Pesticides, paint and other household cleaners should never go in the garbage, or down a drain. Courtesy: StopWaste

We all have stuff in our house that isn’t safe to put in the garbage, like leftover paint, pesticides, batteries, CFL bulbs, and household cleaners. These materials are hazardous to humans and pets — batteries can burn your skin and paints contain unhealthy chemicals.  So it’s better to get them out of your home.   

But dropping batteries in the garbage can lead to fires.  And both batteries and paint can leach toxic materials into the soil, and from there to groundwater.  Pesticides and old medicines can’t go into the sewer system — via the sink, the toilet, or a storm drain — because wastewater treatment systems are not equipped to remove all of these. If they reach waterways, they can harm aquatic life. 

These materials all need dedicated disposal. 

Good news! Removing these toxins from your home is not as hard as you might think.  Alameda County offers multiple free, convenient options for residents to properly and safely dispose of household hazardous waste (HHW). The permanent facilities in Oakland (just off I-80, Wed.-Sat.) and Hayward (W. Winton Ave., Thurs-Sat.) are open for drop off — no appointments needed, but check hours online. (There are facilities in Fremont and Livermore, too.) Pack up your car, bring proof of Alameda County residency, drive to a nearby facility, and the technicians will remove your HHW materials and send you on your way. 

An employee of the Household Hazardous Waste Program greets a resident at the Oakland drop-off center. Courtesy: StopWaste

Also, in June and October (dates coming to the website soon), the County will hold one-day events at Golden Gate Fields in Albany, just off I-80, where you can also dispose of old medicines, along with household hazardous waste. Details on facility hours, accepted materials and event registration are online.  Organizers have reduced wait times at the Hazardous Waste drop-off event at Golden Gate Fields in Albany, by having people sign up for appointments online.

While you’re cleaning out the closet or garage, you’re bound to find other items you’d like to recycle, donate for reuse or maybe even repair. Visit the RE:Source guide for alternative solutions for everything from electronics and clothes to furniture and bicycles. The guide will point you to city-specific information about your curbside collection programs, as well as special collection programs for bulky pickups, batteries and used oil. Learn how to safely dispose, recycle, or repair hundreds of things, from unwanted clothes and furniture to electronics and medications. 

Household hazardous waste is unloaded at a past Golden Gate Fields collection in Albany. Courtesy: StopWaste