Most people think of “hazardous wastes” as wastes generated by industry, but many household products contain the same chemicals found in industrial hazardous wastes. Improper disposal of household hazardous wastes, such as throwing them away with your household trash, dumping them in storm drains, or into sewer or septic systems, can endanger your health, the health of others and the environment.
There are many reasons it makes sense to collect hazardous household wastes separately and keep them out of landfills. Some wastes shouldn’t be landfilled because they can be recycled or used as an energy saving fuel. Less hazardous waste in the landfill means less hazardous leachate requiring expensive treatment. The risk of ground and water pollution if leachate leaks from landfills is also reduced. Garbage collectors and landfill workers can be injured by exploding aerosol cans, splashing chemicals or poisonous fumes created by mixed chemicals. Chemical reactions can also cause fires in garbage collection trucks.
Hazardous wastes should never be poured onto the ground or down storm drains. Products such as motor oil contain toxic chemicals and metals (hydrocarbons, lead, zinc, arsenic, chromium and cadmium) that will contaminate groundwater, drinking water and freshwater wildlife habitats. Other products may also have an adverse effect on water supplies and the environment.
Hazardous wastes should never be flushed into septic systems or down sewer drains because these wastes can kill the active bacteria either in your septic tank or at the waste water treatment facility. Waste water treatment facilities cannot remove all heavy metals and these may contaminate sewage sludge, water supplies and animal habitats.