Protecting Public Health and the Environment.

Idaho Environmental Guide for Local Governments: Household Hazardous Waste

Leftover household products that contain corrosive, toxic, ignitable, or reactive ingredients are considered household hazardous waste (HHW). Products such as paints, cleaners, oils, batteries, mercury thermometers, electronics, and pesticides that contain potentially hazardous ingredients require special care when disposed of.

Why Communities Should Care

Improper disposal methods of household hazardous wastes, such as putting out with trash or pouring down the drain, on the ground, or into storm sewers, can pollute the environment and pose a threat to human health.

Currently, through exemptions in federal and state regulations, households may dispose of HHW in permitted municipal solid waste landfills and permitted publically owned wastewater treatment facilities. Therefore, HHW is often thrown away rather than recycled, reused, or safely treated. If it is not thrown away, it can be improperly stored and put households at risk for spills or accidents. For example, mercury thermometers or other mercury-containing instruments can easily break and become hazardous if not cleaned up properly. To divert HHW from these facilities, DEQ encourages best management practices such as reuse, recycling, and HHW collection if possible. With an outlet to dispose of HHW, households and public agencies can avoid the health and financial costs of a preventable spill.

What Communities Can Do

With the following efforts, cities and counties can encourage safe disposal of household hazardous waste:

  • Provide a HHW collection program to assist households and conditionally exempt small quantity generators (CESGQs) in diverting such waste from the landfill or sewer. These programs also discourage illegal dumping.
  • HHW programs can vary depending on the resources available to the city or county. Some collection options include permanent collection or exchange programs, special collection days, and local business collection sites. If the community has neither a permanent collection site nor a special collection day, local businesses may accept certain products for recycling or proper disposal.
  • Encourage citizens and businesses to use environmentally preferable purchasing practices. As consumers of hazardous products, cities and counties can institute environmentally preferable purchasing policies to look for safer alternatives when purchasing potentially hazardous products. If potentially hazardous products must be purchased, buy only the amount needed to avoid storing excess.
  • Contact DEQ's Pollution Prevention Projects Coordinator, Ben Jarvis, at (208) 373-0146 or for an HHW resource CD with sample advertising and education material, contracts and RFPs, surveys, volunteer and sponsorship forms, and organizational material that can be easily modified and used for a program or event.