Household Hazardous Waste

workers in hazmat suits loading garbage into garbage collection truck

Household toxic, corrosive, ignitable or reactive wastes are household hazardous wastes (HHW). Not disposed of properly, HHW can threaten human health and the environment. The average U.S. household generates about 30 pounds of hazardous waste yearly. The United States generates about 1.6 million tons each year.

NC Department of Environmental Quality Household Hazardous Waste

What is considered household hazardous waste?

  • Household products and chemicals
    • Aerosol products, including deodorant, hair spray, air freshener
    • Cooking oils and greases
    • Bleach
    • Ammonia
    • Household cleaning products
    • Mercury thermometers 
    • Florescent light bulbs
    • Furniture polishes
    • Vaporizer fluids
    • Oven cleaners
    • Drain cleaners
  • Lawn and garden products
    • Herbicides
    • Insecticides
    • Pesticides
    • Fertilizers
  • Automotive products
    • Anti-freeze
    • Motor Oil
  • Cosmetics
    • Nail polish
    • Nail polish remover
    • Acetone
    • Chemical relaxers and other hair-altering products
  • Batteries
  • Construction and home maintenance repairs
    • Spray paints
    • Paint thinners 
    • Turpentine
    • Petrol
    • Methylated and white spirits
    • Kerosene and lamp oils
    • Paint
    • Degreasers
    • Rust removers
    • Acids
    • Lubricating oils
    • Radiator additives and brake fluids
    • Pool chemicals
    • Lime
    • Lead sinkers
    • Solvents
    • Charcoal
    • Lighter fluid
  • Medicines
  • Electronics
    • Cell phones
    • Computer Equipment (CPUs, monitors, laptops, printers, peripherals)

How should household hazardous waste be disposed of?

To avoid the potential risks associated with household hazardous wastes, people must monitor the use, storage and disposal of products with potentially hazardous substances in their homes. Improper disposal of HHW can include pouring them down the drain, on the ground, into storm sewers, or putting them out with the regular trash.

The dangers of such disposal methods might not be immediately apparent, but improper disposal of these wastes can pollute the environment and threaten human health. Certain types of HHW can cause physical injury to sanitation workers and contaminate septic tanks or wastewater treatment systems if poured down drains or toilets. If left around the house, they can also present hazards to children and pets.

Tips for the safe handling of household hazardous wastes include:

  • Follow any instructions for use and storage on product labels carefully to prevent accidents at home.
  • Be sure to read product labels for disposal directions to reduce the risk of products exploding, igniting, leaking, mixing with other chemicals or posing other hazards on the way to a disposal facility.
  • Never store hazardous products in food containers. Keep them in the original containers and never remove labels. Corroding containers require special handling. Call your local hazardous materials official or fire department for instructions.
  • When leftovers remain, never mix HHW with other products. Incompatible products might react, ignite or explode, and contaminated HHW might become unrecyclable.
  • Empty containers of HHW can pose hazards because of the remaining residual chemicals; handle them carefully.

EPA Household Hazardous Waste

Where should Charlotte residents take household hazardous waste?

Most household hazardous waste can be taken to one of Mecklenburg County’s Full-Service Recycling Facilities. There are some exceptions.

Not all batteries are accepted at Mecklenburg County’s Full-Service Recycling Facilities. Several locations in Charlotte accept lithium-ion batteries (rechargeable batteries and batteries over 12 volts). These include:


217 Iverson Way
Charlotte, NC 28203

The Home Depot

4750 South Blvd.
Charlotte, NC 28217

The Bike Source Charlotte

4301 Park Road
Charlotte, NC 28209

For more information, go to: DeWalt Factory Service Center.

Is there a way that household hazardous waste should be prepared for delivery to the full-service recycling facilities?

When preparing to deliver materials to the full-service facilities, please:

  • Store material in its original container if possible.
  • Label contents clearly.
  • Never mix different or unknown chemicals.
  • Keep away from heat.
  • Be sure containers do not leak.
  • Pack securely in a sturdy box for transport.

What can happen when hazardous waste materials are mixed with regular household waste?

Flammable or reactive household chemicals can release toxic fumes or even explode if mixed in the trash, causing fires or injuring workers. Dumping solvents into septic systems or landfills may contaminate ground and surface waters, ruining drinking water and killing fish and wildlife.

Old medicines can also be considered household hazardous waste and should not be disposed of in the garbage. When old medicine is placed in the garbage, it can hurt the environment and public health.

Improper prescription disposal can lead to drugs leaching into the water system. In recent years, several pharmaceutical-related chemicals have been found in waterways across the country and even in our drinking water.

According to the University of Illinois, these chemicals can be traced back to drugs such as antibiotics, anti-depressants, steroids, seizure medications, painkillers and more. These chemicals not only have the potential to harm humans, but they also threaten marine ecosystems. Studies have shown that these prescription chemical byproducts are causing changes in the behavior, reproduction and growth of many species, specifically frogs and fish.

Safely discard old medications by taking them to the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department Headquarters at 601 E. Trade St.

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