JeffCO H20: Take the ‘Hazard’ out of Household Hazardous Waste

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The start of a new year often inspires us to get rid of clutter and organize our living space.  Sometimes we even become motivated enough to tackle what’s stacked in the garage, stuffed under the kitchen sink, or gathering dust in the pantry.  Often that includes a collection of old household products that we no longer need.  Before tossing these unwanted items into the trash, first take a look at what your collection includes.

Many products like drain openers, automotive fluids, adhesives, batteries, oil based paint, solvents, and cleaners containing bleach are considered to be household hazardous waste (HHW) because they contain corrosive, toxic, flammable, or reactive ingredients.  It is unsafe when these items are discarded with regular household trash, since some can emit harmful fumes or create a dangerous reaction if mixed with other chemicals.  And any of these products spilled on the ground can harm water quality in local creeks and streams when washed by rain into the nearest storm drain.  That’s why HHW requires special handling by a facility which accepts these items.

Some local municipalities offer opportunities for residents to drop off HHW.  If you live in an unincorporated area, the Alabama Environmental Center (AEC) website (aeconline.org/recycling) is a great resource for locating facilities which accept specific types of HHW.  One of those facilities is Mercedes Benz U.S. International (205-507-3300) in Vance which accepts HHW from the public at its Plant 2 on the third Friday of each month from 5 am – 8 am and 1 pm – 6 pm.

Certainly there are some household tasks that require specialized products for which there is no substitute.  When purchasing this type of product, try to buy just enough for the job to eliminate leftovers.  But in many cases, you can choose a less toxic approach to handle most household cleaning jobs.  Items found in your kitchen or bathroom easily can be used to make safe, inexpensive cleaners.  They are better for your family’s health and the environment, and they help reduce the need to purchase more toxic products.

There are many tips and recipes available online for making your own cleaning products.  Here are just a few:  Want to make your windows sparkle?  Mix a few tablespoons of white vinegar with water in a spray bottle, lightly spray the glass, and wipe dry with newspaper or a microfiber cloth.  Need to scrub the sink or tub?  A few sprinkles of baking soda or salt on a damp sponge should do the trick.  Add a splash of hydrogen peroxide to remove stains and mildew.  Time to disinfect the counter?  Heat 1 cup of undiluted white vinegar to 150º and carefully pour into a spray bottle. Spray the warm vinegar on the counter, let it sit for a few minutes, and wipe dry.  Got pesky streaks on the mirror?  Equal amounts of white vinegar, distilled water, and alcohol sprayed on the mirror and wiped clean with a microfiber cloth will give your reflection perfection in no time.  Fingerprints on the furniture?  A few drops of olive oil and white vinegar rubbed onto furniture with a soft cloth can make wood shine.  Want more?  A good place to start is GreenerChoices.org.

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Lyn DiClemente
Jefferson County Department of Storm Water Management
B-210 Jefferson County Courthouse Annex
716 Richard Arrington Jr. Blvd. North
Birmingham, AL  35203
205.325.8741
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