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Managing Household Hazardous Waste At Home

Compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) and fluorescent tubes are serious energy savers and environmentally preferred.  However, while safe and efficient to operate, CFLs and fluorescents 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.  You may take your compact "curly cue" fluorescent bulbs and mercury-containing thermostats for free recycling drop-off at any of the over one hundred Ace Hardware Stores in Colorado.

Home Depot and Lowes 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.
The following is a list of Ace Hardware and Home Depot stores located in Denver and accepting CFLs for recycling:

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.

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 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 1-800-HHW-PKUP (1-800-449-7587). All participants must submit a $15 copayment at the time of their appointment.

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

Colorado Medication Take-Back Pilot Project is a network of secure boxes for the collection of unused and unwanted household medications.  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.

See our " Reduce Paint Waste" page.

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 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. 

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

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.

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.

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.

If you have other materials not listed above and have questions about proper disposal methods for them, then please contact the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment's Customer Technical Assistance Line 303-692-3320.


Information displayed on this page is provided as general guidelines for the proper and safe disposal of various materials.   All chemicals and materials should be disposed of in accordance with all local, state and federal regulations.


Household Hazardous Waste Drop Sites

Local drop sites are available for recycling all types of materials including antifreeze, automotive fluids, car batteries, compact fluorescent lights (CFLs), expired medications, household batteries and latex paint.

Click here to search the Recycling Directory.