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Household Hazardous Waste
Lawn & Garden - Fertilizers

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Plants require nutrients in order to grow. The main nutrients needed by plants include nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium. Sometimes nutrients can be the limiting factor of a plants growth. Fertilizers are substances added to the soil to increase nutrient availability, in an attempt to maximize plant growth.

Fertilizers are used in the garden to increase the size of fruit and vegetables, and they are also used on lawns to keep them lush and green. There are many substances used as fertilizers. Manure, bone meal, and guano, occur naturally and are used without much processing. Others are refined from natural sources to an almost pure form, an example is atmospheric nitrogen.

There are many types of fertilizers, some are broad-spectrum “plant foods” that contain many nutrients in one product; others are used to provide a single nutrient to the soils. Fertilizers can have negative impacts on human health and the environment if not used properly.

When fertilizers are over-applied they can be washed off of the soil surface, or carried away in the ground water. These nutrients may eventually end up in surface waters such as rivers and lakes.

Once in surface waters, fertilizers provide nutrients to algae and other aquatic plants. Algae are very efficient at using nutrients and can reproduce quickly. They can bloom and cause problems for people and wildlife that depend on the water.

These problems include, toxins emitted by the algae, surface scum, and foul odors. This is a problem in Vermont and Lake Champlain.

Some fertilizers such as ammonium nitrate can be explosive if not stored properly. If ammonium nitrate is mixed with organic compounds such as fats, oils, or fuels it can become extremely unstable. If ignited it will explode, endangering people or animals in the vicinity.

Storage and disposal:


  • Store fertilizers in a sealed container that is clearly labeled.
  • Keep out of reach of children and pets; some fertilizers such as weed and feed contain toxic pesticides.
  • Make sure to use only the amount needed, and space out the applications.
  • Donate any useable products to a friend or an organization that may be able to use them.
  • Bring any wastes to a household hazardous waste collection facility or event.

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






Last updated:
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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