How to Safely Dispose of Chemical Waste

What You'll Need
Phone book or Internet access
Permanent marker
Mode of transportation

Chemical waste is likely not something you think about often, but you can likely find it all over your house. It's in your cleaning supplies, your cosmetics, your medications and your lawn care supplies. When these items need to be disposed of, it would be environmentally hazardous to just put them out with your garbage or pour them down your drain. Take these steps to safely and legally dispose of chemicals in your household.

Step 1 - Identify Local Agencies and Companies

The Federal Resource Conservation Recovery Act contains the regulations currently governing waste disposal. The Environmental Protection Agency enforces these regulations. Chemicals are classified based on their composition and level of hazard, and each classification has specific rules as to how to dispose of those chemicals. The EPA has listings of these harmful chemicals on its Web site,, that you can use to identify your chemical and learn of any rules regarding its disposal. Alternatively, you may call an EPA office in your state.

Check your phone book for any local or state agencies that are approved for chemical waste disposal. Local private companies may also provide this service for a fee. You may also be able to call your municipality for referrals or advice on chemical disposal based on local regulations and resources.

Step 2 - Contain and Label Your Chemical

Once you have identified your chemical and taken any recommended precautions, you must put it in an approved container based on its classification. This container must also be sealable. Rinse the container carefully with cold tap water to neutralize any electric charge it may have. This will prevent a reaction from occurring when the chemical is transferred to the container.

Carefully, pour or otherwise move your chemical waste into the container. Seal the container as tightly as possible immediately. Do not leave it open for any extended period of time, and remove any funnels or tubes you used for transferring the waste.

Using a label or even a strip of masking tape, label your container with a permanent marker as "chemical waste" and, if possible, identify the waste on the label. Make sure the label is easy to find and read, as it will alert other people who may handle your container as to its potentially dangerous contents.

Step 3 - Transport Your Chemical Waste to an Approved Location

Load your container into your vehicle carefully, and use whatever means you have to secure it so that it will not shift or tip during transportation. If possible, choose a route that involves slower speeds and less traffic. Alternatively, some private waste disposal companies or state agencies may offer a pick-up service for certain materials.

Once there, your chemical will be handled based on its composition. Most chemicals are treated to reduce their environmental toxicity and potential for harm. Some liquid chemicals are stored underground, and the Safe Water Drinking Act is in place to prevent them from contaminating drinking water sources.