Health, Safety & Environment: Why Proper Disposal of Household Hazardous Waste Matters

posted 5/13/2015

The average home can accumulate as much as 100 pounds of household hazardous waste in the basement, garage and storage closets according to the Environmental Protection Agency. That’s 100 pounds of household chemicals with labels that say: corrosive, toxic, flammable, or Keep Out of Reach of Children, in YOUR home!

A glance around the house likely reveals a number of products that fall into the household hazardous waste (HHW) category. Items like cleaning products, batteries, lawn fertilizer, oil, varnish and even nail polish remover. And we’re guessing some products have accumulated because you just don’t know how exactly to dispose of them.

You’re absolutely right to stop before tossing them in the trash or pouring them down the drain. Because these materials contain hazardous ingredients, improper disposal poses significant health, safety and environmental risks.

Why Proper Disposal Matters

Pouring hazardous materials in the drain, flushing them down the toilet or throwing them in the trash has a negative impact on the environment, especially the water supply. Yes, the water you and your family drink, bathe in and use for recreation. Many hazardous materials can go through waste water treatment facilities untouched because they don’t breakdown in the process. These harmful chemicals are eventually released into rivers, lakes and streams.

There are also significant health and safety risks associated with improperly disposing of HHW. Dumping several products down the drain at the same time can cause chemical reactions, releasing toxic gases. Throwing hazardous waste in the garbage can pose a health risk to sanitation workers. Even your family and pets can be effected if materials leach out of the garbage cart or truck and are tracked in and around the home.

Where SHOULD Unused HHW Go?

There are several options for properly disposing of your unused household hazardous waste in Central Iowa.

  1. Metro Hazardous Waste Drop-Off - A year-round hazardous waste drop-off facility located outside of Bondurant (half mile off of I80 and Highway 65). It is open to residents for disposal of unused hazardous products free of charge up to 75 pounds. See a full is of accepted items.
  2. Drop-Off Events - Metro Waste Authority and the western suburbs partner to help residents get rid of unused hazardous products free of charge by driving through Hazardous Waste Drop-Off Events. Click here for a list of upcoming events. 
  3. House-Side HHW Collection – The cities of Clive, Johnston, Urbandale and West Des Moines partner with Metro Waste Authority to provide residents with a house-side collection option for a pay-per-use fee.

If you live outside of the Des Moines Metro, click here or contact your local solid waste agency to inquire about a drop-off event in your community.

Buy Less, Dispose of Less

Minimizing the use of household hazardous waste is one way to avoid the need to dispose of hazardous materials in the first place. Purchase smaller containers when possible to eliminate leftover, unused product. Also, read labels and intentionally choose products with natural ingredients to avoid hazardous waste.

While we may not always be able to avoid using household hazardous materials, with proper disposal we can minimize the impact on the environment and protect the health and safety of our family and community.