There are some products and materials that are just too toxic to throw in our trash because they could harm you, your family, or your environment. Below you will find information on safely discarding items such as needles, medication, paints, chemicals, mercury, and marine materials.

Many products that you use in your home , such as fertilizers, auto fluids, and household cleaners can be disposed of for free at our local HHW Collections. Check out our Household Hazardous Waste page for your town’s Household Hazardous Waste (HHW) Collections brochure and schedule.

Most marine and boat materials can be disposed of at our local HHW collections. Download our flyer for specific information.

Boating Disposal tip infograph

Paint can generally be broken into three waste categories:

  • Latex (Acrylic) paints are categorized as non-hazardous and should either be recycled or dried up and thrown out with regular household trash. Mixing cat litter or absorbent material such as Spedi-Dri in with the liquid latex paint or pouring the paint in a large cardboard box will expedite the drying process. Empty paint cans may be recycled in the metal bin at local transfer stations. Click here for more information on latex paint disposal.
  • Oil-based (Alkyd) paints are household hazardous waste and should be used up or brought to HHW collections. Oil-based paints accounted for 53.33% of the total cost and 64.7% of the total volume of all hazardous waste collected in the 19 HHW collections held on Cape Cod in 2009 (see associated graphs).
  • Aerosol paints are generally categorized as household hazardous waste and should be brought to HHW collections. Special care should be taken with all aerosol products as their contents are under pressure.

How much paint do you need to get the job done? Do the math with this calculator.

Paint Recycling
Nine towns in Barnstable County maintain paint recycling centers. When considering your options for paint disposal, please reference this sheet to find paint recycling centers.

LATEX PAINT IS NOT A HAZARDOUS MATERIAL. Do not bring latex paint to a hazardous material collection.

Barnstable County has a commitment to water quality, and to help mitigate the opioid epidemic that has ravaged our region.  Pharmaceuticals show up in testing of our ground, surface, and marine waters. Police chiefs from across the county agree that the majority of crimes on Cape Cod are related to drug abuse. For these reasons, an Unwanted Medication Program was implemented many years ago by Cooperative Extension and it has evolved over the years to meet the needs of residents. To safety dispose of unwanted medications, all 15 towns on Cape Cod have an anonymous and free drop-off kiosk in their police department lobby; The DEA generally offers two take-backs per year, in April and October. Like us on Facebook to stay in in the loop; CVS and Walgreen and other major pharmacies offer mail-back programs for unwanted medications. Some towns may be offering take-back at HHWs, stay tuned!

Below are some materials outlining ways to dispose of medications.

Unwanted Medications Brochure
Unwanted Medications Poster

Unwanted Medications Tear Sheet

Useful Links
The Drug Take Back Network

Unwanted, old, and damaged ammunition may be taken to any police station on Cape Cod for disposal. There is no charge for ammunition disposal. Click here for more information.

Marine & Road Flares
Marine and road flares contain perchlorate, a thyroid inhibiting chemical that is regulated in drinking water, by the EPA. One perchlorate containing flare can contaminate 1.2 million gallons of drinking water and pose a safety hazard if improperly stored.

Marine flares are required by the United States Coast Guard for ocean going vessels over 16′, and all flares have expiration dates. Unused, unwanted, and expired flares are collected free of charge in every town (see brochure for details). Collected flares are disposed of through a hazardous waste disposal contractor.

Video on Safer Alternatives to Traditional Flares

LED Lights are a Safer Alternative to Traditional Road Flares
Light-emitting diode (LED) safety lights provide a durable design that is safe in hazardous situations. Chemical-free and waterproof, they emit a 360 degree pattern of light from an array of LEDs. Depending on the flash pattern chosen, LED safety lights can blink for 8 to 100 hours on one battery or charge.

Liquid Mercury infographIt is important to keep mercury out of our environment and water supply. To dispose of household mercury-containing products, such as thermometers, thermostats or barometers, bring these items to your local HHW collection. If you come across larger amounts of mercury in your home please contact the Barnstable County Hazardous Waste team at #508-375-6699.

Residents and businesses in every town on Cape Cod participate in this program by recycling mercury-containing devices at transfer stations and recycling centers. Residents and businesses can also bring mercury devices (except for bulbs) to scheduled Household Hazardous Products Collections.

Mercury Collection Program for Businesses: HVACs, electricians, plumbers, boatyards, and associated industries can participate in an easy, free mercury collection program. Call Kalliope at 508-375-6699 or 774-487-8802 for more details or to sign up.

For more information, see below:

Elemental Mercury FAQs

The Dangers of Mercury

Mercury in Our Homes, Water, and Environment

Mercury Hazards in Your Home

Mercury Information from the EPA

General Energy Efficiency Information

Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs and Mercury

Mercury in Lighting

Mass DEP Mercury Recycling Locations

Ask us for our Mercury Collection Bookmark- an easy reminder of what to do if you come across mercury.

Every town on Cape Cod offers a FREE sharps disposal drop-off site. New containers can also be picked up at these sites. Download our Guide to Safe Disposal of Sharps and info on drop-off sites.

Barnstable County collects used sharps from residents through approved municipal departments. The Massachusetts State Legislature has mandated that used Sharps be collected by every town in the Commonwealth by July 1, 2012.

Useful Links

Sharps Brochure
A-Z Subject list from the EPA
Consumer Reports: Greener Choices
Energy Efficiency Information
Health & Safety Information on Household Products
MA DEP
The EPA website on Wastes
Cape Cod Commission
Covanta SEAMASS
Elder Services

Questions about any of our programs or services?

Kalliope Chute
Hazardous Materials Environmental Specialist / Cape Cod Groundwater Guardian
508-375-6699
kalliope@barnstablecounty.org