Note: This article was originally written in 2015, but has been updated in May 2018.
Over the last couple of years we have built a growing pile of spent batteries. We have also accumulated several Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs as we have converted to LED bulbs in many locations.
Earlier this week, my husband asked me to find a location for safe Household Hazardous Waste Disposal. The CFL bulbs were fairly easy since Lowe’s offers bulb recycling. They will also recycle some rechargeable batteries (based on the chemical composition). Unfortunately, they do not accept standard alkaline batteries. I was about to ask my readers for advice, but decided to do a Google search first.
Washtenaw County’s Home Toxics Reduction Program offers a FREE option for county residents to dispose of their hazardous household waste.
Home Toxics Reduction Program
The Collection Center is open from 9a-noon on the first three Saturdays of each month (except holiday weekends) from April-November. In the off-months (December-March), you can call to schedule a drop-off. Weekday drop-offs can also be scheduled with a phone call.
Note that the third Saturday of April-June Scio Township also hosts a recycling event and will have special traffic flow and longer lines.
The Collection Center is located behind the Western Washtenaw County Service Center at 705 N. Zeeb Rd. The location is just north of the Zeeb Rd/I-94 interchange. During Saturday collection hours, signs will direct the traffic flow to the collection shed. Vehicles will wait in line until the cars in front of you have been serviced and someone will assist you in unloading your hazardous waste.
The full list of materials accepted at the Home Toxins Collection Program can be found on the county website. As I stated above, we went with the express purpose of recycling alkaline batteries and compact fluorescent light bulbs. They also accept rechargeable batteries and other fluorescent light bulbs.
They are a safe disposable location for sharps and syringes. Other materials include automotive fluids, latex (liquid form) and certain other paints, and many household and yard chemicals. They also offer recycling for smoke detectors, fire extinguishers, and propane tanks. I wish I had known about the smoke detector recycling when we replaced ours a few years ago when they had expired. We will be bringing an expired propane tank on our next visit.
Some household hazardous waste is not accepted. The full list of unacceptable items can be found on the County Website. Items not accepted include asbestos, tires, compost, electronic waste (TVs, computers, etc), medical waste, pharmaceuticals, and more.
We have a few items that do not appear on either list – for example LED bulbs. I may bring them and ask on our next trip.
My Experience at Household Hazardous Waste Disposal
Since we live on the east side of Ann Arbor, the Western County Service Center is not that convenient for our family. However, it worked perfectly this weekend as my daughter was attending a noon birthday party near Liberty and Zeeb. We arrived to the collection site around 11:25a. There were about 6 cars in front of us. There was plenty of assistance unloading vehicles and it was our turn in 6 minutes (yes, I timed it). Once we pulled to the front of the line, I hopped out of the car, handed over my 3 boxes, and headed out to stop at Meijer for a present for the birthday party.
We have used the disposal program a few times with similar experiences.
Reducing Household Hazardous Waste
While it is great to safely dispose of your hazardous household waste, it is also great to reduce your generation of hazardous household waste. We have largely switched to LED bulbs which do not contain mercury like the CFL bulbs. We have also switched to rechargeable batteries for most applications. However, there are a few applications where we find alkaline batteries are a better fit – smoke detectors, television remotes, etc.