If you’ve lived in the same house twenty or thirty or forty years, you probably have a bunch of junk in your basement.  Once upon a time, each item had a purpose.  Now some of it is household hazardous waste.

What exactly is considered household hazardous waste?   Half-empty gallon cans of oil based paint.  Part of a quart of oil based stain.  A half-empty bottle of pesticide you used for a crabapple tree.  Burned out fluorescent bulbs.  An old thermometer.  An almost empty aerosol can of Endust.

Sometimes it is hard to do the right thing.  Remember the times your son changed the oil in his car?  What did you do with the used oil?  You couldn’t pour it down the drain.  You weren’t allowed to pour it down the storm sewer.  You weren’t supposed to put it into the garbage.  So you had him put the dirty oil back into the empty bottles.  You now have a case of used motor oil.  What should you do with that?

A person is tempted to call one of those “Just Point” disposal companies.  You know the kind.  The customer points at an object he no longer wants, and (for a fee) the object disappears.  It is so tempting to make a big pile of unwanted hazardous waste and “Just Point” at it.

Here’s a better and cheaper alternative.  Take the stuff to one of four Illinois-EPA long-term household hazardous waste collection sites in Naperville, Chicago, Rockford, or Lake County.  The Illinois EPA also coordinates one-day household hazardous waste collections each year in the spring and fall.  For information, call (217) 524-3300.

Below is a list of items accepted at the Household Hazardous Waste Facility in Naperville:

  • Aerosol cans
  • Automotive fluids (including oil, gasoline, and anti-freeze)
  • Asbestos materials (in a size that will fit in a 55-gallon drum and not in excess of 50 pounds)
  • Batteries (including automotive, marine, and sump pump)
  • Fire extinguishers
  • Fluorescent bulbs, CFLs (sealed, unbroken only)
  • Household cleaners, drain openers, and pool chemicals
  • Mercury
  • Paints and stains (oil based only)
  • Peanut oil
  • Poison, pesticides, and fertilizers
  • Non-controlled prescription and over-the-counter medications)
  • Propane tanks (20 pounds)
  • Solvents and strippers
  • Thermostats
  • Unknown hazardous substances


  • Ammunition
  • Compressed gas (other than propane)
  • Empty spray cans and containers
  • Explosives
  • Helium tanks
  • Latex paint (see below)
  • Paper, glass, metal, wood, and Styrofoam
  • Radioactive materials
  • Sharps (needles or lancets)
  • Smoke detectors
  • Tires, trash, and non-hazardous materials
  • Unopened, useable consumer products


Latex paint is not a hazardous material. To discard leftover latex paint in the trash, it must first be hardened.  Leave the lid off, or, to expedite the process, add an absorbent such as cat litter, oil dry, or sawdust.  Once the liquid paint is absorbed, place the can in the garbage with the lid off, so the driver can tell the paint is dry.

The Household Hazardous Waste Facility in Naperville is open to all residents of Illinois.  For additional information about hours of operation and drop-off procedures, go to “Household Hazardous Waste Facility” on the Naperville Web site.

—By Karen Centowski





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