Many products found in homes contain chemicals potentially harmful to both people and the environment. Chemical products such as oven cleaners, paint removers, bug killers, solvents, and drain cleaners are just a few common hazardous products in the home. Over the last 20 years, concern about the disposal of such products has been growing. In 1976, the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) was passed, regulating the procedures governing the generation, storage, transport, treatment, and disposal of hazardous materials. Although this legislation has mitigated some of the problems associated with commercial hazardous material disposal, more needs to be done to reduce and properly dispose of home hazardous wastes.
Hazardous products include the following:
- Cleaning products: oven cleaner, floor wax, furniture polish, drain cleaner, and spot remover
- Car care and maintenance: motor oil, battery acid, gasoline, car wax, engine cleaner, antifreeze, degreaser, radiator flush, and rust preventative
- Home improvement products: paints, preservatives, strippers, brush cleaners, and solvents
- Other products labeled toxic, flammable, or corrosive, or containing lye, phenols, petroleum distillates, or trichlorobenzene
Examples of commonly used products and safer alternatives are as follows (adapted from Washington State Department of Ecology):
- Aerosols. Use pump-type or non-aerosol products.
- Art supplies. Purchase water-based paints or inks. They should not contain lead or other toxic materials.
- Batteries. Rechargeable batteries are a cost-effective alternative to disposable batteries.
- Chemical fertilizers. Composting yard clippings and food scraps is an option. Manure (in measured amounts) is another alternative to chemical fertilizers.
- Gasoline. Not driving at all is the best way to reduce gasoline use. Purchasing a super-efficient hybrid or electric vehicle is the next best alternative.
- Carpooling, walking, bicycling, and public transportation are other viable options.
- Motor Oil. Use re-refined motor oil. Doing so will spur the market for recycled motor oil and decrease reliance on new oil supplies.
- Pesticides. Keeping homes and gardens tidy reduces the food supply for insect pests, averting the need for pesticides. Onion, garlic, and marigold plants help keep garden pests at bay.