Residential - Tips & tricks - Household hazardous waste


You’ve finally gotten around to your big spring cleanup. But among the things you’ve designated for the trash are old cans of paint, used motor oil and a useless car battery. How do you get rid it all in a way that’s safe?


If you’re like most people, your home has its share of toxic, corrosive, inflammable and even explosive products. They’re lurking in the kitchen, bathroom, laundry, closets, basement, storage shed and of course the garage. You can usually recognize them by their product symbol: a skull and crossbones, a flame, a hand skeleton or a bomb exploding.

There are many products that require caution when using and storing: drain cleaners, dyes and fixatives, medication, cosmetics, nail polish, furniture polish, many cleaning products, aerosol cans, pool-maintenance products, barbecue maintenance products, paint, stain, paint remover, solvents, varnish, propane-gas tanks, pesticides, chemical fertilizer, used oil, car and household batteries, glue, epoxy, antifreeze, gasoline and brake fluid. Each year people are poisoned by these products, children in particular. And we’re not even talking about fumes or splatters that can burn people’s skin or irritate their airways.

Because hazardous products pose a risk of fire, being inadvertently spilled or contaminating the surrounding air, their containers must always be tightly closed and stored in a well-ventilated area away from heat. It’s best to keep all such products stored in their original containers, which come with appropriate safety caps, in order to prevent accidents. “Keep anything that children have no business putting into their mouths out of reach and out of sight,” advises Sylvie Lanteigne, a nurse at the Centre Anti-Poison.

So, when you want to get rid of these toxic products, you shouldn’t just throw them out with the regular garbage or pour them down the sink, toilet, into the gutter or even into a remote corner of the back yard. The moment you don’t need them anymore, they become household hazardous waste (HHW). While particularly polluting and harmful to the environment, most HHW can be recycled or reused. Simply sort them and put them out during your municipality’s special collection, or bring them to an éco-centre, dump, sorting centre or depot especially set up to handle them. While many Quebec municipalities collect HHW in the spring, others do so upon request. Check with your town or city to find out.


Where to bring HHW
Expired or unused medication and used syringes and thermometers can go to your pharmacist. Canadian Tire and most garages take used motor oil, hydraulic fluids, transmission oil and oil filters. Several paint manufacturers in Quebec got together in 2001 to form Éco-Peinture, an organization that recovers and recycles paint sold by its members. Because nearly 7% of the 50 million litres of paint bought in the province each year eventually ends up in as waste, this program has made a huge difference: in 2003, Éco-Peinture recycled approximately 2,700 tonnes of paint remains! Most dealers participate in the program, so it’s simply a matter of bringing your leftover paint back to where you bought it.

As for worn-out tires, representatives of all the players involved in that problem – such as CAA-Quebec on behalf of users, and Recyc-Québec, an organization for recovering and recycling tires – belong to the Table Québécoise de Concertation sur les pneus hors d’usage. The environmental duty that we pay when purchasing new tires “serves to finance the recycling project,” says Guylaine Richard of Recyc-Québec. That’s why we’re no longer required to pay to leave our old tires with the retailer. Along the same lines, Bell Mobility also recycles cell phones: all you have to do is bring them to an Espace Bell store.

Now that you know where to bring all that old toxic stuff, we can all breathe a little more easily – in more ways than one!

ANTI-POISON CENTRE: 1 800 463-5060
RECYC-QUÉBEC: 1 800 807-0678. See the section L’abc du recyclage à domicile. (In French only)
COMPUTERS: (In French only)
ÉCO-PEINTURE (paint): 514 426-0880.

By Suzanne DécarieTranslated by John Woolfrey