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What is HHW?

What is HHW?

There are a lot of products that we use every day around our homes, such as batteries, household cleaners, cosmetics and medications, that need to be disposed of in a special way. These items are classified as "household hazardous waste" (HHW), and should never be discarded in a sink, storm drain or in your household trash -- instead the items should be taken to a household hazardous waste collection center. Hypodermic needles, syringes, lancets or other "sharps" that might be used at home for certain medical conditions can be harmful, too, if thrown in the trash - safely dispose of these sharps by following safe disposal instructions.

We can't simply throw HHW away because if these items were buried in a landfill, they could potentially contaminate our groundwater with harmful ingredients. The same goes for dumping them in the storm drains or sewers - storm drains go directly to the ocean, leading to contamination of our coastal waters, and our sewer systems contain beneficial bacteria that treats our sewage, which some of the household wastes could kill.

There are several options available for safely disposing of the following materials, considered HHW or universal waste:

  • Automotive products (antifreeze, fluids, motor oil*)
  • Batteries (home and car)
  • Cathode ray tubes (TVs, computer monitors**)
  • Cosmetics
  • Fluorescent light tubes and ballasts
  • Fuels
  • Herbicides
  • Hobby supplies (glue, paint)
  • Household cleaners
  • Medicines
  • Mercury (thermometers, thermostats)
  • Paint products
  • Paints (latex and oil)
  • Personal care products
  • Pesticides
  • Polishes and waxes
  • Pool and spa chemicals
  • Propane tanks from barbecues
  • Unused road flares
  • Wood preservatives

Further precautions must be taken to handle materials such as ammunition, explosives, biological or medical waste, asbestos, radioactive waste, business-generated waste and compressed gas cylinders - should you require the disposal of these types of materials, please consult with a hazardous waste disposal company, or check the telephone directory under "Waste Disposal - Hazardous."

* It is important to properly dispose of used motor oil to ensure it stays out of our storm drains and the ocean. Next time you change your oil, be sure to follow these steps:

  • Remove the oil filter from your car and drain it well for at least 24 hours - once it is drained, place it in a plastic bag.
  • Drain the oil from your car into a plastic container.
  • Secure the top on the container to ensure against spillage.
  • One the items are secure, transport them to a certified used oil recycling center.

There are a number of options for proper and safe disposal of used motor oil and filters:

  • Many auto or tire supply stores or service centers will accept used motor oil and filters. The Integrated Waste Management Board offers a list searchable by zip code to locate a recycler near you. Call in advance to make sure they will take the items and to verify store hours.
  • Some local cities have a door-to-door household hazardous waste, electronic waste and universal waste collection program. Check to see if your city has a door-to-door program.
  • Take the used oil along with other household hazardous waste to your local HHW center. Check to see if the site requires an appointment or proof of residency to drop off your material.

Additional information may be found at the Earth 911 Web site or by calling 1(800) CLEANUP (1-800-253-2687).

For other resources on reusing and recycling electronic products, visit or