Whether you are moving parents to assisted living or just having a good clear out, you may find items in your home that are classified as hazardous waste. If so, you may be asking the question “how do we dispose of hazardous waste safely?”

In this article, we explore the dangers of hazardous waste, how to identify it, and how to safely dispose of it from your home.

Hazardous waste disposal

Household hazardous waste includes everyday products, including those found in kitchens, bathrooms, garages and gardens. Hazardous waste disposal needs to be carefully considered, as storing these types of items after they are no longer needed means you could:

  • Injure or poison someone if they inhale, drink or get burnt by them
  • Endanger yourself and your property if the chemicals explode, ignite or release toxic fumes in the event of a fire
  • Receive a fine for damaging the environment if the chemicals leak while being handled or stored.

Hazardous waste disposal regulations

In terms of hazardous waste disposal regulations, disposing of hazardous materials in your recycling bin or general waste is not safe. They can be toxic, flammable, explosive or corrosive. They can also cause fires in garbage trucks or bins and create safety hazards for truck drivers, the community and the environment.

In Brisbane, local councils offer free household hazardous waste disposal days throughout the year. These days are for items that cannot be disposed of via rubbish bins, sewers or Council facilities during general operations, and a 20 litre limit for each product or chemical applies per visit per customer. Items accepted at Council’s resource recovery centres include:

  • Batteries (household and lead-acid batteries)
  • Empty gas bottles (a maximum of six bottles of up to nine kilograms)
  • Electronic waste
  • Fluorescent light bulbs and tubes
  • Paint and engine oil (hydrocarbon oil) quantities up to 100 litres per customer per visit

Safe disposal methods

Waste can be disposed of through a variety of methods — via a home’s sewerage system, in your rubbish bin or by dropping it off at your local resource recovery centre.

In terms of disposing liquids down a sewerage system, you should mix the chemical with lots of water, and put small quantities of these products down the sewer (down the sink or toilet). However, these chemicals should never be put down stormwater drains or into septic tanks because they will harm the environment.

In terms of your rubbish bin, you can only put small amounts of household hazardous waste in your rubbish bin. Small amounts of liquid, such as paint and hair products can be dried and solidified by adding a material to soak up the liquid such as soil, kitty litter or grass clippings. Alternatively, pour liquids onto newspaper and cover them with absorbent material. You can place empty hair product containers and paint tins with minimal paint residue in your recycling bin.

Here is a guide to which items can safely be disposed of and where.

Bathroom

  • Aftershaves, perfumes and other lotions — via sewer systems only.
  • Bathroom cleaners and disinfectants — via sewer systems only.
  • Haircare products — via sewer systems only.
  • Medicines (past use-by date) — while it is acceptable to dispose of small quantities of medicines to sewer, it is better to return them to the pharmacy where they were purchased.
  • Wet wipes — although commonly marked “flushable”, the majority of wet wipes are unsuitable for disposal to sewer and should be disposed of in your rubbish bin.
  • Cotton buds — via your rubbish bin only.

Kitchen

  • Cooking oil — via your rubbish bin only.
  • Insect sprays — these should be dropped off at your local resource recovery centre.
  • Drain cleaner/disinfectant — via sewer systems only.
  • Floorcare products — via your rubbish bin or dropped off as your local resource recovery centre.
  • Metal polish with solvent — via your rubbish bin or dropped off as your local resource recovery centre.
  • Window and ammonia-based cleaners — via sewer systems only.

Garage

  • Antifreeze — via sewer systems or dropped off as your local resource recovery centre.
  • Car batteries — should be dropped off at your local resource recovery centre.
  • Brake fluid — should be dropped off at your local resource recovery centre.
  • Motor oil, sump oil and gear oil — should be dropped off at your local resource recovery centre.
  • Petrol and marine fuel — should be dropped off at your local resource recovery centre.
  • Windshield washer solution – via sewer systems only.

Garden

  • Fungicide/insecticide — should be dropped off at your local resource recovery centre.
  • Herbicides and weed killers — should be dropped off at your local resource recovery centre.

Other toxic hazardous waste

In terms of other toxic hazardous waste items:

  • Batteries — should be dropped off at your local resource recovery centre. Some retailers also offer free battery recycling services all year round. Find out more here.
  • Paints and mediums — via your rubbish bin (small quantities only) or dropped off at your local resource recovery centre (a maximum of 20 litres per containers and 100 litres per customer).
  • Dry-cleaning solvents — should be dropped off at your local resource recovery centre.
  • Fibreglass resins — via your rubbish bin or dropped off at your local resource recovery centre.
  • Ink cartridges — via your rubbish bin (but only if empty) or dropped off at your local resource recovery centre. Cartridges can also be recycled through a variety of drop-off points around Brisbane. Printer cartridges are made up of many different materials including metal, plastic, ink, foam and toner, and using a collection point helps ensure any recoverable materials are not sent to landfill. Find out more here.
  • Empty gas bottles — should be dropped off at your local resource recovery centre (a maximum of six bottles of up to nine kilograms).
  • Swimming pool chemicals — should be dropped off at your local resource recovery centre.
  • Photographic chemicals — should be dropped off at your local resource recovery centre.
  • Smoke detectors — via your rubbish bin or dropped off at your local resource recovery centre.
  • Fire extinguishers — should be dropped off at your local resource recovery centre.
  • Compact fluorescent light bulbs — via your rubbish bin or dropped off at your local resource recovery centre.

Asbestos

Asbestos is a type of building material used in the building industry between the 1940s and late 1980s.
Before the health risks were known, asbestos products were widely used because they were fire-resistant, durable and had good insulation properties.

There are two types of asbestos:

  • Bonded asbestos is any product where the asbestos is bonded with a resin binder or cement to make it more stable. Provided they are left undisturbed, the health risks associated with these products is very low. The concern is when the products are handled or removed.
  • Fibrous asbestos is any product that contains asbestos in a fibrous or dusty form, where it can be crumbled to a powder. This product is dangerous and should only be handled by a licensed asbestos contractor approved for this task.

It is difficult to identify asbestos by sight, but as a rule, if your house was built:

  • Before the mid-1980s it is more than likely to contain asbestos materials
  • Between the mid-1980s and 1990, it is likely to contain asbestos materials
  • After the 1990s it is highly unlikely to contain asbestos materials.

Products that may contain asbestos include:

  • Flat, corrugated, or bitumen roofing material
  • Ceiling tiles
  • Vinyl and thermoplastic floor tiles and backing to vinyl flooring
  • Carpet underlay (hessian)
  • Internal and external wall sheeting, textured coatings
  • Gutters, rainwater pipes, and water tanks
  • Insulation around pipes and electrical equipment
  • Fireproofing around flues and ducts
  • Sprayed on to steelwork
  • Older fire-rated safety doors

If left untouched, asbestos poses no immediate danger. Asbestos products that are broken, mishandled or disturbed through activities such as pressure cleaning and sanding or cutting with power tools can release hazardous fibres.

Inhaled asbestos fibres can lodge in the lungs, airways or stomach and increase the chances of developing lung cancer, mesothelioma or asbestosis, (scarring of lung tissue). The risk of contracting these diseases increases with the number of fibres inhaled and the length of time you inhale them. However, you should always take extreme care when dealing with any asbestos product.

Asbestos removal

You should never endanger yourself, your family or your neighbours by trying to remove or demolish asbestos yourself. You also cannot dispose of asbestos in household rubbish, recycling or green waste bins or at Brisbane City Council resource recovery centres. This measure aims to help ensure that residents and Council employees or contractors do not put themselves at risk by handling fibre that contains asbestos.

If you are renovating your home and you suspect it has asbestos products, you should contact a certified asbestos contractor. They are licensed to carry out any removal or disposal work safely.

If felt underlay is present under carpets, it is recommended that it is professionally removed and the work site cleaned of all dust in a manner that does not create airborne dust. Access to the site should be restricted to those involved in the work with the necessary safety equipment.

Asbestos removal contractors can also provide a specially lined bin for tradespeople to use during renovations. Once renovations are completed, the asbestos removal contractors will collect the bin and dispose of asbestos safely for you. Find out more here.

Hazardous waste disposal pick up

There are a range of businesses that specialise in hazardous waste disposal pick up. Many will also accept hazardous waste via drop-off. Find out more here.

References

Need help with getting rid of hazardous waste? We’ve cleared hundreds of properties, so know exactly how to dispose of dangerous materials safely. Please get in touch for an informal chat about your needs.