As a college or university employee, have you ever thrown into the trash household products and wondered whether they were regulated as a hazardous waste? These situations may seem insignificant, but certain types of household waste have the potential to harm sanitation workers, contaminate septic tanks or wastewater treatment systems, and release toxic fumes.
These hazards apply just as much to a dormitory as to any other household. Believe it or not, cleaning detergents and supplies, batteries, chlorine bleach, fire extinguishers, prescription drugs, lab and art materials, and others are considered household hazardous materials and must be managed according to federal and state regulations.
Depending on the contents of your facility's aerosol cans, or depending on the nature of your paint materials, air emissions (e.g., VOC limits), hazardous substance reporting, or hazardous waste generator requirements may apply to your facility. For example, with respect to aerosol cans: depleting the propellant in an aerosol can may result in contents remaining in the can, which may be hazardous waste. If the nozzle of an aerosol can is broken or clogged and can no longer be used, then the can remains under pressure, rendering the can a hazardous waste. If the can is empty of both propellant and contents, then the can is truly empty and non-hazardous.
Storage of hazardous substances can be just as important as their disposal, so it is recommended always to keep hazardous materials in their original containers and never remove the labels. Also, household hazardous waste must never be mixed with other products, as incompatible substances may become unrecyclable--or even react, ignite or explode. Finally, always follow the disposal instructions on the label, and take household hazardous waste to a local collection facility, if available.
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