8 Household Items Too Hazardous for the Trashcan or Drain

8 Household Items Too Hazardous for the Trashcan or Drain

Every household contains hazardous waste hidden in common items that can be harmful to humans, animals, and the environment, if not disposed of properly. When preparing to move, don’t just grab a big trash bag and throw everything away or spill it down the drain. You can still get rid of garbage while using caution. Be responsible and protect the wellbeing of your community by recycling, selling, or donating stuff whenever possible. To locate local disposal sites in your area, visit earth911.com or call2recycle.org.


Paint can’t be transported by a moving company so don’t pack it.

  • Return full cans to point of purchase.
  • Donate leftover paint to a non-profit agency.
  • Take open cans to an HHW collection facility in your area.

Oil-based paints are toxic and must be returned, donated, or recycled.

DIY Latex Paint Disposal at Home

If you’re unable to return, donate, or take leftover paint to a recycling center…

  • Pour cat litter into the can.
  • Stir until the mixture becomes too thick to spill.
  • Wait one hour for it to dry.
  • Throw the can away in the garbage with the lid removed.

Be careful not to dispose of paint where small children or animals can get in contact with it. There are also commercial paint hardeners you can purchase as an alternative to cat litter.


Old batteries contain tons of reusable materials so recycling them is the best way to get rid of them. In most states, regular alkaline batteries are not considered hazardous waste and can be safely disposed of with normal household trash. According to the EPA, rechargeable batteries must be recycled because they contain nickel cadmium which will pollute the soil, water, and air if they end up in a landfill or incinerated. Rechargeable batteries, along with batteries in electronics, should be donated or taken to an e-waste disposal site for recycling. Gather up all your old batteries, tape the ends, and put them in a container until you can take them to a recycling center. If you don’t tape the ends, old batteries that touch each other may cause a fire. For specific guidelines on how to dispose of household batteries in the state of Pennsylvania, please click here.

Cooking Oil

Cooking oil can be transported by the moving company only if it’s new and the seal hasn’t been broken. Before moving day, make sure all opened bottles of cooking oil are thrown away in the regular garbage. Do not spill oil down the drain. In large quantities, it will accumulate and clog the pipes.


According to the FDA, almost all medicines can be safely disposed of by using medicine take-back programs or using U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA)-authorized collectors. Locate an authorized collector in your area here.

If a take-back or mail back disposal program is not available to you:

  • Mix expired medication in dirt, cat litter, or used coffee grounds.
  • Do not crush tablets or capsules.
  • Place mixture in a sealable bag and throw it away in your household trash.
  • Scratch out all personal information from prescription bottles.
  • Certain controlled substances must be flushed down the toilet to prevent accidental exposure. See the list of medications here.

For more information on how to properly dispose of expired medications, read the FDA’s recommendations.


Sell, donate, or recycle unwanted TVs, laptops, cellphones, and tablets. These items can’t be thrown away because some electronics contain toxic substances such as lead, mercury, and cadmium. Twenty-five states, including Pennsylvania, have passed a law requiring e-waste to be recycled. Pennsylvania has an Electronic Recycling Management Program and many electronics manufacturers and stores offer recycling and buy-back options. Read How to Recycle Old Electronics by Consumer Reports for a list of places and current programs. Be sure to wipe all personal information clean from electronics before they leave your possession.

Aerosol Cans

Aerosol cans contain liquid or gas packed under pressure which can explode and catch fire in a moving truck, so they can’t be transported by the moving company. Toss empty aerosol cans in the trash and bring the rest to a hazardous waste collection site.


Compact fluorescent lightbulbs (CFLs) contain mercury, so they should be recycled. Incandescent lightbulbs, LEDs, and halogen lightbulbs do not contain toxic materials and can be carefully disposed of in the garbage. Some home improvement stores like Lowes, Ikea, and Home Depot have lightbulb recycling programs for CFLs and other types of non-toxic lightbulbs.

Motor Oil

Pennsylvania law requires all used motor oil to be recycled. To find a local collection site in your area, click here.