BEWARE! It lurks in your home.

And no, we’re not talking about spiders, rats or ghosts. We’re talking about household hazardous waste (HHW). HHW can be any unwanted item in your home with the words “danger,” “warning” or “caution” on the label.

About 50 percent of HHW disposed of in the Kansas City metro area is latex paint. So, what makes up the other 50 percent? Unfortunately, materials that are significantly more hazardous to you, your family, and your pets. These items can be flammable, toxic, corrosive or reactive if not properly used and managed. They should never be disposed in the trash or down the drain as they can end up in the local water supply where they endanger both people and wildlife.

Following are the areas in your home where HHW lies in wait.

Garage/basement

The bigger the space the more room for HHW, and that’s why garages and basements are a favorite place to lurk. In addition to latex paint, these areas are home to latex’s more dangerous siblings: oil paint, spray paint, sealants and stains. Two other big offenders are automotive fluids such as motor oil, antifreeze and windshield cleaner, and lawn and garden products such as fertilizers, weed killers, and pesticides. Other equally dangerous materials include barbeque products like lighter fluid and charcoal briquettes, and car-care products like cleaning sprays and foams.

Under the kitchen sink

If you look beyond the dishwasher soap and cleaning bucket, you’ll see an array of bottles staring back at you, almost all of them containing hazardous chemicals. These include oven cleaners, countertop cleaners, glass cleaners and drain openers.

In the bathroom

Your medicine cabinet is home to some of the most dangerous products of all. Apart from medicines (both prescription and over the counter), you may have nail polish and remover, and hair coloring and straightening products. Let’s not forget what hides in the vanity either: tile cleaners, toilet bowl cleaners and disinfectant wipes.

Get it out!

Ever seen a horror movie in which a scary voice says, “Get out!”? Well, think of all that scary HHW in your home and “Get it out!” Kansas residents can take HHW to their county’s HHW facility for free. Missouri residents have several free and fee-based options for proper HHW disposal. Check RecycleSpot.org to find the nearest police station or pharmacy that will accept your old medicines and prescription drugs.

Safe alternatives

Even when used as directed, many household chemicals can endanger our health and safety. Fortunately, safe alternative products are readily available, easy to use and often cheaper than their more dangerous counterparts. To make your home safer, download the Safe Alternatives to Household Chemicals brochure.

For more information visit Hazardous Waste.

green cleaning sponge on top of pair of orange cleaning gloves

Rid your home of dangerous chemicals

icons of bug spray, motor oil, 9-volt battery and paintThe can of bug spray on the shelf… the toilet cleaner and drain opener in the cabinet… the old gas, lawn chemicals and paint stored in the garage… these products are all considered hazardous because the chemicals they contain pose a threat to human health and the environment.

Hazardous waste generated at your home is called Household Hazardous Waste (HHW). HHW is any flammable, toxic, corrosive or reactive product labeled “Danger”, “Warning”, or “Caution”, and none of these should be tossed into the regular trash.

Even when used as directed, many household chemicals can endanger health and safety and pose risks to children, pets, communities, wildlife and the environment.

Fortunately, there are convenient ways to safely dispose of your HHW. And for many of these products, there are safe alternatives that are readily available, easy to use, and often cheaper than their more dangerous counterparts.

Safe disposal

Missouri residents who live in Cass, Clay, Platte, Jackson and Ray counties, have access to proper HHW disposal through the Regional Household Hazardous Waste Program. Residents who live in participating communities can dispose of HHW for no cost at one of two HHW facilities or numerous HHW collection events. Missouri residents who don’t live in participating communities can dispose of HHW for a fee at Summit Waste Systems in Lee’s Summit, Missouri.

Kansas residents who live in Johnson, Leavenworth, Miami, or Wyandotte counties can take their HHW to the HHW facility in their county for free.

Please note that these services are for residents only. Any hazardous waste not generated by a resident is classified as business hazardous waste by the states of Kansas and Missouri. This includes businesses, industry, manufacturing, rental property owners, nonprofits, governments, schools, churches, etc. It is illegal for these entities to take their hazardous waste to a residential collection facility or collection event. For more information, visit Business Hazardous Waste.

icons of baking soda, ecofriendly spray bottle, lemon wedge and spray bottleSafe alternatives

There are many safe alternatives to household chemicals. Baking soda, or Borax (a naturally occurring mineral) work well as mild, abrasive cleaners as alternatives to chlorine or silica-based scouring products. White vinegar is an all-purpose cleaner. It can be used on hard surfaces or glass as an alternative to ammonia-based cleaners and other corrosive products. Lemons are highly acidic, which makes them a strong cleaning agent. Plus, they provide a refreshing and clean scent.

For more information, including a list of recipes, visit Safe Alternatives.

Paints

Conventional paints contain several toxic chemicals: volatile organic compounds (VOCs), fungicides, biocides, and chemical pigments. When purchasing paint look for low VOC, low biocides and natural pigments.

Calculate the amount of paint you need for a project before buying to reduce the chance of running out before finishing the job, or having paint left over.

For more information on recycling, visit RecycleSpot.org.

When the lights go out: how to recycle and dispose properly

bulb-87565_1920Many of us have replaced our standard incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent or LED light bulbs. But what do you do with the old bulbs when they burn out? Properly disposing or recycling light bulbs can increase your safety, save energy and help the environment.

Fluorescent bulbs

Both fluorescent tubes and compact fluorescent (“squiggly”) bulbs are hazardous and require special handling. Both types can be recycled through local household hazardous waste programs and at Batteries Plus. Compact fluorescent lights can also be recycled at Home Depot, Lowe’s or other hardware stores. Always call stores first to make sure they participate in recycling programs.

What if bulbs are broken?

The hazardous component of fluorescent light bulbs is the small amount of mercury sealed within the glass tubing. When a fluorescent bulb breaks, some of this mercury is released as mercury vapor. Keep yourself and sanitation workers safe by following proper cleanup procedures.

Incandescent, halogen and LED bulbs

Unfortunately, there are no options to recycle incandescent, halogen and LED (light-emitting diode) light bulbs in the Kansas City metro. Since these types of bulbs do not contain any hazardous materials they can be thrown away in your regular trash. For safety’s sake, place burned out bulbs back in their original packaging or in a plastic bag before throwing them away.

For more information, visit RecycleSpot.org or call (816) 474-8326.

What to do with your batteries when they stop going and going and going…

batteryToday is National Battery Day! It seems like it’s always time to replace a battery somewhere: in your smoke alarm, your car, your laptop, your flashlight. But recycling those worn-out batteries can get confusing.  How do you know which ones to recycle, and where?

The average household uses three types of batteries on a regular basis: lead-acid batteries in vehicles, and either rechargeable or single-use batteries in electronic devices.

The easiest time to recycle a lead-acid battery is when you take your vehicle in for a battery replacement. Lead-acid batteries are banned from landfill disposal in both Kansas and Missouri, and both states require all businesses that sell new batteries to recycle used ones.  Even if you replace the battery yourself, you can recycle the old one at your local automotive service center. Most accept them for free.

Call2Recycle, Inc. is a nonprofit, public service organization that provides responsible recycling for rechargeable batteries, such as the ones used in laptops or cameras. Call2Recycle collects and recycles rechargeable batteries for free at many office supply stores and electronics retailers. The organization also offers collection box and bulk shipping options to public and private entities.

All lead-acid and rechargeable batteries can also be recycled at your community HHW facility.

Single-use batteries — such as alkaline and button batteries — can be recycled at the Kansas City, Mo., Household Hazardous Waste Facility, which serves residents of communities that participate in the regional HHW program. If you live in a Missouri community that doesn’t currently participate, contact your city council or county commission and ask them to join the regional program. If you live in Leavenworth, Wyandotte, Johnson or Miami counties in Kansas, check with your county HHW facility to find out about recycling single-use batteries.

In addition to recycling, you can take steps to reduce battery waste. Check to see if you already have batteries on hand before buying more and try to purchase electronics that function without batteries. When it is necessary to buy batteries, consider rechargeable batteries, which have a longer life span.

For more information on battery recycling locations, visit RecycleSpot.org.

Photo credit: scalespeeder on flickr

It’s your home, make it safe: a (very) short history of the HHW program

HHW-logo-w.tagline-horiz-300x155In 1993, planners in Kansas City, Mo., began to study ways to safely collect and dispose of household hazardous waste (HHW). Two years later, on a June weekend in 1995, nearly 4,300 people waited in long lines to properly dispose of their HHW in the area’s first mobile HHW collection event. This event, hosted by the city of Kansas City and sponsored in part by the MARC Solid Waste Management District (SWMD), demonstrated residents’ concerns about hazardous materials stored in their homes and their commitment to the safe and proper disposal of HHW.

One-third of the people who participated in that first HHW collection event in 1995 were people who lived outside the city limits of Kansas City, which highlighted the need for a regional program. The opening of the Kansas City HHW collection facility in September 1996, as part of the city’s environmental campus, offered the SWMD an opportunity to design a regional collection program. The district formally created the Regional HHW Collection Program in 1997 and offered 18 mobile collection events that year.

In the spring of 1997, the city of Lee’s Summit built the region’s second HHW facility, using funds from the district’s grant program. This facility is located at the Lee’s Summit Resource Recovery Park.

Today, the Regional HHW Collection Program provides residents of participating communities with access to both of the permanent HHW facilities and several mobile collection events held in outlying communities each year. The program is funded by a per capita fee paid annually by each participating city or county. To ensure the success of the program, the district provides grant funds to help meet unanticipated disposal costs and support education and promotional efforts.

Since the program started, more than 6 million pounds of HHW have been collected and safely disposed. More than 90 percent of the HHW material collected is recycled, reused or recovered through waste-to-energy methods.

Visit RecycleSpot.org to learn more about HHW, including facility hours and locations, participating communities, this year’s mobile collection schedule, and materials accepted.