household-hazardous-waste0What makes waste hazardous?  Not all hazardous waste is generated at an industrial plant.  In fact, many of us generate household hazardous waste on a regular basis.  According to the EPA “leftover household products that contain corrosive, toxic, ignitable or reactive ingredients are considered to be household hazardous waste (HHW). Products, such as paints, cleaners, oils, batteries and pesticides that contain potentially hazardous ingredients require special care when you dispose of them.”  Also considered HHW are automotive products (oil, antifreeze, batteries, etc.), medicines, cosmetics and items such as photo developing chemicals, adhesives and art supplies.  Improper disposal of such products can have dire consequences not only for the environment but it could also pose a threat to human health (EPA).

We recommend conserving the amount of the aforementioned products as much as possible. Your impacts on the environment will be less, but also the health risk to your family and pets.  There are a surprising number of non-hazardous and natural alternatives you can utilize that are not only effective but also environmentally friendly.  Recyclespot.org highlights a few basic ingredients that can be used as substitutes to hazardous chemicals:  baking soda, vinegar, borax and lemons.

  • “Baking Soda can be used as a mild abrasive cleaner and is an alternative to silica-based scouring products” recyclespot.org
  • “Vinegar is used as an all-purpose cleaner, hard surface cleaner, and glass cleaner. It is an alternative to ammonia-based cleaners and other corrosive products” recyclespot.org
  • “Borax is a naturally occurring mineral found in boron-rich areas in the Western United States and is an alternative to chlorine or silica-based scouring products” recyclespot.org
  • “Lemons are highly acidic, which makes them a strong cleaning agent. Additionally, they provide a refreshing and clean scent” recyclespot.org

Garrett County’s Solid Waste and Recycling website provides a useful list of alternatives to household hazardous waste.  For example, instead of drain cleaner you can mix “1 cup of baking soda, 1 cup of salt and 1 cup of white vinegar together and pour it down the drain, wait 15 minutes and then flush with boiling water”.  Voila!  An unclogged drain and no chemicals were necessary.

Here are a few more substitutes…

  1. Vinegar and water work beautifully together for spotless windows.
  2. Your oven can be cleaned with simply baking soda and water, your toilet with vinegar baking soda and a scrub brush.
  3. Ants do not like chili powder; sprinkle some where they come into your house and they’ll never come in that way again.  What’s more, if you frequently wipe down your countertops with vinegar and water pretty soon you’ll notice there aren’t any more ants.
  4. To get rid of bugs on your plants all you need is soap and water, you can even use your old dishwater after you’ve washed the dishes; that’s reducing and reusing!
  5. Boiling salt water is a cure for weeds.
  6. You can polish your silver and gold with toothpaste (as long as it isn’t the gel kind).
  7. If you add 1 cup of vinegar or ¼ cup of baking soda to the final rinse cycle in your washing machine you will eliminate the need for fabric softener. 

The options for substituting human and eco-friendly products in the place of dangerous hazardous chemicals are endless.  If you do a quick Google search you can literally come up with hundreds of possibilities in just a few short minutes, and I am willing to bet that you have all heard about some from friends, family and neighbors.  Don’t spend unnecessary money on expensive chemicals that are harmful in countless ways to the environment and your family’s health when there are safe and cheap alternatives.

Not recycling at work?  Contact us to learn more about how Reduction In Motion is helping organizations achieve their sustainability goals.  We specialize in waste reduction and waste flow strategies for companies of all sizes.  Focused on education and driven by on-site facilitation, our processes have helped our clients achieve award-winning programs.  Don’t forget to connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.