Many common products that we use in our daily lives contain potentially hazardous materials and require special care when disposed of. It is illegal to dispose of hazardous waste in the garbage, down storm drains, or onto the ground. Chemicals in illegally or improperly disposed hazardous waste can be released into the environment and contaminate our air, water, and possibly the food we eat. And by throwing hazardous waste in the garbage, you can cause additional hazards to your garbage handler.
Regulations to protect public health and the environment have been changing. This is because we now know that some common items that have traditionally been thrown in your household’s or small business’ trash cannot be safely disposed in landfills (see Wastes Banned From the Trash for more). Some of these common items are referred to as hazardous waste, such as paint, electronic devices (e-waste), and motor oil. Other household hazardous waste (HHW) items are in a subcategory called “universal waste” (e.g., batteries, CFLs, and mercury-containing thermostats). All universal waste items were banned from the trash as of February 9, 2006. As of January 1, 2020, the exemption for treated wood waste has expired and all hazardous treated wood waste managed in California will have to be stored and manifested as hazardous waste and transported to class I hazardous waste landfills for disposal.
Major goals of CalRecycle in this area include:
- Provide the public with convenient collection locations for household hazardous waste.
- Encourage efforts to use recyclable materials in products and design products to facilitate their recyclability.
- Encourage producers to assume responsibility for “cradle-to-cradle” stewardship of their products and materials.
You may be interested in these sources of information for managing HHW:
- Earth 911. Allows the public to search by ZIP code to find convenient recycling locations for various material types.
- Annual Report. Each jurisdiction in California completes an annual report providing data on the amount of household hazardous waste (HHW) collected by local programs and the methods for managing these waste streams.
- Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC). Regulates the generation, treatment, storage, transportation, and disposal of hazardous waste. Contact DTSC for more information.
- Waste management webpages of county agencies