, store them improperly, or dispose of them improperly.
Why don't common disposal methods work for hazardous household waste?
Most people dispose of hazardous products by throwing them in the trash, pouring them down the drain, burning them, pouring them in a ditch, dumping them on a vacant lot or burying them in a field. These practices are dangerous.
Waste from hazardous household products can contaminate lakes, rivers, streams and the groundwater (the places below the ground where water accumulates before it goes to a river, stream or well). This can create serious problems for North Carolinians. Why? Because 55% of all residents and 97% of the state's rural residents rely on ground water as a source of drinking water. Often only a small amount of a hazardous material can cause serious problems. It only takes one gallon of oil to ruin one million gallons of water.
What shouldn't we do?
Don't throw it in the garbage.
Much of the residential trash in North Carolina is collected door-to-door by private companies or is taken to drop-off centers by individuals. Ultimately the trash is taken to a county landfill. Most landfills are not designed for hazardous household wastes. Hazardous waste can leak into water supplies or cause air pollution, or both.
Hazardous household waste may cause a fire, an explosion or give off dangerous fumes. Sanitation workers have been seriously burned, lost their eyesight or suffered lung damage while compacting hazardous materials. Equipment also has been damaged.
Improper use may cause toxic health effects such as headache, injury or death.