Government of New Brunswick

A broad variety of products are made with petroleum or petrochemicals that use up a non-renewable resource and are a direct danger to human health. In most instances, all we can do is try to reduce the amount we use, choose products which contain recycled materials, and seek out those businesses which accept used products for safe disposal or recycling.

  • If a hazardous product must be stored for a short period of time, use a strong container that will seal tightly. (We sometimes forget the dangers of fumes that can escape into our homes from partly closed containers.) Make sure the contents of the container are clearly labeled and include any instructions on use and disposal. Of course, even mildly toxic products should be kept safely away from children and pets. 
  • As a general rule, solidify liquids before disposal using newspaper or kitty litter. Never dump hazardous household products into storm sewers, which by-pass any water-treatment facilities.

Solvents, acids, batteries, cleaning materials, wood preservatives, and many other hazardous products are commonly found in our garages and workshops. We can find alternatives for a few of these, but sometimes there are no easy answers.

There really aren't any substitutes for many of the petroleum products used in automobile and machinery maintenance.

Hobby and art supplies, too, may often contain petrochemicals and other hazardous substances that do no more than colour the product, preserve it, or make it easier to apply.

What can we do? We can buy only small amounts of the safest products available, and handle them with great care. We can read labels, and ask questions. And we can share information with others who may be looking for simple, safe alternatives.


Sweet-tasting antifreeze is extremely poisonous. Take great care to keep it away from children and pets. Store in a tightly-closed container.

There are no alternatives to using anti-freeze, and it is essential in this climate! Fortunately, antifreeze will break down fairly quickly. If you maintain your own car, boat, or recreation vehicle, contact your Regional Solid Waste Commission for details on proper disposal of anti-freeze. Do not dump it on the ground, or into storm sewers.

If your community has a recycling program for plastics, rinse empty antifreeze containers, pouring the rinse water down the drain, and turn it in. If there is no program, rinse the containers, and dispose of them with the household garbage.



Household batteries are disposable products made with dangerous heavy metals. Using rechargeable batteries will reduce the volume of this waste. Better yet, choose tools, toys, and other products that operate by hand or plug into the household electrical current. Dispose of household batteries with the rest of your garbage, but keep in mind that a number of jewellery, electronics and department stores in the province accept "button" batteries, such as those used in watches and hearing aids. Note: If there is corrosion on a battery, wrap it in several layers of newspaper before disposing of it. Wear gloves, or handle carefully, avoiding contact with skin.

Since 1997, the Canadian Household Battery Association has voluntarily operated a national program to collect and recycle used Ni-Cad (nickel-cadmium) rechargeable batteries. For information on recycling of rechargeable batteries visit the Rechargeable Battery Recycling Corporation web site at, or call 1-888-224-9764.

There are no alternatives to automobile batteries, but don't throw them out. In New Brunswick, car batteries are sent to processing plants both here and out-of-province for recycling. Some retailers may give you a cash rebate when they replace your old battery, and scrap yards will usually pay a small amount for car batteries. If you change your own car battery, try taking it to a local retailer to see if a rebate is available toward the purchase of a new battery.



Gasoline can burst into flame at high temperatures, even without a spark. Gas is extremely toxic and even its invisible vapours are potentially lethal.

  • When it's time to replace an old gas-powered tool, like a lawn mower or weed trimmer, consider switching to electricity or 'person power'. New versions of the old-fashioned push mower, for example, are easy to use and very effective.
  • Carry gasoline only in containers certified for that use, and keep them in a well-ventilated area -- like a detached garage or shed -- out of reach of children.
  • Do not store gasoline. Especially, don't keep gasoline on hand for cleaning jobs, like reviving old paintbrushes. Try softening dried paint by soaking the brush in hot vinegar.
  • Refill a boat's portable gas tank on dry land, as far as possible from waterways. Avoid spills (try using a funnel): but do keep a supply of absorbent kitty litter or sawdust nearby, in case of accidents. Never dump gasoline on the ground, or down drains or storm sewers.
  • Use gas up. Run small engines dry, or use a hand-pump to siphon out remaining gas at the end of the season. Never siphon gas by sucking on a hose! (Impure gasoline doesn't always need to be wasted. Sometimes you can treat it with a simple gas cleaning product from a hardware store.) Providing it's compatible, add the reclaimed gas to your car's tank, a few litres with each fill-up. If you can't use up your leftover gas immediately, find someone who can.
  • Unless there is a disposal facility for flammable products in your area, or there are special collection days organized in your community, you can dispose of old gasoline containers with the rest of the household waste -- but only when they're completely empty. Leave them open, so any lingering fumes will disperse safely, but avoid conditions where they will fill up with rain.
Glues and Adhesives

Two-part adhesives and other glues use a variety of chemical ingredients that give off harmful fumes; handle these with care, use only as much as you need, and apply them outdoors or in a well-ventilated room. (If you can smell the adhesive, you may need to operate a fan in addition to opening the windows.) Choose water-based glues, wherever possible.

Store glue and adhesive in tightly sealed containers. Use them up, or give away whatever you won't need.

If you must throw any out, set the opened container in a well-ventilated area -- preferably outdoors, and where children and pets can't get at it -- allowing the remaining adhesive to dry solid before putting the containers out with other household trash.


Safe Homemade White Glue

(Especially smart for very small children who eat everything!)

Make a paste of 3 Tbsp of cornstarch in 4 Tbsp of cold water.

Stir this into 2 cups of boiling water, and continue stirring over gentle heat until the mixture thickens and becomes translucent.

Cool, and pour the glue into a clean reusable container.

Stored in the refrigerator, it will keep for a week or more.
Motor Oil

When it's time for an oil change, look for re-refined (recycled) oil. Try to buy only the amount of oil and lubricant you need, or share any extra with a neighbour. Keep oil and other petroleum products away from open flame and out of reach of children.

If you change your own oil, never dump motor oil on the ground, flush it into drains and sewers, or put it out with the household waste. Check for retail outlets in your area that accept used oil for recycling. If there aren't any, contact your Regional Solid Waste Commission for disposal options.


Paints, Stains and Finishes

Water-based finishes and latex paints are a safer choice than oil-based products, partly because they produce fewer fumes and partly because they don't require solvents in clean-up.

The new "environmental" paints, VOC-free (without fume-producing volatile organic compounds of conventional paints) may be a good choice for the homes of people prone to allergies.

  • Instead of the special anti-fouling paints with fungicides, some boat-owners apply wax below the water-line to discourage algae growth.
  • Try to stay away from the textured or other 'novelty' paints, which may contain plastics or dangerous chemicals. Avoid aerosol sprays.
  • Protect finishes with natural shellac, where practical, rather than varnishes or plastic clear-coats based on synthetic chemicals or petroleum products.
  • Consider less conventional finishes. Natural wood, protected with wax or oil, is great for furniture and trims. Or experiment with old-fashioned wood-stain substitutes like very strong coffee.
  • Whatever you choose, buy only the quantity of paint products you need for a particular hobby or home improvement project.
  • Store products according to the directions on the can, resealing containers carefully after use. 
  • Use up any extra by putting on one more coat or finding a friend who can use it. Very small quantities of leftover paints can be used for primer in future projects.

If old paint products must be discarded, mix in kitty litter or sawdust and leave the can open to dry in a secure, well-ventilated place. When the contents are solidified, send the can to the landfill with your household waste. If you have empty aerosol containers, contact your Regional Solid Waste Commission for further details on proper disposal practices.

Safe Homemade Fingerpaints

Soak 1 envelope of unflavoured gelatin in 1/4 cup cold water.
Meanwhile, mix 1/2 cup of cornstarch and 2/4 cup of cold water in a pan, then add 2 cups of hot water.
Stir over medium heat until the liquid boils and becomes clear.
Remove the plan from the heat.
Add the gelatin and water with 1/2 cup of soap flakes, stirring until it thickens.
Tint with natural dyes, like the juice of berries.
For less time consuming alternatives, contact local art supply retailers and inquire about safe paint product options.

Thinners, Solvents and Strippers

For your health and that of the environment, try to avoid the use of these hazardous products. Use water-based paints that don't need chemical solvents and thinners. Restore furniture by sanding or by scraping with careful use of a heat gun, or send it out to a professional: the caustic chemicals of liquid or paste strippers can eat through your protective clothing, and they give off dangerous fumes.

If you must use solvents, buy only the amount you need. Use up whatever you buy, or give your leftovers to someone else who can. Keep them out of reach of children and pets, tightly sealed, and in a well-ventilated area away from your living quarters.

Reclaim any solvents used to clean paintbrushes, and use them again: let any solid particles settle to the bottom and, in a well-ventilated area, pour the clear liquid off the top into a clean, properly labeled container. To discard unusable solvent-type products, contact your Regional Solid Waste Commission for further details.


Waxes and Auto Body Products

Wax the car with the closest thing to pure carnauba wax you can find on the market, and urge your hardware store to carry solvent-free cleaners and car care products. Pure soap and water is fine for cleaning automobiles, and won't dull the paint finish as harsh detergents can. Maintain whitewalls, vinyl, leather, plastic and chrome car parts with safe homemade cleaners (see the "In the House," section of this guide).

Buy only those products for which you can't find alternatives. Store car care products out of reach of children and carefully follow the directions. Use up all you have or give away leftovers. Dispose of empty containers in the household garbage. You can put leftover body filler compound in the garbage too, if you first allow it to dry and harden.