Household waste

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Millions of homes are producing billions of pounds of solid waste or garbage, be it products no longer needed or household leftovers. With the rapid growth in consumer markets and increasing consumerism over the years, products are increasingly being packaged in cans, aluminum foils, plastics, and other such non-biodegradable items that add to the household garbage and, when disposed of, cause incalculable harm to the environment. Clearly, each of us must do something to rectify this. What is this waste and where in the household is it coming from?


Why should I be aware of this?

Reduce, Reuse and Recycle are the 3-R’s associated with waste management and applies to household waste too. If each household practices the 3-R’s only then do we have a good chance of saving the earth. Current estiamtes suggest that we will have completely destroyed the Ozone layer by 2025, exhausted most of our natural gas resources, and will have no spaces available for landfills.

We're using up natural resources--just to make things we ultimately throw away.

Every home possesses hazardous material such as products used for cooking, home cleaning and maintenance, among others, which are capable of harming humans or the environment, if not handled properly.

Technology and electronic gadgets have become a way of life for us. Sooner or later; the old gadgets we once held so dear to our hearts find themselves being replaced by newer shinier ones. Meanwhile, their older counterparts are dumped as techno waste.

All about household waste

Household waste categories


  • Paper and cards
  • Glass
  • Aluminum cans
  • Steel tins and cans
  • PET bottles
  • Clothing, shoes and fabrics


  • Kitchen waste
  • Garden waste

Hazardous Wastes

  • Adhesives
  • Degreasers
  • Gasoline and other fuels
  • Pesticides
  • Aerosol products
  • Drain cleaners
  • Mothballs
  • Oil based paints
  • Stains and varnishes
  • Wood preservatives
  • Oven cleaners

Waste Generation (kg/day/person)

USA - 2.00
Canada - 1.69
Netherlands - 1.39
UK - 1.34
Japan - 1.32
France - 0.95
Germany - 0.90
China - 0.79
India - 0.46

Reduce, Reuse and Recycle

There is generally a spot designated at your neighborhood recycling center which allows you to drop off recycling items. You can also join many grocery stores in their recycling programs for used plastic grocery bags.

  • Recycling

Recycling can be minimized by avoiding products with wasteful packaging. Buy foods in bulk rather than in individual boxes or containers. Avoid packaged convenience foods which are wrapped in plastic containers. Do not purchase disposable items such as one-use cameras, diapers, or plug in air fresheners. They take hundreds of years to biodegrade in the landfills which are already full of such items.

  • Reusing

Try and reuse whatever you can. If you have plastic bags use them for your next shopping trip.

  • Composting

Do not dump kitchen-waste and lawn-clippings into the garbage bin. Instead, compost them. It is not necessary to have a large backyard to compost. Alternately, you can create a compost by keeping food scraps; egg shells, coffee grinds, fruit and vegetable peels, etc. in a small bucket in the kitchen. Empty the contents once-a-day in a selected area near your home and cover it with soil. Add another layer of scrap and soil regularly. After 3-4 days, mix the whole lot together and cover with a layer of soil. After a week or two you’ll get a collection of nice dark brown organic soil which can be used for gardening.

Recycling Toilet Papers

Toilet paper can also be recycled, but it has to be unbleached because the deadly dioxins caused by chlorine bleaching bring about untold harm to marine creatures and pollute our waterways. These dioxins enter our food chain through the marine animals that we eat, eventually reaching little babies through the breast-milk from nursing mothers. Artificial fragrances used in such papers too can severely damage health, as the chemicals used in them cause allergies among young children and babies or those who have a family history of allergies or asthma. Try and use environmentally-friendly brands of disposable nappies and avoid chlorine-bleached ones.

Lille, a city in France, shows a unique example of reuse and recycling. It has unveiled a plant which can convert organic household waste into four million cubic meters of biogas a year. This is capable of powering a fleet of 100 buses.

Hazardous Waste in Household

Every year thousands of people are injured in accidents caused by hazardous household material. It is, therefore, equally important to know how to store and also dispose of such material. Some useful steps:

  • Identify potentially hazardous products and avoid them.
  • Buy only what you can use up completely.
  • Recycle those materials that can be recycled.
  • Dispose of leftover or unwanted products through hazardous waste collection facilities.
  • Banned or restricted pesticides, old medicines and products whose safety instructions are no longer readable should not be used or shared.
  • Some household hazardous wastes, including old lead-acid batteries, button batteries, used motor oil and antifreeze can be recycled.
  • For many household hazardous products there may be no safe disposal available. These products must be stored safely until your community holds a household hazardous waste collection.
  • Do not triple-rinse pesticide containers in a household sink, or outside near drinking water wellheads. If you cannot reuse the rinse water, save un-rinsed containers for a household hazardous waste collection.

What can I do?

How to recycle my waste?

  • Glass bottles and jars, cans, cardboard and paper can all be recycled.
  • Paper recycling should include all the items we use such as envelopes, invoices, faxes, junk mail, magazines, telephone books and catalogues.
  • Packaging materials such as cardboard, chipboard, bags, plastics can be recycled.
  • Recycle office cleaning products, where possible.
  • Recycle food/drink containers.

How to reuse my waste?

  • Print draft documents on old and less used papers on the back of printed papers.
  • Prepare memo pads out of scrap papers.
  • Reuse inter-office envelopes, file folders and boxes.
  • Go for reusable mailing pouches.
  • Shredded newspaper / paper for packaging can be reused.
  • If your furniture is old, repair them or give them in charity.
  • You can give away your old magazines to libraries, hospitals or nursing homes.
  • Use reusable memo boards for messages.
  • Refill laser printer, copier and fax toner cartridges.
  • Reuse ring binders, paper clips, rubber bands.
  • Avoid polystyrene or plastic cups. Use ceramic or clay mugs.
  • Reuse incoming boxes for outgoing deliveries.

How to reduce my waste?

  • Save paper by printing office reports, memos, internal manuals etc on both sides.
  • Don’t make multiple copies of letters/memos. Instead make one copy and maintain a central file.
  • Send more emails to save paper.
  • As far as possible replace paper files and store data on computer networks or on disk.
  • Avoid wastage by carefully checking all documents on the screen before printing.
  • Update your mailing lists to avoid duplication, waste and added costs.
  • Prevent junk-mailing.
  • Order supplies in bulk.
  • Don't use bin liners in bins collecting dry waste.
  • Purchase equipment which are durable.
  • Replace paper towels with washable towels or hand-dryers.
  • Use rechargeable batteries.

However, the best way to manage waste is by not producing it.


  • During his lifetime an average American throws away 600 times his weight in trash.
  • Each year so much paper is disposed of in the US that one can build a 12’ tall wall from New York to Los Angeles.
  • Every three months the quantity of aluminum discarded can rebuild the entire commercial airline fleet.

See Also


  • Household waste management
  • How To Dispose Household Waste?
  • Recycling Household waste

Additional Information

  • Consult this Virtual House Imagemap and click on a room to identify the potentially hazardous products common to the room.
  • See List Of Products In The Virtual House and find out details of each item and their possible effects on health and the environment.
  • Refer to Recycle Guide for recycling your household items.
  • How to go about not producing waste? Find out 57 Ways to Protect Your Home Environment (And Yourself).
  • See Lille’s bus fleet to run on biogas generated from household waste.
  • Refer to Simple home composting tips.
  • For some interesting information on reusing see Find out how old motorcycle parts have been used to make exquisite items for your home .
  • Have fun at Recycle City and use graphics-enabled Web browsers to find out more about recycling.
  • To identify hazardous items in your house, take this graphic-based house tour and go to Glossary Of Products With Hazards A to Z to find out about their handling and disposal.
  • Check out compost options for apartments and smaller homes.

Useful Sites

  1. Household Waste Management
  2. How Garbage Disposals Work
  3. Household Waste FAQ