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HHW Products   

Household Hazardous Waste - General Information & Key Facts

Everyday, Americans clean and maintain their homes. It is during this process, that many people are exposed to hazardous chemicals without even realizing it. For example, some household cleaners that are used to kill bacteria and to remove dirt, grease, dust, and stains are toxic to humans and the environment. The products are easily purchased and commonly used around the home. As a result, their hazardous characteristics are often overlooked. They include household disinfectants, toilet bowl cleaners, and floor cleaners. In addition, projects such as painting and other major renovations use products that contain toxic chemicals or ingredients. Paints, stains, thinners and solvents may contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and heavy metals (such as lead and mercury) that are toxic to humans and the environment.  Cordless power tools contain batteries that have heavy metals such as cadmium and mercury (which are persistent and bioaccumulative toxics in the environment and in humans).

The best way to deal with HHW is to avoid using hazardous products whenever possible by choosing non-hazardous and nontoxic alternatives.  If you must deal with HHW, handle it properly with care to minimize the dangers and adverse effects on you, your home environment, and the natural environment. 


HHW Products

select the product type from the alphabetical list below for more information:

Medical Wastes

Medical waste, which includes sharps and syringes, is not classified as HHW.  However, special precautions should be taken to ensure safe handling of medical waste.

Residents with medical wastes should take the following precautions:

  • Sharps should be placed in a hard plastic, opaque container, such as a detergent bottle.
  • Containers may be placed in the regular house hold trash
  • All other medical waste, such as bandages, dressings, etc should be placed in a separate container and disposed of in the regular house hold trash.

Businesses & Institutions with medical waste need to have additional procedures. Waste generated in the medical industry consists of a wide variety of materials.  Although a vast majority is considered regular solid waste, a small percentage of the waste requires special handling and treatment prior to disposal in order to protect public health, safety, and the environment. For more information on regulated medical waste, review Vermont’s Regulated Medical Waste Procedure (PDF)

Business and institutions that need assistance may contact Deb Bordo at Debra.Bordo@state.vt.us or 802-522-5974.

Hazards of Appliances

Appliances, sometimes called 'white goods', such as refrigerators, freezers, washing machines, dryers, and ovens, typically contain many components with hazardous materials.

Refrigerators and freezers use gases in their compressors to keep food cool. These gases are mostly chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs such as Freon). CFCs are circulated in pipes throughout the appliance, where they are compressed on the back of the refrigerator and allowed to expand on the inside of the refrigerator, causing the gases to cool.

When these gases are contained within a closed system like this they pose no danger, however when they are released into the atmosphere they cause damage to the ozone layer. Without the ozone layer, harmful UV light can penetrate to the earth’s surface causing increased skin cancer rates, and genetic mutation in organisms without protective skin pigments.

Some of the electronic capacitors in older appliances may contain polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). These are either solids or liquids and their colors can range from clear to yellow.

PCBs are not manufactured or used in appliances currently made in the United States, but PCBs already in the environment are very stable and do not break down quickly. These chemicals can bioaccumulate in fish and other organisms. PCBs are known to cause liver damage and developmental problems in children (including brain damage and birth defects).  PCBs are also a suspected carcinogen.

Light switches found in chest freezers and other appliances may contain mercury. The mercury is used in the switch to complete the electrical circuit and turn the light on when the lid is opened. There are also thermocouples and flame sensors in appliances that might also contain mercury. Mercury is a heavy metal that can bioaccumulate in the environment. Long-term exposure to mercury can cause liver, kidney, and brain damage.

Bring usable or repairable appliances to a company that can refurbish them. DO NOT attempt to remove the coolant gases, capacitors, or switches from your appliances.

Hazards of Automotive Products

Used motor oil and filters can pollute water, causing harm to aquatic animals and fish. Gasoline is toxic to humans and animals because it contains hydrocarbons, such as benzene (a known carcinogen).

Antifreeze and brake fluids are toxic and can poison children and pets. Car batteries (lead acid) are corrosive and can cause burns if spilled on the skin and the lead in car batteries can cause nerve and kidney damage.

Tires can punch holes in the landfill’s protective cap causing damage to the structure and operation of a landfill’s leachate and gas collection systems. Tires and tire piles collect water, creating places for mosquitoes to breed. These mosquitoes carry the West Nile virus, as well as many other diseases.

Fuel is very flammable and can ignite easily causing serious burns, if spilled it can harm wildlife.

Hazards of Lawn & Garden Products

Many lawn and garden products are toxic and have detrimental effects to both human health and the environment. For instance, through improper or excessive fertilization, many nutrients are released to groundwater and surface water supplies. These excess nutrients can lead to algal blooms and poor water quality. Improper or excessive use of pesticides may lead to injury to the homeowner, family members, and may adversely impact neighboring ecosystems.

Hazard reduction strategies:

  • Use organic or low-impact gardening and watering techniques, including natural or non-toxic pest control methods.
  • Determine soil nutrients need prior to fertilizer application through soil tests
  • Use a slow release fertilizer and only a couple of times a year. Buy only what you need per application.
  • Use a mulching mower to return grass clipping to the soil.
  • If you use pesticides, buy only what you need and follow the label. Remember the label is the Law!
  • Donate any unused pesticides or fertilizers in the original container to friends or family.
  • Store pesticides (in the original containers with the original label), in a locked, secure area out of reach of children and pets.
  • DO NOT put pesticides in the trash or down the drain.
  • For additional information, contact the Vermont Department of Agriculture at (802)828-2431 or http://agriculture.vermont.gov

Resources for Businesses with Hazardous Waste

Hazardous Waste Management Program - Department of Environmental Conservation

VT Conditionally Exempt Generator (CEG) Online Course - Environmental Assistance Office

Contact your local solid waste management entity

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 entities contact list


Please note the new contact information:


Mia Roethlein


Waste Management & Prevention Division, Solid Waste Program

Department of Environmental Conservation

1 National Life Drive, Davis 1, Montpelier, VT 05620-3704















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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