Household Hazardous Waste

It’s Hazardous, and It’s in Your House

Household hazardous waste (HHW) is hazardous material that has already been used or can no longer be used. If not disposed of properly, it can pose a threat to human health and the environment. The average U.S. household generates about 30 pounds of household hazardous waste per year. The United States generates about 1.6 million tons each year.

Household maintenance products like paint, thinners and glues make up more than a third of the HHW in daily garbage. Anything from household cleaners and batteries to personal care products like nail polish, polish remover and hair spray make up the other two-thirds. Vehicle care requires grease and oil, which are hazardous products and gardener use pesticides and fertilizers. Keeping pets pest-free requires hazardous chemicals. Lighter fluid you used to start your grill is hazardous. Pool chemicals and pharmaceuticals take us from the backyard to the medicine chest.

Learning about household hazardous wastes, reducing the amount used and using non-hazardous alternates are steps you can take to reduce the waste put in local landfills.

Reduce, Reuse and Recycle!

Household hazardous waste can be reused and recycled if it is brought to a household hazardous waste (HHW) collection center. Many counties in North Carolina have permanent HHW collection centers. Check the list to find one near you. Temporary HHW collection sites consolidate wastes for reuse, such as donating paint to Habitat for Humanity or by using hazardous wastes as a fuel. Many HHW collection centers also accept used oil and so do many auto parts retailers.

Safe Management of Household Hazardous Waste

List of Temporary Household Hazardous Waste Collection Events

List of Permanent Household Hazardous Waste Collection Facilities

How to Apply for a Temporary Household Hazardous Waste Permit

Counties, cities, school districts and other groups can apply for a temporary permit to collect household hazardous waste in their communities. The permits are free.

  1. Contact a company that collects, packages, transports and disposes of hazardous waste.
  2. Set a date and time for your event.
  3. Fill out and send in the event application below.

Questions? Contact or 919-280-4814

Reduce the amount of hazardous waste you generate. 

  • Read cleaner and chemical labels carefully before you buy to make sure that the product is appropriate for the job.
  • Buy an amount that you think you may use completely so as not to have any left over.
  • You can also use less hazardous alternatives. Baking soda and water make a great mild abrasive cleanser.
  • Windows can be cleaned with a vinegar and water mix and then wiped dry with old newspapers.
  • Most cleaning jobs can be done using liquid soap and borax (found in the detergent aisle). For more ideas on how to reduce the amount of HHW you create, check the chart below.

Common Household Hazardous Waste With Disposal Information and Alternatives

Substance Problem Disposal Alternatives
Rodent bait Lethal Use up or bring to HHW collection site Cats, traps
Insect repellent Poisonous Use up or bring to HHW collection site Screens, marigolds, rosemary, garlic
Herbicides, insecticides, fungicides Poisonous Use up or bring to HHW collection site Hand pick or hose, pyrethrins, ladybugs
Drain cleaner Corrosive Wash down with lots of water or bring to HHW collection site Baking soda, vinegar, and boiling water
Oven cleaners Corrosive Use up or bring to HHW collection site Salt and ammonia overnight
Toilet cleaner Poisonous Wash down with water Mild detergent and bleach
Spot remover Poisonous Use up or bring to HHW collection site Cold water and detergent, alcohol
Silver polish Poisonous Use up or bring to HHW collection site Water, baking soda, salt and aluminum foil.  Toothpaste
Furniture polish Poisonous Use up or bring to HHW collection site Lemon oil and mineral oil
Dyes Poisonous Use up or bring to HHW collection site Vegetable dyes like onion, teas, marigolds
Paint Flammable Allow to air dry, mix with litter Latex, buy only what you need
Air freshener Numb nasal tissue Wrap in plastic Potpourri
Brass and copper cleaner Poisonous Use up or bring to HHW collection site Lemon juice and salt
Antifreeze Poisonous Use up or bring to HHW collection site None
Oil and oil filters Poisonous Use up or bring to HHW collection site Drain oil filters
Smoke detectors Radiation Bring to HHW collection site or contact recycle/disposal company None


Additional information can also be obtained from the Household Hazardous Waste Council of the Carolina Recycling Association at (877) 972-0007.