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<Municipal Solid Waste Management>

Sound Practices
Special wastes

1.7.3 Household hazardous waste

Households generate small quantities of hazardous wastes such as oil-based paints, paint thinners, wood preservatives, pesticides, household cleaners, used motor oil, antifreeze, and batteries. Household hazardous waste in industrialized countries such as the US accounts for a total of 0.5% of all waste generated at home. In developing countries the percentage is even lower.

There are no specific, cost-effective sound practices that can be recommended for household hazardous waste management in developing countries. Rather, since concentrated wastes tend to create more of a hazard, it is best to dispose of household hazardous wastes jointly with the MSW stream in a landfill, where the biological reactions tend to have a fixating effect on small amounts of toxic metals, while other toxic substances are diluted within the MSW.

When resources are available (typically in industrialized countries) there are specific sound practices for separation of household hazardous wastes from the regular MSW stream (see box).


Sound practices for promoting the separation of household hazardous wastes in industrialized countries
  • The priority waste streams for separation are identified with reference to the damage they do when released into the environment, and with reference to the type of disposal that would be available if the waste were not separated. For example, the prioritization of battery collection would be related to a high reliance on incineration, for which heavy metals are particularly unsuited.
  • There is ample, clear, and frequent public education as to the need for separation and the available opportunities to separate.
  • The separate disposal or recycling opportunity is convenient, matched to the normal disposal opportunity, and either continuous or frequent.
  • Certain extremely dangerous substances are identified at point of purchase (in the stores) as requiring special disposal practices.
  • There is a heavy emphasis on point-of-purchase take-back systems for those items which can be collected in this manner, such as batteries, medicines, and used oil.
  • There is considerable emphasis at the policy and program level on redesigning consumer products to make them less dangerous (such as reducing or eliminating the mercury content in batteries).
  • Personnel handling household hazardous wastes must receive initial and subsequent training, but are not required to be licensed or trained chemical technicians.


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