Household hardware chains up and down the country are rubbing their hands in glee at the number of Australians who are attempting to do their own home maintenance since the coronavirus crisis first struck.
Interiors are getting repainted, laundries are getting made over and courtyards are getting resurfaced at a phenomenal rate, as many of us get to grips with spending more time in our apartments, units and townhouses as a result of enforced social distancing measures.
But while the dangers of DIY home maintenance have been well publicised, little has been written about how to store the leftover paints, thinners, batteries, cleaners, aerosols oils and other flammable household waste left after we finish our to-do list.
Under most strata titles, the owners corporation usually has a set of by-laws that prohibit the storage of any hazardous material – which includes things like asbestos, computer materials, gas cylinders and certain garden chemicals – in apartments, storage cages or garages.
However, the average Australian household stores many items considered hazardous substances such as solvent-based paints, pesticides, car batteries, motor oils, ammonia-based cleaners, petrol or kerosene, mobile phones and items such as inkjet printer cartridges and mobile phone batteries.
Because many of these products contain harmful elements, it can be dangerous to dispose of hazardous or flammable wastes through regular rubbish collections. It is also illegal to tip them down the sink, toilet or gutters, or to bury them in the ground.
When seeking to dispose of these type of items it pays to check first with your local council to see if the materials are actually accepted at their listed depot or if not, when they are due to stage their next chemical clean-up day.
Failing this, there are a number of local and state-based schemes that assist with the disposal of hazardous waste.
Gas cylinders (LPG) including those used for BBQs, patio heaters, caravans, camping and lamps, can be returned through swap programs provided by retailers for replacement, refilling or disposal.
Laser and printer inkjet cartridges can be taken to Australia Post and Harvey Norman outlets for recycling.
Paint Visit Paintback to find a local drop-off point which will accept up to 100 litres of leftover paint, or check out the Recycling Near You website for additional leftover paint collections near you.
Batteries Take your old batteries to your local Aldi store for safe recycling. If you have larger old batteries, such as car and boat batteries, your local Battery World will accept all used batteries for recycling. Some gyms and other providers also offer this service.
Motor oil Place your used motor oil in an empty oil container and take it to your local used oil collection point. Existing oil recycling collection facilities include Resource Recovery Centres, Community Recycling Centres or other resource processing facilities.
Better Health Victoria says strata residents should always ensure hazardous wastes are stored properly while waiting for a suitable disposal method.
It recommends that when storing chemicals, always keep them in their original containers, making sure the lids are tightly sealed to prevent spills.
You will also need to ensure that the containers you use are easily identifiable, stored tidily and kept away from children in a secure location.
Depending on the product, you will also need to check that any special storage instructions are followed. This may include:
- Keeping flammable liquids stored away from a source of heat
- Ensuring acids are stored away from alkalis
- Pesticides are stored in a cool place
- Pool chemicals are never stored near any kind of fuel
Tips to remember:
- Wilful or negligent disposal of waste carries a maximum penalty of up to $1,000,000 and/or a seven-year prison sentence so it pays to follow the rules
- Take extreme care when using chemicals labelled ‘caution’ and ‘poison’
- Do not store chemicals into unlabelled containers or containers that could be mistaken for food or drink containers
- Highly flammable liquids should always be kept in a well-ventilated area
- Never store flammable liquids near equipment that can cause a spark, like electrical tools, your car or cigarettes
- Contact your local government environmental health officer for information about disposing of unwanted chemicals