Do I Really Need to Use This?

There are some questions you should ask yourself when you're shopping:

  • Do I really need to use this?
    • The "new, improved, miracle formula!" may be more hype than help. Sometimes, the old- fashioned methods are simpler and safer. Instead of using hazardous chemicals, you could practice organic gardening techniques (do some research on companion planting, natural pest prevention and composting or use alternative cleaning products).
  • How much do I really need?  Try to buy just enough to finish the job. If you must buy a large quantity, share what's left with a friend or a community group.
  • How will I dispose of this when I am finished?
  • Is using the product worth all the hassle involved in getting rid of it?
  • Find out where the hazardous waste disposal facility is in your community and watch for special collection days. In the meantime store your collection of hazardous wastes out of the reach of children and pets.
  • Hazardous household wastes don't have to be a long-term disposal problem. The next time you have to buy a potentially hazardous product, look for the type that has been recycled. Re-refined motor oil is a good example.


  • Buried wastes can filter down through the soil and contaminate groundwater.
  • Wastes can clog storm sewers and over-burden septic systems.
  • Plumbing systems can be damaged by corrosive chemicals.
  • Burning hazardous wastes may simply distribute them over a larger area.
  • Pouring hazardous liquids on the ground can poison soil, plants and water.

Products labelled as corrosive, flammable, reactive or toxic should be disposed of only at a hazardous waste facility. Even if they don't have warning labels, it's safe to assume that products like paint, motor oil and old propane tanks are potentially hazardous too.

Most of these wastes are produced by industry. Hazardous wastes are an unfortunate by-product of the manufacture of metals and plastics, computer equipment, dyes and paints, among other commodities.

Government regulations control the disposal of industrial hazardous wastes, but you can do your part to protect the environment by taking special care when you buy, use or dispose of potentially hazardous substances.