Household Hazardous Waste

Please note that EPD neither endorses, nor recommends, the services of any specific company.

Maybe you’ve recently bought a house, or a loved one has passed away and you’re cleaning out his or her house. In the garage, crawlspace, or outbuilding you find a dusty shelf loaded with rusty old cans of paint, solvents, spray insecticides, liquid fertilizers, gasoline, and more.  If at all possible, it is best to find a use for these products or donate them to someone who can use them.  

Tips for avoiding this problem in the future include: 

  1. Trying to determine how much material (paint, insecticide, etc.) the job will actually require and not purchasing more than you'll need
  2. Exploring less-toxic product alternatives
  3. Checking out EPA’s website at  https://www.epa.gov/hw/household-hazardous-waste-hhw for more specific information on how to best manage household hazardous waste.

Dumping household hazardous waste down the drain will cause groundwater, lake or stream pollution and putting liquids in the trash is not allowed, so what exactly are you supposed to do with them? The often frustrating reality is that in Georgia at this time, reuse and recycling options for household hazardous waste (HHW) are extremely limited. 

However, please consider the two alternatives described below:  disposing of or recycling the waste OR managing the waste yourself.

Disposing of or recycling household hazardous waste

If you owned a business that generated this type of waste, you would be required to track its generation and disposal, and pay very high disposal costs to have the material safely removed and either recycled (most likely blended into fuels for industrial furnaces and boilers) or disposed of in a hazardous waste landfill. However, state and federal laws provide an exemption for homeowners. You can legally throw these items in the garbage (but only solids, because garbage trucks are not allowed to pick up liquid waste).

Some companies collect small amounts but charge high fees for the service, which typically involves sending a truck and chemist to collect the material. This option is recommended for small businesses, as part of the service includes providing documentation that the materials have been properly handled. You can find companies that provide this service by searching on the internet for hazardous waste disposal companies in your area. 

Other resources that may meet your specific disposal or recycling needs are:

Atlanta Paint Disposal which accepts latex paint for a fee. https://www.atlantapaintdisposal.com/  

CHaRM, the Center for Hard to Recycle Materials.  Located in Atlanta and Athens, this center accepts a wide variety of household hazardous wastes (some fees may apply). 

To search for more options for your household hazardous waste disposal/recycling, visit https://earth911.com/

Or contact your local city or county recycling or waste disposal department to inquire about local amnesty days.  You can also email your questions to recycle@dca.ga.gov.

Managing HHW Yourself

The processes described below involve either solidifying wastes for disposal via regular garbage service or using evaporation to "dispose" of the material. When using either method, be sure to work outside and wear rubber gloves and eye protection.  Also, never mix more than one material when you’re preparing the items for disposal.

Solidification. The idea here is to make the liquids solid so they may be disposed of with your regular household garbage. Sawdust or shredded newspaper will work, but for larger quantities, you’ll want to use cat litter or oil dry.  Work outside, away from areas used by children or animals.  Double-line a garbage can with plastic garbage bags, add some of the cat litter/oil dry and then some of the liquid waste. (Don’t add cat litter/oil dry to the liquid, as it may splash).  Be sure the bag will not be so heavy that you can’t handle it or that it might rupture. When the material has solidified, tie up the bag and place it in with your regular trash.

Evaporation. This method works best for thin, flammable liquids, including gasoline and paint thinner.  Work outside, away from areas used by children or animals.  If there is only a trace amount of liquid in the container, simply open the top and let it evaporate. For any larger amounts, you'll want to accelerate the process. Use a disposable metal tray (an aluminum foil roasting pan is ideal) and pour a half-inch of liquid into the tray. The larger surface area will allow the liquid to evaporate much more quickly. Repeat this process until the liquid is gone and then recycle or reuse the containers, if possible.  The foil tray can be recycled with scrap aluminum in some collection programs. If you're leery of having the fuel-coated foil around your house until you can recycle it, then crush the tray, wrap it in a few layers of newspaper and put it in a sturdy plastic garbage bag. Then it can be disposed of with your regular household garbage.