What Is Hazardous Waste?

By Benjamin Forcier

Hazardous waste is dfined by the EPA as waste with properties that make it dangerous or capable of having a harmful effect on human health or the environment. Hazardous waste can take many forms and is produced from an array of sources. Knowing what constitutes hazardous waste and how to dispose of different types can help us limit the environmental impact of harmful effects brought on by improper disposal. The EPA uses 4 characteristics to categorize hazardous wastes meaning waste is deemed hazardous when it has:

  • Ignitability, or something flammable
  • Corrosivity, or something that can rust or decompmose
  • Reactivity, or something explosive
  • Toxicity, or something poisonous

Now one might think that this doesn’t apply to them – maybe it seems like this is something industries should worry about – but there are plenty of sources for hazardous waste in the average household. Below are some of the more common examples that could be found in one’s home:

Stains, varnishes, & paint Moth balls
Wood & metal polish Cooking oil/ grease
Drain cleaners Fire extinguishers
Glass cleaners Chlorine bleach
Batteries Kerosene/ lighter fluid
Automotive fluids Nail Polish remover
Pesticides & herbicides Paint
Rug deodorizer Perscription drugs

If you are disposing of any of these items or other materials you’re unsure about, be sure to check the instructions on the product label for how to properly dispose of them. If you’re still unsure, or wish to learn more about the hazardous waste in your home, feel free to visit the EPA web page on household hazardous waste