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Do you have old products in your cupboards waiting to be discarded? It may surprise you to learn that those household products you could so readily buy at the neighborhood store actually require disposal as hazardous waste. You know, out with the old, in with the new!

Here we provide practical guidance for local residents of King County in Washington state on how to dispose of household hazardous waste. For people outside of King County, contact your local waste management program for similar information relevant to your area.

The following products should be taken to a hazardous waste facility for disposal rather than poured down the drain or placing in the garbage.

  • Cleaning products—could contain chlorine, ammonia and solvents
    • Personal care products such as nail polish, nail polish remover and hair spray—may contain acetone or ethyl acetate. Aerosol cans which are not empty—could contain compressed gas propellant.
    • Rubber cement and some glues and other art materials intended for adults—may contain hexane, heptanes, toluene, styrene or acetone
    • Stains and paints that are oil based—may contain petroleum distillates.
  • Pesticides for indoor pests such as lice shampoo, rat, roach and flea killers and mothballs—often contain toxic chemicals.
  • Lawn and garden products such as weed killers and insecticides—often contain toxic chemicals.
  • Any product that carries a warning label with the signal words DANGER, POISON, CAUTION or WARNING—usually hazardous. Latex paint is an exception as, when dried out, it is not considered hazardous. Dispose of dried latex paint safely in the garbage.

Product Stewardship Programs

These programs share responsibility for reducing the health and environmental impacts of product disposal with those involved in the lifecycle of a product. Here are five to know about.

  1. The Take Back Your Meds Program lets you take prescription medicines, over-the-counter medications, pet medicines and vitamins to a law enforcement office or participating pharmacy. You can check for your nearest drop-off location here. Ignore the outdated advice to pour meds down the toilet as this contaminates our drinking water supply and waterways. Water treatment plants cannot effectively remove most pharmaceuticals.
  2. The Take It Back Network accepts CFL bulbs and fluorescent tubes. In King County, placing these items in the trash is prohibited as they contain mercury. Bulbs, tubes and mercury thermometers are also accepted at hazardous waste collection sites. Teach yourself and your older children what to do if a CFL bulb breaks to avoid breathing in mercury vapors.
  3. E-Cycle Washington accepts computers, monitors, laptops, tablet PCs, televisions, portable DVD players and e- readers. Some recyclers will also accept peripherals such as printers, mice, and keyboards. King County bans the disposal of electronics in the garbage as they may contain heavy metals and brominated flame retardants. For more information on recycling electronics, check out E-Cycle Washington.
  4. Call2Recycle Program accepts rechargeable batteries and cell phones. Read more about the program and find your nearest drop-off location here. Non-rechargeables such as alkaline and button batteries should be taken to a hazardous waste collection site instead.
  5. Recycling Resources: Washington 1 800 Recycle and Earth911