Managing Hazardous Household Waste – Your Roles And Responsibilities
It is no secret that the quantity of household waste produced is increasing year after year at an alarming rate and governments are under pressure to expand existing landfills or build new ones to accommodate the waste that is being produced.
What is Hazardous Household Waste?
Household waste is leftover from household goods or products. Hazardous household waste are household products which contain chemicals that has the potential to affect plants, the health of humans and animals and are detrimental to the environment when handled improperly
Improper management of household waste has the potential to be very detrimental to the environment, people and animals. What many of us may not realise is that many of those common household products contain corrosive, toxic or flammable chemicals, that can be hazardous to the environment if not handled or managed properly.
Hazardous household waste should not be disposed of in the same way as regular waste. For example, a gasoline can buried in the ground can affect rivers and find its way into drinking water. The hydrocarbons in motor oils or pesticides have the potential to bio-accumulate in fresh water fishes and can find its way in the food chain. Burning of hazardous waste leads to the release of toxic chemicals and fumes in the air. Once released into the environment these chemicals are dispersed over large areas, thereby affecting the health of persons over a wider area.
Some of these chemicals remain in the systems of plants and animals for a long time and may enter the food chain when the affected plants and animals are consumed.
Bioaccumulation of hazardous compounds in the systems of plants, animals and humans has the potential to affect their reproductive lives, growth, impair the function of various organs such as the liver and kidneys, affect the functioning of the central nervous systems and immune systems of human and animals and some have been listed as known carcinogens.
How Can You Tell a Product is Hazardous?
Read the labels of products. In most countries labels are required for all products. These should provide information on the constituents of the products, including symbols and words to indicate the hazard to animals, humans and the environment if mishandled.
How To Tell If Products Are Hazardous?
Always read the label of products in your household and make it a habit of reading the labels of product before making the decision to purchase them.
What Can You Do to Manage Hazardous Waste?
Purchase Environmentally Friendly Products – Experts agree that, the best way to control waste is to not produce it in the first place. You can start by avoiding the purchase of products that contain chemicals that are harmful to humans, animals and the environment. Purchase those products that are biodegradable or friendly to the environment.
Safe Product Storage – Ensure that hazardous products are stored in a safe place, that their containers are not damaged, do not have any leaks to reduce the risk of contaminating water sources, land, humans, animals, plants and the environment. Ensure that corrosive products like acids are stored in separate areas from other hazardous products.
Check products frequently to ensure that there are no leaks and broken lids or bulging sides.
Always store products in their original containers to avoid unintentional usage.
Ensure that these products are stored in a place where children and animal have no access to them.
Disposal of Products – Disposal of products should always be the last resort. Why? Because there are no safe ways of disposing hazardous waste. You can avoid the dilemma of hazardous waste disposal by either selecting biodegradable products, recycling the product, giving the excess products to friends, neighbours or family or purchasing smaller volumes of the product.
If however disposal is inevitable then you should dispose of the waste in the manner prescribed on the label.
Although there are laws to regulate the handling and use of large quantities of hazardous waste the existence of laws to regulate the typical small quantities generated at the household is non existent. For this reason, the responsibility for the management of hazardous waste falls squarely on the shoulders of the hazardous waste generators.
Protection of the environment can only happen when you play a role in finding creative ways to re-use, recycle or reduce waste. This is essential if we are to safeguard the environment and health of future generations. Remember that Waste Management is Your Business, My Business, Our Business.