A co-worker of mine recently asked me how to dispose of an old container of perchloroethylene that had been collecting dust in his garage. My co-worker was responsible enough to properly dispose of this household hazardous waste unlike one thoughtless individual in California faced with a similar dilemma.
Recently the Oakland Fire Department responded to an odor complaint and found 120 gallons of paint, thinners and other hazardous substances thrown in two pits, each about 5 feet wide, 8 feet long and 1 foot deep in the personís backyard. The person disposing of these chemicals in his backyard does raise a valid question: “How do I properly dispose of hazardous chemicals?”
First it is important to know that many of the wonderful products we commonly use in our homes like paints, solvents, oils, pesticides, compact fluorescent lamps, TVís and batteries contain hazardous substances that can pollute the environment. These items, and many others, become “household hazardous waste” when they are ready for disposal (the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency maintains a general list of affected products at http://www.epa.gov/garbage/hhw-list.htm).
Household hazardous wastes have special disposal requirements and should never be thrown away in the regular trash. Specific disposal requirements will vary from region to region and will require some active investigation on your part.
Fortunately you can find this information on the Internet. In my co-workerís situation, I was able to direct him to a household hazardous waste collection facility near his home in a matter of minutes.
As you are researching the proper disposal method for your household hazardous waste, keep two words in mind: eliminate and substitute. Try to eliminate the use of products that are hazardous to the environment, and if you must purchase a particular product, buy a product that is less hazardous and toxic to the environment and people.
And by the way, Oakland and everywhere else on the planet does not allow burying hazardous waste in the backyard.