Household Hazardous Wastes (HHW) are wastes produced in our households that are hazardous in nature, but are not regulated as hazardous waste under federal and state laws. Each person in Pennsylvania produces an average of four pounds of HHW each year for a total of about 25,000 tons/yr. statewide. If carelessly managed, these consumer waste products can create environmental and public health hazards.
HHW is that portion of a household product that is no longer usable, leftover, or unwanted and has to be disposed of. You can tell if a product is hazardous if it has words like CAUTION, WARNING, POISON, or FLAMMABLE on the label.
HHW generally falls into six categories:
Cleaning Products: aerosols, bathroom cleaners, drain cleaners, chlorine bleach, solvents, spot removers, toilet cleaners, oven cleaners, rug and floor cleaners, furniture polish
Auto Maintenance: car waxes, starting fluids, solvent cleaners, antifreeze, repair products, batteries, brake fluid, motor oil, gasoline
Home Environment and Improvement Supplies: oil based stains and paints, caulking, varnish, paint thinners, chemical strippers, fire extinguishers, flea collars and sprays, insect repellents, insecticides, kerosene, lighter fluid, lye, mothballs, pool chemicals. Contrary to popular belief, dried latex paint is not a hazardous waste material
Hobby Products: glues, paints, stains, finishes, contact cement, photographic chemicals
Personal Care and Pharmaceuticals: nail polish and remover, hair color, prescription drugs, mercury thermometers
Lawn and Garden Care: weed and pest killers, herbicides, fungicides, and other lawn chemicals
Materials found in some homes are not common at all and may be very old, unlabeled, no longer manufactured, illegal to possess or use, or intended primarily for use by business and industry. These unusual materials warrant extra care in handling and disposal. To learn more, please refer to our literature section
The best method of managing HHW is to prevent its generation in the first place. This involves selecting the least toxic item "to do the job" and buying the minimum amounts necessary.
Buying in large quantities is not a bargain if half of it ultimately needs to be discarded. If the material is still usable (e.g., undamaged, still within designated shelf life), check with friends and neighbors to see if they could use it. You can also check with community groups such as Little League, Habitat for Humanity, etc. to see if they can use the product.
Disposal of HHW
If you have HHW that is unusable and must be disposed of, please take advantage of the resources below:
Most HHW items listed above: PRC household chemical collections
Refer to our "Recycling & Disposal Resource Guide” for information on how to recycle or dispose of items we cannot accept and additional options if you can’t make it to a PRC household chemical collection.