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How do I safely dispose of household hazardous waste?
Homeowners use up to ten times more hazardous chemicals per acre than farmers do. Recommendations for proper disposal of these chemicals depends on the type of waste, and the waste disposal options in your community. Here are some general guidelines:
1. Use it up. Make sure you finish one bottle or can before opening another. And try not to buy any more than you intend to use.
2. Throw it in the trash. Check with your waste hauler first to see what their company will or will not accept. Many accept empty aerosol cans, auto body repair products, fertilizer without pesticides and empty, triple-rinsed pesticide containers. If solidified, the following may also be acceptable -- paints, thinners, adhesives and epoxies, solvent-based polishes and cleaners, and nail polish.
3. Flush it down the toilet. This is recommended IF you are part of a municipal sanitary sewer system and WHEN the hazardous waste has been neutralized with plenty of water. Make sure you never pour undiluted chemicals into the drain, especially not a basement or storm sewer drain, as these lead directly into waterways. Some hazardous wastes that can be flushed down the drain include -- aftershave and perfume, ammonia, anti-freeze, bleach, disinfectants, drain opener and rug shampoo.
4. Take it to a hazardous waste facility. The following products should only be disposed of by a professional waste handler -- automotive paint, brake fluid, engine degreaser, epoxies and adhesives, flea powder, gasoline, herbicides and insecticides, mothballs, oil-based paints, paint stripper, photographic chemicals, polishes containing nitrobenzene and wood preservatives. At the present time there are no permanent household hazardous waste collection facilities in the St. Louis area. Contact the St. Louis City Refuse Division at 353-8877 or the St. Louis County Health Department at 854-6957 for information about special collection days.
5. Most importantly perhaps, you can reduce your use of hazardous chemicals in the home. When shopping, look for the least toxic products. Use water-based products whenever possible, including paints, and buy only as much as you need to do the job at hand.