Many products found in your home are potentially hazardous substances. Because of their chemical nature, they can poison, corrode, explode, or ignite easily when handled improperly. When discarded, they are considered household hazardous waste. Since they may threaten human health or the environment when inappropriately disposed of, household hazardous wastes are not exempt from California hazardous waste laws.
It is illegal to dispose of household hazardous waste in the trash, down storm drains, or onto the ground. The City has a Household Hazardous Waste Facility for the proper disposal of hazardous waste. For a chart of all hazardous wastes and their appropriate method of disposal, visit the IWMA Proper Disposal of Household Hazardous Waste page.
Examples of Potential Household Hazardous Wastes
Many common household products are considered household hazardous waste when they are discarded. The following are examples of these products:
- Latex and oil-based paints
- Paint thinners and strippers
- Grease and rust solvents
- Wood and metal cleaners
- Nail polish and removers
- Household polishes and cleaners
- Oven cleaners
- Drain openers
- Lighter fluids
- Fungicides and wood preservatives
- Insecticides, herbicides, and rat poisons
- Used oil and oil filters
- Fuel injection and carburetor cleaners
- Batteries and Fluorescent Light bulbs
In San Luis Obispo County, you can take batteries and burned out fluorescent lighting back to any store that sells them for FREE disposal. View drop-off location list.
Currently, there are 44 pharmacy drop-off locations found throughout the County for FREE Sharps Disposal. Read more about Sharps Disposal under Additional Resources.
Why Are They Hazardous?
Household hazardous wastes are considered hazardous because they fit into one or more of the following categories:
- Toxic: Poisonous or lethal when ingested, touched, or inhaledeven in small quantities.
- Flammable: Ignites easily.
- Corrosive: Eats away materials and living tissue by chemical action.
- Reactive: Creates an explosion or produces deadly vapors (e.g., bleach mixed with ammonia-based cleaners).
Before buying a product, read the label. Signal words can serve as a guide to the purchases you make. With pesticides, DANGER means highly toxic, WARNING means moderately toxic, and CAUTION means slightly toxic. With household products, POISON means highly toxic, DANGER means extremely flammable or corrosive or highly toxic, WARNING or CAUTION means less toxic.
What Problems Can Occur?
Improper handling or disposal of products containing hazardous ingredients can result in serious accidents to people and animals, who can be seriously harmed by drinking, eating, touching, or breathing household hazardous wastes.
- Refuse workers and landfill workers can be injured by chemical splashes or
poisonous fumes caused by mixed or concentrated household hazardous wastes.
- Firefighters can be injured by these household hazardous wastes when responding
to a fire.
- The environment can be seriously damaged when groundwater used for drinking or
irrigation is contaminated with household hazardous waste products that have been
poured onto or have seeped into the ground.
- Bacteria needed to break down sewer and septic tank wastes can be destroyed by untreated household hazardous wastes.
Never leave household hazardous products or wastes within reach of children or pets. When possible, buy products with less harmful ingredients (read the labels). When using a product, read and follow the label directions, never mix it with other products, and use it up entirely. Do not dispose of household hazardous wastes in the trash, on the ground, or in storm or sewer drains. Do not remove product labels, and do not remove products from their original containers.
Proper Management of Household Hazardous Waste
Reduce by purchasing only the amount you need.
Reuse the products by donating unused portions to friends or community organizations.
Recycle leftover household hazardous products that are recyclable and dispose of the others safely by taking them to the Household Hazardous Waste Collection Facility.
For a chart of all hazardous wastes and their appropriate method of disposal, visit the IWMA Proper Disposal of Household Hazardous Waste page.