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Disposal of Hazardous Waste in our Homes

Home Stager with Final Touch Designs, Inc.

Did you ever have that client who has saved almost every item they ever purchased?  We all have experienced this in some form or another.  I had a client whose parents passed away, so they became responsible for getting the house in shape to get on the market to sell quickly.  As you can probably guess, the parents lived in the same home for over 50 years!  Aside from going through each and every item in the home and having members of the family taking what they want, they came across a lot of chemical products in the garage and had no idea how to go about getting rid of them.  They did talk with a guy who said he'd come in for a price and "clean the whole thing out".  But when I approached my client with some questions about HOW this guy would clean things out, she didn't have any answers.  This presented a very large red flag in my mind, hence the need to write this blog.

With so many household cleaners, degreasers, and pesticides out there for us to buy and use around the home, we have to take into account many things when we talk about "getting rid of them" quickly.  Some household cleaners can be used up in order to rid the bottles of the contents, which is better than pouring them down the drain!  But others hazardous waste products are not as simple.  Leftover painting supplies, automobile products, outdoor lawn & garden supplies, and indoor/outdoor pesticides are some of the more serious items that require smart thinking and investigation before they are disposed of.  They need to be disposed of properly and carefully according to state and federal regulations.  Here are a few tips to follow when you come across clients who need to rid their homes of potentially dangerous chemicals.

In the Roanoke area we have the "Roanoke Valley Resource Authority".  The Authority owns the Tinker Creek Transfer Station, the Smith Gap Landfill, and the Waste Line Express train.  Every locality should provide its residents with information about the disposal of waste products online. 

  • First, provide your client with solid information about the disposal of household chemicals in your area.  Don't just assume your client will jump on the internet highway to get the information.  Please have available hard copy literature that they can read and check off if necessary.
  • You will find that most junk removal and moving companies will NOT handle the disposal of chemical waste products.  That is why it's so important to physically hand clients the information!  In the Roanoke area you can visit http://www.final-touchdesigns.com/resources.htm.  Scroll down for the PDF to print and hand out to clients, or call the Roanoke Valley Resource Authority (540-857-5071).
  • If you or your client does know of someone who handles the disposal of household chemicals, use this article as a foundation for asking questions.  Ask the person specific questions as to where, when, and how they will dispose of the items.  If they can't answer the questions, then they should not be hired to remove anything hazardous from the home!
  • Don't leave it up to the homeowner to guess what they need to do.  If disposed of incorrectly, these hazardous chemicals can leach into our soil and water systems and cause serious health problems for the members of your community.  If you don't provide the correct information, who will?
  • Certain areas will only accept certain items on a daily basis and only within their hours of operation.  Other hazardous items may require pre-registration or authorization before items can be brought in to be disposed of.
  • There may be maximum quantities allowed per visit.  This may mean many trips to the site and thought about how the items will be stored until they can be taken in.  If someone is hired to collect the items from the home, a question about adequate temperature controlled storage may be in order.
  • When dealing with older homes, you will likely be dealing with many old containers of numerous products and substances.  Always encourage safety precautions when handling these things.  Wearing long pants, long-sleeved shirts, closed shoes, gloves, and safety glasses is always a smart way to work on these projects.  You never know when a corroded container is going to spring a leak once picked up or moved!

One definition of sustainability:  "A sustainable way of life is one in which human needs are met without diminishing the ability of other people, wild species, or future generations to survive."  I hope this information will be shared amongst Real Estate professionals and Home Stagers.  As a green company, we are always looking for ways to preserve our planet and continue to enjoy what we have.  It is everyone's responsibility to insure that our planet has the capacity to endure.  It is everyone's responsibility to help others learn how this can be done.  

At Final Touch Designs, we do everything from assisting home sellers in preparing their homes beautifully in order to facilitate a faster, more profitable sale, to assisting home buyers in adding their own character and personality to their spaces, and assisting anyone who wants to become and stay more organized in their home or place of business.  We offer many other great services as well.  Please visit us at www.final-touchdesigns.com for more information, tips, and ideas to turn your ordinary house into an extraordinary home!

Cathy Dick


Roanoke, VA

Ted Tyndall
Davidson Realty Inc. - Saint Augustine, FL
I will help You find the Home YOU want to Buy

Cathy, good post. It is very touchy getting rid of certain items and most home owners don't know the proper procedures. Good thoughts.

Jun 12, 2010 06:50 AM
Kymberly Caldwell-Muniz
(909) 973-0410 - Fontana, CA
TCR Group Keller Williams Realty Rancho Cucamonga

Thanks Cathy, great information. We have a toxic household waste recycling day four times a year. Great post.

Jun 12, 2010 08:05 AM
Rob Lang
At Home Kansas - Shawnee, KS
Local Expert in NE Central Kansas Real Estate Home

An important topic, with good information.  Thank you for sharing this post.

Jun 12, 2010 12:58 PM
Patricia Aulson
Realtor - Portsmouth NH Homes-Hampton NH Homes

Thanks for getting this out to us today on AR.  I've bookmarked this for the future.

Patricia/Seacoast NH

Jun 12, 2010 01:38 PM
Mike Henderson
Your complete source for buying HUD homes - Littleton, CO
HUD Home Hub - 303-949-5848

Good article I've never thought of this.

Jun 12, 2010 03:25 PM
Bernadine Hunter, SFR, ACRE
Keller Williams Greater Columbus Realty - Pickerington, OH
"Finding Solution to Your Real Estate Needs"

Thanks for the information. This is something that does not get alot of attention in some areas.

Jun 13, 2010 12:00 AM
Sheila Anderson
Referral Group Incorporated - East Brunswick, NJ
The Real Estate Whisperer Who Listens 732-715-1133

Terrific post Kathy.

Jun 13, 2010 02:32 AM

Great post.  Several of our local city sites have information,  including scheduled dateas and locations and daily drop-off locations, often including fire department locations.Small batteries can usually be take to an office supply store for disposal.

Jun 13, 2010 02:46 AM
Carla Muss-Jacobs, RETIRED
RETIRED / State License is Inactive - Portland, OR

The City of Beaverton has scheduled "round ups" -- I think twice a year -- for this purpose.  We also have Metro (a local governmental agency) that offers this guide:  Metro Guide to Hazardous Waste which is a free service!  There are centers established to take these types of no-longer used products to.

Good topic!!  Another tool for Realtors to use when there are left over items in a home!!

Jun 13, 2010 05:42 AM
Lyn Sims
Schaumburg, IL
Real Estate Broker Retired

Really great post, I'm going to check stuff out for my area.  Thanks for the idea.

Jun 13, 2010 09:30 AM
George Wilson
Lincolnton, NC - Lincolnton, NC

Thanks for the information. I'm going to book mark for future reference.

Jun 13, 2010 07:09 PM
Gary Steuernagel ASSOC. BROKER, ABR, CRB
Keller Williams Southwest - Sugar Land, TX

Good information, I'm going to pass it on.  Good job!

Jun 14, 2010 05:45 AM
Cathy Dick
Final Touch Designs, Inc. - Roanoke, VA
Final Touch Designs, Inc. in Roanoke VA

Thank you.  I'm so glad I decided to check further into this subject.  You take for granted that others know how to get rid of the many products we have in our basements, garage, or sheds.  I think it's a great idea to leave behind paint cans that contain paints used in the house (when stored properly - did you know you should store paint cans upside-down to help seal the lids so they don't rust??), but that's only if stored in a cool, dry place.  But all the other "stuff" can be used up - encourage sellers to give to neighbors and/or family, or even give items away at yard sales.  It IS better to use up the old rather than dispose of them in our land fill.  That is the perfect time to then encourage people to purchase environmentally friendly products.

I think that will be my next blog.....

PS - Advance Auto does take used motor oil and batteries when you take them in.

Jun 14, 2010 03:56 PM
Sandy Peckinpah
Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage - Murrieta, CA

Great article, thank you! I thought I'd seen about everything inside homes, especially since REO's flooded the market, but a few weeks ago, I took clients to a home that was a probate sale. Not much was left inside the home in the way of furniture, but on the coffee table in the living room were the remains of Hildegard, still in the cremation wrapping and labeled with personal info on her death, and beside her was her husband Walter, in the urn, clearly labeled! The out-of-area realtor had no idea they were still in residence at the home!!!

Jun 17, 2010 02:19 PM
Cara Marcelle Mancuso
Golden Girls with SW Desert Homes - Tucson, AZ
Call a Marana neighbor, I'm THERE!

I've linked to your wonderful blog! Thanks for the great information. http://activerain.com/blogsview/1718554/green-a-little-dab-ll-do-ya-8-quick-tips

Jun 29, 2010 04:58 AM
Marion Clarke


You provided a great service on your comments to many who don't think about these things in cleaning out their homes or a relative's home.  I deal with this as I am a sales manager for a warranty company in our State.  When we replace HVAC systems, it is often misunderstood that disposal of the systems are regulated by the EPA and incur additional costs due to the impact on the environment as well.  Although this is a bigger issue, people don't understand the impact and government regulations that our network of companies are under for such things.  There has to be more education to such things so people don't unknowingly contaminate and are better aware of disposal guidlines, whether it is old paint, or an old air conditioning system.

Jul 01, 2010 02:38 AM
Wayne B. Pruner
Oregon First - Tigard, OR
Tigard Oregon Homes for Sale, Realtor, GRI

This is good advice Cathy. We have a drop off station here that accepts hazardous waste. It's the responsible thing to do.

Jul 01, 2010 05:21 PM
Steve Sandoval
Hacienda Heights, CA

Good topic! Never thought of mentioning to sellers where they may dispose of haz/waste and unused paints. It does put us in a proactive advisory position. We have both a city and county program here in the Los Angeles area, thanks for the idea.

Jul 15, 2010 09:53 PM
Matthew Bartlett
Corcoran Global Living - Hill Top Team DRE Lic. #01353034 - Glendora, CA

Hi Cathy! Very informative post. Here in California it has become normal to see temporary collection locations set up to collect items ranging from old computers, paint products, oil and other oil based products etc for free. Naturally, at these locations you must deliver all the items yourself. We have also seen certain businesses begin to collect certain items like used motor oil for free. The local Fire Departments have also begun to collect old paint and oil based products for free. And lastly the local Goodwill will gladly accept your donating old cell phones, computers and other technological devices which offers a tax benefit in return. I have found the local Chamber of Commerce, or local Legislative Officials office a good source to find out where to deliver such items.

Jul 25, 2010 04:59 PM
Wayne B. Pruner
Oregon First - Tigard, OR
Tigard Oregon Homes for Sale, Realtor, GRI

This is good advice. Many times I have helped clients dispose of hazardous wastes. Luckily it is easy around here.

Aug 04, 2010 05:57 AM