Waste is everywhere—it's in the water, in the woods, at the top of mountains, filling your trash can every day. So what makes waste hazardous, and what are the 7 common types of hazardous waste that you can probably find in your home right now?
Unless you know exactly what they are, you can't avoid hazardous waste and keep yourself safe. Lots of materials actually qualify as hazardous waste, and for very good reasons, so it's important to know how to identify these dangerous materials.
The 4 Main Types of Hazardous Waste
There are lots of hazardous wastes out here, even in common everyday items you see all the time. But all hazardous wastes fit into one of four main types of hazardous waste.
Many types of chemicals are considered F-listed wastes. This includes solvents, metal finishes, wood preservatives, and petroleum-based products.
Many common household items qualify as F-listed, including common cleaning agents and other items you probably have in your cabinets right now.
More than 100 industrial wastes are K-listed. This includes materials used in wood preserving, refining petroleum, manufacturing metals, and making chemical compounds like inks, pigments, and pesticides.
K-listed wastes probably aren’t around your home, but they are very commonly found in workplaces that perform manufacturing tasks.
Many different chemical products are classified as U-listed wastes. These are chemical compounds found in hundreds of different commercial products.
Common aerosols, household cleaners, gardening compounds, and other items you can easily find around the house are classified as U-listed hazardous waste. Most people have many U-listed hazardous waste materials in their homes at any given time.
Hazardous waste that is P-listed is extremely hazardous. Even worse, this list contains more than 200 commercial chemical products.
These materials are the most toxic to humans and the environment and should not only be disposed of properly, they should be handled with caution. Some hazardous waste materials are so hazardous, you should probably wear gloves and eye protection when you’re handling it.
Identifying Hazardous Waste
So, which classification of hazardous waste is the thing you’re holding in your hand? Many household chemicals, fertilizers, and other compounds that are classified as hazardous waste are required to be labeled as such.
Look for the waste classification on the label to know if you’re dealing with something K-listed, P-listed, or a material that has another classification. Materials that are dangerous must be clearly marked, so you know what you’re working with and you know how to find a way to dispose of it properly.
7 Types of Common Household Hazardous Waste
You probably come into contact with hazardous waste all the time, and you're probably disposing of some hazardous waste the wrong way. Learn how to identify and manage common types of hazardous waste that you're going to see all the time so that from now on, you know the right way to get rid of it.
Common household batteries are a type of hazardous waste. Inside those metal casings, batteries contain corrosive acids and bases that can be extremely harmful to all sorts of stuff, including human skin.
Even the metal shells used to make batteries are dangerous, as they often contain metals like lead and cadmium. All of these materials should be disposed of safely.
You probably have at least one fluorescent light in your home somewhere, an innocent enough item that everyone has come into contact with. Well, it's actually toxic.
Fluoresce t lamps, and actually, common household thermostats, contain mercury. This is a dangerous metal with a well-earned terrible reputation for being highly harmful to human beings.
Computer monitors, printers, TVs, cell phones, all those old electronic devices you have sitting around are all classified as hazardous waste. Because of the various metals used to make these devices, they are supposed to be properly disposed of as a type of hazardous waste.
You probably think nothing of getting rid of your old electronics, when actually, these items should not go into regular landfills. Over time, electronic release dangerous and hazardous chemicals into the ground when they end up in landfills.
Many, many electronics stores offer recycling programs and even offer incentives to you for turning in old electronics to be recycled. Save old printer cartridges, cellphones, and other common electronic and electronic-related items so they can be recycled properly.
Old oil is actually a type of hazardous waste, though you probably see it all the time and think little of it. All the fluids that come out of your car, in fact, including transmission fluid and brake fluid, are a type of hazardous waste and shouldn't be flushed down a drain or thrown out into the grass.
Oil is especially dangerous and particularly harmful to the environment, as we now know. Properly disposing of oil is one way to start to fight against the problems oil usage has already caused.
Furniture polish, floor waxes, metal polish, mildew remover, drain cleaners, and all types of household cleaning formulas may and usually do contain hazardous waste materials. If you're throwing away these materials, do so safely.
It’s very common to simply toss out a cleaning product that didn’t work as well as expected or perhaps created a rash reaction on your skin. Stop pouring chemicals down the drain or putting them in the trash and start disposing of them the right way instead.
Fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, and other common lawn and garden chemicals and treatments are hazardous materials. Don’t simply throw these items away if they go unused.
It seems odd that common lawn and garden treatments could be hazardous to people or the environment, but it’s true that these everyday materials are actually dangerous materials and should not be disposed of in a standard way.
Pesticides and other chemical compositions can be especially harmful to water, so it’s important to get rid of these items the right way.
Spray paint, wall paint, turpentine, varnishes, stains, and many items and solvents used to paint or refinish furniture and walls are all actually hazardous waste materials. If you're going to dispose of this stuff, you need to do it the right way.
It’s pretty common to use paint or varnish and then toss it when the project is over, but you should stop doing this. You also shouldn’t hang onto old paint forever because paints and painting supplies can actually be a fire hazard.
Paint’s flammability is why it’s classified as a type of hazardous waste. Always store these materials safely and dispose of them properly because they are a highly dangerous type of hazardous waste material.
Other Types of Hazardous Waste
The truth is, hazardous waste is everywhere. Even mothballs are hazardous waste. Needles used to inject drugs, whether they are legal or illegal, are considered to be a type of hazardous waste.
It’s difficult to know what qualifies as hazardous waste and to then know what to do about it when you’re dealing with something that is classified as hazardous, especially when so many common items are actually classified this way. If you’re unsure, go online to look up specific materials.
The EPA and other local and federal websites have long and comprehensive lists of the common household hazardous wastes you might come into contact with on a regular basis. This makes it easy to find out whether you have hazardous waste materials to dispose of or not.
How to Dispose of Hazardous Waste
Why bother with disposing of hazardous waste in a special way, rather than flushing it down a toilet or throwing it in a trash can? Actually, there's a really good reason you need to learn how to identify hazardous waste and dispose of it the right way.
Hazardous wastes can get into groundwater and create both land and water pollution when not properly disposed of. You don't want toxic chemicals in your water supply or growing in the plants in your garden, right?
It's incredibly important to dispose of hazardous waste the right way. These materials can cause cancer and can cause mutations in plant life, wildlife, and even human beings.
The problem is, how do you dispose of hazardous waste? Most people don't automatically know the answer to this.
Often, you can check the item you want to dispose of itself or the package it came in. Sometimes, manufacturers will include instructions for properly disposing of hazardous waste.
Talk to your waste management company or visit their website. Usually, professional waste management services have special days or special instructions for picking up hazardous waste materials.
Ask your local government. If your waste management company doesn't dispose of the hazardous waste, you need to remove, go online or call your local government and ask them about proper disposal methods.
Your local government will tell you how to find a drop-off location for common hazardous waste materials, such as old batteries and used oil.
Avoiding the Common 7 Types of Hazardous Waste
Hazardous waste materials are everywhere. They’re in the batteries in the drawer, in the paints in the garage, in the old kerosene canister, and in most of the household cleaners you use on a regular basis.
It’s pretty scary stuff, but things are much easier when you know how to identify and dispose of hazardous waste materials.
You're going to come into contact with hazardous waste no matter what you do. There is no way to avoid all hazardous waste, but it does help to know how to identify these materials and how to dispose of them the right way.
Questions People Also Ask
Are alcoholic beverages a type of hazardous waste?
Hazardous waste is determined by certain characteristics, including ignitability. This is the material's level of flammability, and alcohol is well-known to be a flammable material.
However, in small amounts, alcohol is not considered to be a dangerous hazardous waste material. Most alcohol you purchase for consumption contains less than 24 percent alcohol content and, therefore, is not a hazardous waste that must be specially disposed of.
Unless you're working with large quantities of pure alcohol that you must then dispose of, you can simply dispose of alcohol you haven't consumed through any standard method of waste disposal.
It is illegal to dispose of hazardous waste in the regular trash?
So, how much does it matter if you throw away batteries, flush oil in the toilet, or just put old fluorescent lamps in the trash? Actually, it's against the law to dispose of hazardous waste the wrong way.
The Universal Waste Law states that hazardous wastes that may be harmful to humans or the environment must be disposed of properly and can't be thrown in the regular trash, flushed into the water supply, or thrown into a river or on the side of the road.
This means you have a responsibility to learn how to properly get rid of hazardous waste and to know what hazardous wastes are that you may encounter in your everyday life. Once you have this information, you’ll always know what to do when it comes to safely handling hazardous waste.
Taking a few extra steps to get rid of trash is kind of a hassle, but it does do a whole lot to help the planet and keep the soil and water much healthier for everyone who lives on it.
What if you have something big to get rid of?
Old propane tanks, old appliances, and other items may contain hazardous waste inside them that needs to be disposed of...but the thing that these materials are in is big and heavy. How do you dispose of stuff like this?
Call your local hazardous waste materials commission, committee, or whatever government department handles hazardous waste in your local area. They will tell you how to dispose of these larger items. that contain dangerous stuff inside.
5 Ways of Dealing with Your Trash
12 Ways to Reduce Your Household Waste
How to Properly Dispose of Household Waste