Household Hazardous Waste Day – Just in Time for Spring Cleaning!

— Written By and last updated by Leeann Crump
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Something about Spring: bright fresh flowers blooming, nesting birds, green grass – it just makes us want to get things clean and tidied up! Or maybe it’s just everything is yellow and gross from the pollen. Either way, Spring is an excellent time to give everything a good clean, freeing time for upcoming summer fun, and that includes getting rid of unwanted stuff stashed away in the garage, basement, or attic.

Often, those unwanted items include things like leftover paints, solvents, pesticides, dead batteries, and the like. However, these items should not simply be tossed in the trash for curbside pick up or hauled to the landfill. These items, along with numerous other common household materials of a toxic nature, are categorized as “Household Hazardous Waste” (HHW), and must be properly disposed of by dropping off at a Household Hazardous Waste pickup site. If you are in the throes of spring cleaning, fortunately for you Richmond County will be hosting just such an event, on Saturday, April 9, from 9 a.m. – 1 p.m. at the Health Department, 125 Caroline Street, in Rockingham. There is no charge for participating in the program.

Why bother properly disposing of your Household Hazardous Waste? Why not just throw items in the trash or haul to the landfill? HHW products are potentially dangerous, for sanitation workers, for example, who may be exposed to toxic chemicals that can cause burns or acute toxicity from unexpected exposure to a mysterious liquid tossed in a household garbage can. Hazardous materials disposed improperly may also find their way into the environment if dumped in a landfill, and may seep into groundwater, or surface water such as streams, potentially contaminating a community’s drinking water. Toxic materials may also impact wildlife and ecosystems, causing birth defects or death in exposed, vulnerable species.

What should you bring to the Household Hazardous Waste day? Oil based paints, aerosols, solvents and degreasers, household cleaners, drain openers, acids, Pool chemicals, paint related materials, alkaline batteries, lead acid batteries, fluorescent light tubes, light ballasts, thermostats and metallic mercury, propane cylinders, rechargeable batteries, latex paints, and pesticides, including insecticides and herbicides. All pesticides should be in the original labeled container. According to the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality, household maintenance products like paint, thinners and glues make up more than a third of the HHW in our daily garbage. HHW also includes items you may not think of as being hazardous, such as household cleaners, batteries as well as personal care products like nail polish, polish remover, and hair spray, which make up the other two thirds of HHW in our daily garbage. Vehicle care requires grease and oil, which are hazardous products, and gardeners use pesticides and fertilizers. Keeping our pets pest-free requires hazardous chemicals, such as flea dips. Even the lighter fluid you used to start your grill is hazardous!

So, for inspiration and motivation to finish clearing out that shed in the back yard, remember the Household Hazardous Waste Disposal day is Saturday, April 9, 9 a.m. – 1 p.m., at the Richmond County Health Department, 125 Caroline Street. Best of all, this is a FREE service! For more information, please call the Health Department, at 910-997-8338. For questions about pesticides, contact Paige Burns at the Cooperative Extension office, at 910-997-8255.

Keep in mind that Richmond County recycles year round specific items at drop-off sites across the county. Items such as some recyclable paper, plastic, cans, white goods (such as washers, stoves, etc.), electronics, used cooking oil, used motor oil, tires, and yard waste can be recycled at some, though not all, sites. To receive a list of sites and accepted materials, please contact the Extension office.