Anything that is flammable, corrosive, toxic, reacts with other materials or can pollute the environment is a hazardous material – and a household hazardous waste if it can reasonably be expected to come from a household, is in household quantities and is no longer needed or wanted.
The labelling on the product is often the best clue as to whether something is hazardous – if it uses words such as 'Warning', 'Danger', 'Caution', 'Poison' or 'Do not dispose of with household rubbish' you can safely assume that you have a hazardous waste in your home.
Hazardous waste can be dangerous at every stage of its 'life'. Hazardous materials stored at home can react with one another and cause a fire or toxic fumes. Children can poison themselves. A container may leak and contaminate the soil or groundwater. If hazardous waste is disposed of with the rest of the household rubbish or put out with the inorganic rubbish collection, the people who pick up the rubbish can be injured, sometimes severely. And finally, hazardous waste that ends up in the landfill can leach into land and waterways and pollute the environment.
- Always keep hazardous materials out of the reach of children (and pets), for example in a locked cupboard.
- Make sure that all hazardous items are kept away from heat or ignition sources such as flames, sparks or even a car engine.
- Keep hazardous materials dry to prevent rusting of the container. Remember that plastic containers can turn brittle very quickly if exposed to strong sunlight, so keep them in a shady place.
- Rechargeable batteries can become flammable if they are in contact with water or left for a long time. Do not leave them sitting around for a long time after they reach the end of their life.
- Store different hazardous substances in separate areas, for example, all corrosives together but away from flammable products. Poisons should be put at a safe distance to other materials, and reactive chemicals such as pool chlorine should be stored all by themselves at a distance of at least 2 metres away from anything else.
- Pool chemicals can become dangerous if they are old or degrade or mix with other materials. Keep your pool chemicals securely stored in the containers you purchased them in, and dispose of them promptly when they become unwanted.
- Keep lids tightly closed.
- Always keep products in their original containers so that you know what they are. If the label is falling off, tape it back on.
- If the container is leaking and you have to use another, label it correctly.
- Never put a hazardous product in a food or beverage container.