A household product that contains hazardous substances becomes Household Hazardous Waste (HHW) once the consumer no longer has a use for it and disposes of it. Hazardous waste from households is not regulated as hazardous waste under federal and Indiana laws, but it is regulated as a solid waste. HHW includes such items as old paint and paint related products, pesticides, pool chemicals, drain cleaners, and degreasers and other car care products. Such consumer waste products, if carelessly managed, can create significant environmental and public health hazards. Therefore, careful management of the disposal of HHW is important for all Indiana residents.
Improper disposal of HHW can include pouring them down the drain, on the ground, into storm sewers, or in some cases putting them out with the regular trash. The Indiana Household Hazardous Waste Task Force is an excellent resource for discovering cooperative efforts among public and private entities emphasizing education, and the proper handling and disposal of environmentally harmful materials.
What Do I Do With My Household Hazardous Wastes?
In Indiana, communities or solid waste management districts provide household hazardous waste services. For information, about local solid waste management district or community household hazardous waste programs, the Association of Solid Waste Management District’s directory provides information about local solid waste management district or community household hazardous waste programs.
Finding Your Local Solid Waste Management District
The Association of Indiana Solid Waste Management Districts (AISWMD) has developed several resources to assist those trying to find their local district.
- AISWMD Find Your District Tool:
- This page provides a search tool, allowing users to search by the district name, included county or counties, or contact name. Users are then directed to a page with contact information for the district.
- Marion County Residents (Toxdrop):
- Since Marion County does not have a Solid Waste Management District, residents should visit the city of Indianapolis Public Works website to obtain information about the responsible disposal of HHW in Marion County and the Indianapolis area.
- Indiana Solid Waste Management District Map:
- This map shows Indiana’s single and multi-county solid waste management districts by county.
For more information about household hazardous waste management:
- What makes a household product hazardous?
- Laws, regulations, and policies that affect household hazardous waste
- Managing household hazardous waste
- Safe storage and use of hazardous household products
- Proper disposal of Motor oil, oil filters and antifreeze
- IDEM Compact Fluorescent Light (CFL) Fact Sheet (available on the IDEM Fact Sheets page)
- Stop! Think Before Pouring Anything Down the Sink [PDF]
Household Products Containing Hazardous Substances
Many common household products have hazardous properties. Look for the words Danger, Warning or Caution on the product label. They are used in cleaning, home improvement projects, automobile maintenance, lawn and garden care, and a variety of other tasks. In order to protect our health and the environment, we must know how to properly use, store and dispose of these products.
Mercury Containing Products
Mercury is a naturally occurring element. It is a metal and conducts electricity. Liquid at room temperature, it combines easily with other metals and expands and contracts evenly with temperature changes. Because of these properties, mercury has been used in many household, medical and industrial products. Improper mercury disposal includes pouring it down drains, putting it in the trash and burning it in barrels and incinerators.
Gasoline is one of the most dangerous substances found around the home. It is highly flammable and extremely toxic. Never pour gasoline down the drain, on the ground, or in the trash. Improper disposal of gasoline is a health and safety hazard, and threatens the environment. As gasoline ages, it tends to lose some of its desired ignition properties. Old gasoline used at full strength may account for sluggish behavior or temporary failure of an engine. Gasoline stored for long periods may become contaminated with dust particles, dirt, or water. It may also undergo a minor chemical change becoming "gummed up" or forming "varnish." Unusable gasoline should be taken to a household hazardous waste collection program for proper disposal.
Used Motor Oil, Antifreeze and Oil Filters
Used motor oil, antifreeze and oil filters can be recycled. Many oil change or automotive service centers will accept used motor oil for recycling. Recycling used motor oil, oil filters and antifreeze helps protect the environment. Household hazardous waste collection programs and recycling collection sites also accept used oil, oil filters and antifreeze from the public. For disposal information for your area, contact your local solid waste management district or community program.
Spent lead acid (automotive) batteries can be returned to sellers. In Indiana, dealers are required to take old batteries when new ones are purchased. Spent lead acid batteries may not be discarded in landfills. However, they are frequently generated by households and are also frequently included in HHW collection programs.
Electronics Recycling, Computer and Television Monitors
Electronic discards includes computers, monitors, televisions, audio equipment, printers, and other home electronic devices. Electronic equipment contains metals that, if not properly managed or contained, can become hazardous wastes. Cadmium - The largest source of cadmium in municipal waste is rechargeable nickel-cadmium (NiCd) batteries. Lead - Monitors and televisions contain a picture tube known as a cathode ray tube (CRT). The CRTs contain leaded glass, and are the largest source of lead in municipal waste. Mercury - Some electronic equipment also contains recoverable quantities of mercury.
Old Paint, Stains and Varnish
Paint and paint-related products can be harmful to the environment if they are disposed of improperly. Paint products should never be poured down the drain or put in the trash, unless the paint is completely dry. Good useable paint should be used up, given to theater or community groups or recycled though a paint exchange program. Check with your local HHW Program to find out if there is a paint exchange program in your area, or for other disposal options. If there is not a reuse or disposal program in your area, simply letting the paint to dry out will allow the paint to be disposed of with your regular garbage. This can be sped up with the addition of a cheap clay cat liter or other bulking agent.
Pesticides are chemicals used to prevent, destroy, or repel pests. Pests can be insects, mice and other animals, weeds, fungi, or microorganisms such as bacteria and viruses. Some examples of pests are termites causing damage to our homes, dandelions in the lawn, and fleas on our dogs and cats. Pesticides also are used to kill organisms that can cause diseases. Most pesticides contain chemicals that can be harmful to people, animals, or the environment. Use of pesticides should be kept to a minimum. Left over pesticides should be used up or taken to a HHW Program for proper disposal. Use Integrated Pest Management to reduce/eliminate pesticide use.
For Additional Information
- For questions on specific disposal issues, contact IDEM’s Office of Program Support.
- U.S. EPA: Household Hazardous Waste
- Tox Town: An Interactive Guide to Commonly Encountered Toxic Substances
- How Do I Dispose of Unwanted Medicines?
- Where to Recycle