If your garage has turned into a depository for dangerous items, piled up carelessly on shelves and on the ground, then it poses a real health and environmental hazard. It’s time for a major cleanout.

Safe ways to dispose of chemical products

  • It’s safer to keep chemical products in their original packages. You can quickly read the instructions and warnings. But if you must keep the products in a separate container, then label it clearly and note down the relevant information.
  • Make sure containers are hermetically closed.
  • Always store chemicals in a cool, dry and well-ventilated area, away from the sun and radiators.
  • Make sure shelves and cupboards are solid and stable before placing the containers on them.
  • Never mix different materials together, and don’t drain or use their containers for other purposes – this may cause dangerous chemical reactions or vapours.
  • Store flammable and combustible materials in fire-resistant cupboards, which would help protect them from flames and heat in case of a fire.
  • Keep flammable and combustible products away from swimming-pool cleaners or any heat sources. Water-reactive products should be kept away from potential sources of water leaks (taps, sinks, etc.).
  • Never place liquid products above powder or solid products. An accidental spill could cause dangerous reactions.
  • Do not pile chemical products atop one another.
  • Keep chemical products under lock and key or at least out of reach of children or house pets.
  • Keep used oils in clean, well-sealed containers, like metal canisters. Label them clearly as “used oil” and store them safely until you have a chance to take them to a recovery-and-recycling centre.

Recycling hazardous products

A word of caution: Never flush dangerous products down a toilet, pour them into a sink, or place them in the yard or garbage bin. Instead, take them to an eco-centre (check out the Recyc-Québec website), a dangerous-waste centre, or an organization that collects unwanted items.

A few suggestions:
Used oils and filters. Beside dangerous-waste centres, most auto-part and repair shops – including garages recommended by CAA-Quebec and certified Clé verte – accept them. Check out the website of the Société de gestion des huiles usagées (SOGHU) for addresses. A word of advice: Never burn used oil. Unlike heating oil, engine oil contains substances that are harmful both to human health and the environment.

Antifreeze fluids. Place antifreeze fluids in a robust container with a clear label and take it to a dangerous-waste centre. Several car-repair shops and gas stations also accept these products.
Leftover paint. Take it to hardware stores or other paint shops, or put it out during dangerous-waste pickups by the city. A tip: Buy only what you need or give the remainder to anyone who needs it (parents, friends, leisure centres, community organizations).

Cleaning solvents (paint thinners, mineral spirits or turpentine). Store the contaminated solvent in a hermetic container with a clearly marked label. Paint particles will gradually settle on the bottom. Drain it into another tight, properly labelled container. You can then use it again. Add an absorbing substance like cat litter to the residue and allow it to dry well. Finally, put out the container with the paint particles during the next dangerous-waste pickup.

Automobile batteries. They are generally disposed of during dangerous-waste pickups by the city. Most garages will also accept them.

Barbecue propane canisters. They can be returned to refill centres.

Compact fluorescent bulbs. They contain a small quantity of mercury. You can dispose of used bulbs the same way as other dangerous household waste: special city waste pickups, or by taking them to hardware stores, such as Rona, Home Depot and Ikea, as well as certain lighting stores. Another option is recycling. In fact, most components of this type of light bulb can be recycled. For more information or pickup points in your area, visit the website www.recycfluo.ca.

Final advice

Transport dangerous products safely. Before leaving, make sure that the containers’ lids are on tight. Avoid leaving containers in the car trunk for a long period, especially on hot, sunny days, because heat can increase the pressure inside containers. Head directly for the site.

By Jacqueline Simoneau