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Cook County Connections: Importance of Proper Household Hazardous Waste Handling & Disposal

Jul 22, 2022 09:19AM ● By Content Editor
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From Cook County Public Offices - July 22, 2022

Did your spring cleaning reveal a stash paint you’re never going to use again? Did you buy more supplies than you needed for this summer’s project? Cook County area residents can drop off these or any other household hazardous products for free on Saturday, July 23, 2022 at the Cook County Recycling Center. Taking place from 9:00 a.m. until 12:00 p.m., this Household Hazardous Waste (HHW) Collection Event is a quick and easy way to protect our loved ones and the environment. Residents who are familiar with prior HHW Collections should note the event time change from previous years so they don’t miss out!

Sometimes it is tricky to know which household items are hazardous. Hazardous products and items have the potential to harm your family and the environment. The easiest way to determine if a product is hazardous is to look at the labels. Words and symbols indicating “DANGER,” “WARNING,” “CAUTION,” “TOXIC,” “CORROSIVE” or “POISON” help indicate that a product is hazardous.

It may be surprising, but many household cleaning products, lawn care products, automotive products, paints, solvents, and even nail polish are hazardous. Although hazardous products can be useful, they can be harmful if you don’t use, store, and dispose of them properly. Again, read the labels to learn how to use the products to limit risk to your health and the health of others.

When you are done using a hazardous product, leftover material should never be thrown in the trash. It is unsafe for people and the environment, and disposing of these items in the trash is also illegal. Bringing any hazardous waste items you aren’t using to the Cook County Collection Event on July 23 is a great way to safely dispose of these products. 

Not sure if it is hazardous? Check out the Western Lake Superior Sanitary District’s Disposal Guide at for a list of many common items requiring special disposal. Even if you are not sure what a product is, bring it to the collection event. Trained staff will help determine how to best dispose of it. Note that no electronic waste will be accepted at this event.

Here are some quick tips for safe handling of household hazardous waste:

  • Read product labels. Directions are listed on labels to reduce the risk of products exploding, igniting, leaking, mixing with other chemicals, or posing other hazards on the way to a disposal facility. Transport products in a box or tub to prevent messes.
  • Protect children and pets. Keep items stored out of reach and secured from pets and children. Teach children hazard symbols so they can avoid handling hazardous materials.
  • Store with care. To avoid accidental poisonings, never store hazardous products in food containers. Keep them in their original containers and never remove labels.
  • Don’t mix. When leftovers remain, never mix HHW with other products. Incompatible products might react, ignite, or explode. 

According to the U.S. EPA, the average U.S. household generates more than 20 pounds of hazardous waste each year. Even worse, as much as 100 pounds can accumulate in the home, often remaining there until the residents move out or do an extensive cleanout. As you are enjoying your summer, do not miss this opportunity to keep hazardous waste from building up in your home.

Proper disposal of hazardous products is good, and decreasing future use is even better. Before purchasing new products, read the label. Product instructions can help you measure and calculate the amount total amount you need. Otherwise, ask your retailer for assistance to determine the right amount for your needs. 

Another way to reduce hazardous products in your home is to use avoid purchasing hazardous products or switching to non-toxic alternatives. Instead of reaching for a heavy-duty cleaner, you can reach into your cupboard. Common household materials such as baking soda and vinegar can often do the job on floors and other surfaces. When shopping for items, review the warning labels and look for items that do not contain hazard labels.

Do your part to help protect your family and our community’s health and safety. Drop off your household hazardous waste at the Cook County HHW Collection Event, which will be held at the Cook County Recycling Center in Grand Marais. For more information, contact the Cook County Solid Waste Office at 218-387-3630.


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