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Household Hazardous Waste: A Guide for Texans

Information for individuals about the household hazardous waste (HHW) program: what is HHW, what can you do with it, and who can accept it?

To find collection opportunities in your area, check the HHW Collection Programs document or visit the HHW Program Contacts page.

Local governments and entities that operate or are interested in hosting an HHW collection should refer to the Household Hazardous Waste Program Assistance page for more information.

What is household hazardous waste?

Some consumer products contain chemicals that can present safety concerns if used or disposed of improperly. These materials are often called household hazardous wastes (HHW) and can include items like:

  • Corrosive cleaners (such as lye-based oven cleaner)
  • Drain cleaner
  • Fluorescent light bulbs (including CFLs)
  • Fuels (gasoline, propane, diesel)
  • Paints (oil-based or some anti-mildew latex)
  • Pesticides
  • Pool chlorine and acid
  • Wood stains or varnishes

These materials, if generated by a household, are not required to be disposed of as hazardous waste, and many can be placed in your regular trash. However, residents often seek to dispose of their HHW in a more protective manner.

Many programs that collect HHW will also accept other common household material that is nonhazardous, but can be recycled or offered to others in the community for reuse. These may include new or used:

  • antifreeze
  • motor oil or oil filters
  • nonhazardous latex paint

What are BOPA collections?

Collections of any combination of Batteries, used Oil, latex Paint, or Antifreeze are exempt from the requirements of our TCEQ HHW program because these materials generally do not present substantial hazards in the collection. The TCEQ would therefore not maintain a list of such collections. To find a site that may accept any combination of BOPA items, check with your local city or www.cleanup.org Exit Site.

What do I do with my HHW?

Many towns and cities in Texas have designated facilities where residents can drop off their items and others may hold monthly or seasonal collection events. The TCEQ maintains a list of both facilities and programs that are ongoing as well as individually scheduled events that is posted on our HHW Program Contacts page.

To protect both yourself and the workers who accept your HHW at a collection site, follow some basic guidelines and tips for storage, transportation, and care of your material:

  • Keep products in their original container and make sure labels are readable. This ensures you know which products you have and so do the workers who accept and sort your HHW.
  • Store and transport your chemicals upright, not on their sides. Make sure if you are taking HHW to a facility or event, that you have secured them in your vehicle and they are not leaking  this can be dangerous for the workers and you if leaking containers of incompatible chemicals mix.
  • NEVER mix products together. This can be dangerous, even deadly.
  • Keep chemicals in a cool, dry place out of reach of children and pets.

Managing HHW in your Home

While many individuals in Texas have options for disposing of HHW and other materials through local programs, remember, you can decrease the HHW you keep in your own home by considering some simple guidelines:

REDUCE the amount of HHW you keep in your house by buying only what you need to do the job. Buying chemicals in bulk may not be saving you money if you do not use all of it. This will also help you avoid a cluttered cabinet of chemicals that you will one day have to get rid of.

For painting projects, know the size of your area and use an online paint calculator to determine how many gallons you should buy.

Think REUSE. If you know a friend, relative, or neighbor who can use unexpired chemicals or paint in good condition with, pass it on! You will save yourself and other in expense and convenience.

What can I do with...?

Compact Fluorescent Lightbulbs (CFLs): A CFL lasts longer and uses about 75 percent less energy than an incandescent lightbulb. Like other fluorescent lightbulbs, CFLs (including green tip) contain some amount of mercury, though it is a small amount and not released when the bulb is intact or in use. If you have a CFL that breaks, the EPA offers information on cleaning up the broken bulb. Exit SiteRecycling is the best option for CFLs. Check to see if an HHW program in your area accepts CFLs or check www.cleanup.org for other locations for drop-off.

Businesses looking to properly dispose of fluorescent lamps can find out more from the TCEQ guide about complying with laws when disposing of lamps and other equipment containing mercury.

Empty bottles (cleaners): Empty plastic containers that held cleaners or chemicals can be recycled as other similar plastics. Before recycling, first triple rinse your empty container.

Paint (partially full or usable): Partially used paint can last for years if stored properly! Consider using leftover paint on future projects or for touchup later on. Increase the life of your leftover paint by doing the following:

  1. Cover the opening with plastic wrap.
  2. Put the lid over the plastic wrap and make sure it is on securely.
  3. Turn the can upside down. The paint creates a seal around the secure lid, keeping it fresh until you need it again.

Paint (empty or mostly empty): If your can is less than 1/4 full, remove the lid and place the can in a well-ventilated area. The paint will dry in a few days. Once dry, the can may be thrown in your trash.

Syringes: For people who have to do self-injections for medical reasons, the TCEQ offers a publication (GI-418) with basic information on safe disposal of the needles after use.  

For resources on other materials including Batteries, Pharmaceuticals, and Used Electronics see our publication What Do I Do With it Now? A Quick Guide to Recycling Resources (GI-288)