Household Hazardous Waste: A Guide for Texans
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 leftover or used household products contain chemicals that can present safety concerns if managed improperly. These products are often called household hazardous waste (HHW) and can include items like:
- Corrosive cleaners (such as drain cleaner and lye-based oven cleaner)
- Fluorescent light bulbs (including CFLs)
- Fuels (gasoline, propane, diesel)
- Paints (oil-based or some anti-mildew latex)
- Pool chlorine and acid
- Wood stains or varnishes
If generated by a household, these materials are not required to be handled as hazardous waste and can often be placed in your regular trash. However, residents often seek to dispose of their HHW in a more protective manner.
Visit the Texas Poison Control Network's website for more safety information on materials in and around the house.
Many programs that collect HHW will also accept other common household materials that are nonhazardous, but can be recycled or offered to others in the community for reuse. These include new or used:
- 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 are generally nonhazardous or are regulated under other programs. The TCEQ does not, therefore, 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 .
What do I do with my HHW?
Many communities in Texas either have HHW drop-off facilities or hold HHW collection events for their residents. The TCEQ maintains a list of ongoing programs and individually scheduled events 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 it in your vehicle and it is not leaking – this can be dangerous 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 people in Texas have options for disposing of HHW and other materials through local programs, remember that you can decrease the HHW in your own home by using 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. Pass on your unexpired chemicals or paint in good condition to friends, relatives, or neighbors who can use them! Doing this will save time and money for yourself and others.
What can I do with...?
Compact Fluorescent Lightbulbs (CFLs): 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. Recycling 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): If stored properly, partially used paint can last for years! Consider using leftover paint on future projects or for touchup later on. Increase the life of your leftover paint by doing the following:
- Cover the opening with plastic wrap.
- Put the lid over the plastic wrap and make sure it is on securely.
- 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: Please see our publication Disposing of Syringes from Households: Do’s and Don’ts (GI-418) for 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)