Hazardous Waste

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Overview

Many household items may be harmful to you, your family, animals, and the environment if disposed of improperly. They should not be thrown in the trash, poured down the drain or storm sewer, left at the curb or left in your alley. You can properly dispose of and recycle toxic products from your home with Denver’s Household Hazardous Waste Collection Program. Denver residents are eligible for one collection appointment per calendar year.

Please note a $15 co-payment is required from the resident for each appointment.

Accepted Items

Automotive fluids Auto batteries
Chlorine bleach Cleaners
Corrosive chemicals Drain openers
Fluorescent bulbs Fluorescent tubes
Fertilizers Gasoline
Glue adhesives Herbicides
Hobby chemicals Household batteries*
Insecticides Latex paint
Mercury and lead Mercury thermometers
Mercury thermostats Motor oil and used filters
Murlactic acid Oil-based paint
Paint thinner Pesticides
Polishes Pool chemicals
Rust Remover Stains
Spray paint Stripper
Varnishes Waxes
Weed killer Wood preservatives

NOT Accepted Items

The City's Household Hazardous Waste Program cannot accept:
  1. Asbestos (including linoleum tiles containing asbestos from older homes)
  2. Explosives
  3. Ammunition
  4. Commercial Chemicals or Commercial Quantities (Business Waste)
  5. Bio-Waste (Medical Waste)
  6. Sharps (needles)
Due to the possible health risks associated with handling materials containing asbestos (such as linoleum tiles), please consult the Air Pollution Control Division Asbestos Unit to learn more about safe handling and disposal for asbestos. State of Colorado info on asbestos removal and disposal or 303-692-3150.

 

Prepare for Your Collection:

Only one collection kit bag is provided per appointment, so it is important to prioritize your materials in order to maximize your collection. The collection kit is a large heavy-duty clear plastic bag that holds about 10 to 12 cans or bottles of material.

  1. Follow the instructions that come with your collection kit. Be sure to label your materials.
  2. Be sure the most toxic materials you have get into the collection kit bag. Pesticides, insecticides, acids, bases and corrosives chemicals are accepted in the hazardous waste program.
  3. Remove paint products, if space is not available in the collection kit bag. Most paint products can be recycled at no cost to you at one of the many sponsored PaintCare drop-off locations. To find the nearest drop-off site, use PaintCare’s online search tool at paintcare.org or call the PaintCare hotline at 1-855-724-6809.
  4. If you have more material than will fit in the bag, excess materials can be collected for an additional fee. Please call the HHW hotline at 1-800-449-7587 prior to your appointment to arrange collection and payment of excess materials.
  5. Set out your collection bag by 7 a.m. on your scheduled appointment collection day and be sure to include the $15 co-payment if you did not pre-pay.

Managing Hazardous Waste at Home:

Ammunition, Explosives, and Flares

Never place these materials in your trash or recycling.  Contact your local Fire or Police Department on how to safely dispose of these items.

Asbestos

Due to the possible health risks associated with handling materials containing asbestos (such as linoleum tiles), please consult the Air Pollution Control Division Asbestos Unit to learn more about safe handling and disposal for asbestos.

State of Colorado info on asbestos removal and disposal or  303-692-3150.

Bandages and Dressings

Soiled bandages, dressings, and disposable sheets should be placed in securely fastened plastic bags before being placed in your regular trash. Trash containing these potentially infectious wastes should be stored out of the reach of children and pets until it can be picked up by your trash disposal service or taken to the landfill.


Broken CFL or Fluorescent Bulbs

Mercury spills can be very hazardous and should be cleaned up as soon as possible. Mercury will vaporize slowly over time and can expose your family to toxic fumes for a very long time if not thoroughly cleaned up.  Click here to find out how to safely clean it up.


Broken Thermometer or Mercury Spill

Mercury spills can be very hazardous and should be cleaned up as soon as possible. Mercury will vaporize slowly over time and can expose your family to toxic fumes for a very long time if not thoroughly cleaned up.

Click here for the "Broken Thermometer Cleanup Guidance for Households" from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

CFL Bulb Recycling

Compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) and fluorescent tubes are serious energy savers and environmentally preferred.  However, while safe and efficient to operate, CFLs and fluorescent tubes contain trace amounts of mercury, so when thrown in the trash or broken, they can potentially harm the environment, human health, and especially trash collectors. The good news is that fluorescent lights are 100 percent recyclable and safe for public use when disposed of properly. So be sure to recycle your burned out CFLs.

Xcel Energy and Ace Hardware stores have partnered to recycle CFL bulbs. Drop off your compact "curly cue" fluorescent bulbs and mercury-containing thermostats for free at any Ace Hardware Store in Colorado.

Home Depot and Lowe's home improvement stores are also accepting CFL bulbs as part of a national program.

Please note that Ace Hardware and Home Depot stores are not accepting long fluorescent tubes and the program is intended for residential use only.

**Call ahead to your local store to confirm that these programs are still in place.**

Still no luck? Check out our E-cycle Coupon program for a discounted rate to recycle your bulbs with our electronics processor, Blue Star Recyclers. 

Fire Extinguishers

Most fire extinguishers are rechargeable. Having a fire extinguisher refilled and checked is often significantly less expensive than the cost of a new unit. There are several local private companies that can provide this service for you.

Since the contents of a fire extinguisher are under pressure (and typically corrosive), old fire extinguishers should not be disposed of in the trash. Full or full or partially full fire extinguishers contain materials that could be environmentally hazardous, so it’s important that you take them to a facility that can process them. When you dispose of your fire extinguisher, squeeze the trigger and let a little bit of extinguishing agent out (the goal here is not to empty the fire extinguisher slowly, but instead to let the pressure out). Wait until the needle on the pressure gauge falls to zero (this could take a few hours to a few days), then take it to a hazardous waste center. They should be able to recycle both the extinguishant and the shell.

Disposing of an empty fire extinguisher is a little bit easier than disposing of a full one. The first thing you should do is squeeze the handle to make sure as much of the extinguishing agent as possible gets discharged. Next, remove the head from your fire extinguisher – this will let anyone who sees it know that it has been fully discharged. Finally, recycle the steel fire extinguisher shell at a local scrap metal recycling centers.

Prescription Medication, Pills, and Drugs

Colorado Medication Take-Back Pilot Project is a network of secure boxes for the collection of unused and unwanted household medications such as prescribed medications, over-the-counter medications and controlled substances. Please follow link to find a location near you. 

Flushing even small quantities of household medicines down the drain is discouraged. Some medicines can disrupt or destroy the useful microorganisms in the sewage treatment system and/or may pass through the system intact and potentially contaminate downstream water resources.

Pepper Spray/Bear Spray

Never place full or partially full spray cans into your trash or recycling.  This could result in the accidental exposure to collection workers or recycling processors.

Self Disposal:  You may dispose of your expired sprays yourself. Take the spray container to an outside area well away from human use areas. Direct spray down-wind and toward the ground and press and hold the trigger valve until all of the pressure is released. Surgical gloves and a respirator will reduce the chances of accidental exposure to the spray while you are emptying it. Do not empty spray in human use areas. After emptying the can, securely wrap the container in several layers of newspaper, then place in a sealed plastic bag and discard in the trash so that collection workers or recycling processors are not exposed to even a low level of spray residue.

Rechargeable Batteries

While in use, rechargeable batteries are safe, but once they no longer work, they must be properly recycled. If trashed, rechargeable batteries can potentially be hazardous to the environment because of the heavy metals they contain, such as nickel, cadmium, lithium and lead.

Recycling your rechargeable batteries is EASY and FREE. Retail stores, such as Batteries Plus, Radio Shack, Best Buy, Target, Wal-Mart and many others, accept rechargeable batteries for recycling. To find a convenient rechargeable battery drop-off location visit the Rechargeable Battery Recycling Corporation (RBRC) online at call2recycle.org or call their hotline at 1-800-8-BATTERY.

As a result of the convenient program set up by the RBRC, so far this year more than 7.5 million pounds of rechargeable batteries have been recycled.  And, recycling rechargeable batteries is a great example of a closed loop process because most of the metals and plastic from spent batteries is used to make new batteries.

Still no luck? Check out our E-cycle Coupon program for a discounted rate to recycle your bulbs with our electronics processor, Blue Star Recyclers. 

 To find out where you can recycle batteries and a wide range of other materials locally, visit Denver Recycles’ online Recycling Directory / Dropoff Locations.



Home Fire Prevention

If stored or handled improperly, household hazardous materials can pose serious fire, health, or environmental hazards.

Here are some tips for making your home safer:

  1. Buy only what you need. This will prevent the need to store leftover hazardous materials in the first place.
  2. Read and follow the storage instructions on each product’s label.
  3. Keep hazardous materials in their original containers to prevent accidental mixing.
  4. Ensure all lids are sealed to prevent spillage or vapors.
  5. Store flammable products in proper storage containers, away from your home, out of direct sunlight and never near an open flame or heat source.
  6. Inspect storage areas for leaky containers and the smell of fumes.
  7. If a small spill occurs, immediately ventilate the area.  For larger spills, contact the Fire Department right away.

Eliminate the danger of keeping hazardous products in your home by recycling them at free or low-cost drop sites.  There are local, privately operated drop sites available for recycling automotive fluids, car batteries, compact fluorescent lights (CFLs), expired medications, household batteries and latex paint.  Visit Denver Recycles’ online Recycling Directory at DenverGov.org/RecyclingDirectory or call 311 for a list of drop sites.

Denver residents may also use the City’s Household Hazardous Waste Program once per calendar year by making a collection appointment.  To schedule a collection appointment call Call 1-800-449-7587 or go to www.wmatyourdoor.com. All participants must submit a $15 copayment at the time of their appointment.

Smoke Detectors and Carbon Monoxide Detectors

Most smoke detectors cannot be recycled due to the tiny amount of radioactive elements inside them (Americium 241).  The best option for disposal is to return the smoke detector back to the manufacturer.  The address of the manufacturer can be found in the owner’s manual, the back of the smoke detector or on the company’s website.  Contact the manufacturer for shipping instructions.

Carbon monoxide detectors do not contain radioactive elements and generally can just be placed in your household trash.

For more information visit Colorado Department of Public Health and the Environment.

Sharps (Needles and Blades)

Used sharps should never be placed loosely in your trash, recycling, or flushed down the toilet. This increases the risk of accidental exposure for sanitation and sewage treatment workers, janitors, and your family. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment recommends that needles, syringes, lancets and other sharps generated by individuals be collected in a sharps container and be sent to a collection site for proper disposal. 

There are many commercially available mail-in programs offered including: 

Some of these mail-back sharps disposal systems may also be available at your local pharmacy or through your health care provider.

A variety of products are also available that destroy sharps and make them safer for disposal in the trash. Some of these melt the needle and syringe into a harmless plastic "puck," and some destroy the needle or otherwise render it harmless. Sharps destruction units have a higher initial cost, but may be more cost effective in the long run depending on how many sharps you generate. Another option is to contract with a medical waste disposal company for sharps container disposal. Medical waste disposal companies can be found in a telephone directory generally under the listing for "Waste Disposal - Medical." 

If these are not viable options for you, household generated sharps may be disposed of in your trash. This is the least preferred option, but it may be the one most suitable for your situation. The sharps should be placed in a strong plastic or metal container with a screw-on or tightly secured lid to prevent accidental contact with the waste. Containers like empty bleach bottles, liquid detergent bottles, or heavy plastic jugs work well because they are strong enough to prevent the sharps from poking through the container and they have lids that can be securely fastened. A coffee can may also be used as long as the lid is sealed with strong tape once the container is full. The sealed container should be clearly labeled with the word "Sharps" and can then be placed in your regular trash. Trash containing sharps containers should be kept out of the reach of children and pets until it can be picked up by your trash disposal service or taken to the landfill.

DO NOT PUT CONTAINERS CONTAINING SHARPS IN WITH YOUR RECYCLABLES.
Sharps are not recyclable. Not only can they pose an infection risk to workers at the recycling facility, but they can render the whole batch of recyclables unusable as well as cause equipment malfunction. Glass should never be used as a sharps container because the glass can break and compound the hazard.

Free Paint Recycling

Recycling paint is more convenient than ever in Colorado. Residents and businesses in Colorado can take unwanted, leftover paint for recycling to participating paint retailers (paint, hardware, and home improvement stores) that have volunteered to take back paint.

There is no charge for dropping off paint at any PaintCare drop-site.

 

Please note:

  • Leaking, unlabeled and empty containers are NOT accepted at drop-off sites.
  • Architectural paints (or PaintCare Products) are defined as interior and exterior architectural coatings sold in containers of 5 gallons or smaller. However, they do not include aerosol products (spray cans), industrial maintenance (IM), original equipment manufacturer (OEM) or specialty coatings.

Accepted Paint Products

  • Interior and exterior architectural paints: latex, acrylic, water-based, alkyd, oil-based, enamel (including textured coatings)
  • Deck coatings, floor paints (including elastomeric)
  • Primers, sealers, undercoaters
  • Stains
  • Shellacs, lacquers, varnishes, urethanes (single component)
  • Waterproofing concrete/masonry/wood sealers and repellents (not tar or bitumen-based)
  • Metal coatings, rust preventatives
  • Field and lawn paints

*These products above do have fees when purchased

NOT Accepted Paint Products

  • Paint thinners, mineral spirits, solvents
  • Aerosol paints (spray cans)
  • Auto and marine paints
  • Art and craft paints
  • Caulking compounds, epoxies, glues, adhesives
  • Paint additives, colorants, tints, resins
  • Wood preservatives (containing pesticides)
  • Roof patch and repair
  • Asphalt, tar and bitumen-based products
  • 2-component coatings
  • Deck cleaners
  • Traffic and road marking paints
  • Industrial Maintenance (IM) coatings
  • Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) (shop application) paints and finishes 

 *The products listed above do not have fees when purchased

Tips for Reducing Paint Waste:

  1. Buy just what you need.   Save money and reduce waste, by knowing how much paint you really need before going to the paint store. Painting projects require about one gallon of paint to cover 400 square feet of smooth surface.  
    • To determine how much paint you need for a project, just use a Paint Calculator.
  2. Choose the RIGHT color before buying a quart of paint.  Buying quart after quart of paint in order to find the perfect shade of color wastes paint and money.  Determine if you’ve picked the right paint color a more economical way  by getting “wet paint samples” at one of the following Denver Metro Area locations:

    • Belcaro Paint & Decorating Center: 1 ½ ounce samples available for all paints sold. (5475 Leetsdale Dr., 303-757-5435)

    • Lowes: ½ pint samples available for all paints sold at some locations.  Call stores ahead to confirm availability.

    • Or, ask your local paint supply or hardware store if they provide wet samples” in vials or sizes smaller than a quart.