Waste can be a hazard in the home

IT’S probably fair to say that most of us have more hazardous waste in our homes than we realise. A cursory peep into the medicines cabinet in the average home will most likely reveal bottles, capsules and packets of tablets with an expired use-by date. <

And, just think of the paints, varnishes, oils and batteries that accumulate over time. In our day-to-day lives, we use products that contain toxic components like the above-mentioned which can create risks to our health and the environment when they are not properly disposed of.

Sometimes, they are got rid of by just pouring them down the sink, or toilet, and a big danger here is that septic tanks and wastewater treatment systems can be contaminated. They can also be put into collection bins even though hazardous waste is generally banned from landfill sites run by local authorities: it must go through specialised treatment prior to disposal or must be disposed of in specially designed landfills.

Items of household hazardous waste are not supposed to be placed with normal household waste. We’re talking about batteries, paint, pesticides, corrosives, herbicides, motor oils, florescent tubes, cleaning agents, medicines, including veterinary medicines, and waste vegetable oils. People are advised to contact their local pharmacy to check their take back system for unused medicines.

In its National Hazardous Waste Management Plan 2014-2020, the EPA sets out the priorities to be pursued over the next six years to improve the management of such waste, half of which is currently exported.

According to Dr Jonathan Derham, EPA programme manager, we need improved collection and treatment of hazardous wastes from households and small businesses. Also, manufacturers and distributors of products that are hazardous when discarded need to take a greater role in the life-cycle management of these wastes, he stresses.

The plan makes 27 recommendations. Key issues identified include the need for hazardous waste collection facilities to be provided by local authorities for householders and small businesses.

A take-back scheme for expired household medicine is needed, while farm hazardous waste should be collected using take-back schemes.

It also calls for network of local drop-off facilities for householders and small businesses to tackle the problem of “unreported” hazardous waste. A simple bit of advice, however, is to choose products that have a lesser impact on the environment and to try to buy correct quantities so as to eliminate leftovers.


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