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Household Hazardous Waste
Special Wastes

Appliances (white goods) --- Propane Cylinders --- Electronics --- Mercury added products --- Smoke Detectors --- Pharmaceuticals

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On a fall Sunday afternoon, many Americans will turn on their televisions to watch the football game. Often times they will reach into the refrigerator or freezer, than fire up the gas grill for a quick and easy meal.

After the game and before going to bed they might turn down the thermostat to avoid excess heating costs. All of these actions involve products, which when disposed of, are classified under the category of special wastes.

This category of special wastes includes consumer electronics, propane tanks, white goods, mercury-added products, and smoke detectors. These products can be hazardous to human health and the environment if they are not disposed of properly.


The main hazardous component inside televisions and computers is the cathode ray tube (CRT). According to the Electronics Industries Alliance, from 1995 to 2000, the average CRT contained approximately 4 to 8 pounds of lead in the glass. Lead can cause nerve damage and developmental problems to humans, particularly young children and fetuses. In addition, TV’s and computers contain cadmium, hexavalent chromium and other potential heavy metal carcinogens and toxins.

In refrigerators, the main hazardous components are the CFC gases that are used to cool the refrigerators. These can cause damage to the ozone layer if they are leaked into the atmosphere, when the refrigerator is recycled.

Propane cylinders are hazardous because they contain pressurized gas, making them explosive and very dangerous to waste handlers. Many of the older tanks have become obsolete due to the requirement of a mandatory overfill valve on all refillable tanks after April 1, 2002.

Some thermostats contain the hazardous metal mercury. Mercury is used in many products because it is a liquid at room temperature and conducts electricity. Mercury is toxic and bioaccumulates in humans and the environment.

Some smoke detectors contain low-level radioactive material, which can be toxic to humans and the environment.



  • Whenever possible try to buy environmentally friendly products (i.e. mercury free thermostats or energy efficient appliances).
  • Donate useable products to a friend or charity that may be able to use them.
  • Take used electronics to a recycling center or a business that refurbishes and resells.
  • Do not dispose of these products with the regular trash. Bring to a recycling center or local household hazardous waste collection center.
  • Bring discarded mercury thermostats to a participating plumbing, heating and electrical wholesaler.
  • Send radioactive smoke detectors back to the manufacturer for proper disposal.

Where to take HHW:


Towns and solid waste districts hold hazardous waste collection events every year, two per year at minimum (spring and fall) and many common household hazardous wastes can be disposed of at these events. For more information and event scheduling, contact your solid waste district. Find contact information on the solid waste district contact list page. (Note: If you live in a village, fire district, etc., please select the town your village, fire district, etc. is in from the list. If your town is not a member of a district, contact information for your town clerk is provided.)

Solid Waste Management Districts contact list




VT DEC Waste Management & Prevention Division 1 National Life Drive - Davis 1  Montpelier, VT  05620-3704  Tele: 802-828-1138   Fax: 802-828-1011

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